LIHUE — More than 350 people showed up to celebrate Kauai Independent Food Bank’s anniversary Friday at the Kauai Veterans Center.
“We have the same mission,” said Cyndi Ayonon, who was joined by Kaleo Carvalho, the mayor’s protocol officer, in representing the big man, who had to fly off-island. “I’ve had to spearhead food drives on behalf of the county for several years. We want to end hunger on Kauai.”
She exchanged the microphone with Carvalho, who led the round of “Happy Birthday, KIFB!” getting help from the staff and board members clustered around the special cake tree created by Chef Judy Capertina of Haole Girl Island Sweet Treats.
“This is such a good feeling to see all of these tables filled,” said Kelvin Moniz, KIFB executive director. “When Rowena Cobb, the board president, came and saw all these tables, she was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to fill them all. We even put up several extra tables — you know the saying, ‘If you build it, they will come.’”
The audience represented community support for the local food bank, which grew from the rubble when Hurricane Iniki unveiled the face of hunger 25 years ago. These included representatives from Kauai’s six credit unions who, only two days earlier, had presented the KIFB with a check for more than $33,000, representing proceeds from the recent Fifteen in Fifteen ($15,000 raised in 15 weekdays) food drive.
Isabel Gampon, sitting with her parents, got to the semifinals of an impromptu contest for a stay in an oceanfront room at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club.
“I was in the first-grade when my older brother did a food drive to benefit the Kauai Independent Food Bank and The Salvation Army,” said Gampon, an accomplished dancer with Aloha Dance Studio. “When I entered a pageant, one of my service projects was to collect food. My goal was to collect 100 pounds. One lady even gave me her points from the Foodland (Maikai) program which we used to buy food. We ended up with 132 pounds, including two turkeys to help some family have a happier Thanksgiving.”
Gampon went on to collect $555 in the 2015 Spring Healthy Food and Fund Drive, which was matched by an anonymous donor, and her Girl Scout Troop has collected more than 700 pounds of food.
Gampon was one of three young people who were acknowledged for their inspirational acts with special-recognition certificates and plaques from the KIFB staff and board.
“I was 9 years old when I started my journey,” said Kadee Parubrub, a seventh-grader at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. “I wanted to do something to make people smile. When I collected 353 pounds of food during a birthday party where people brought food instead of birthday presents for me, it broke my heart to hear about children who are in the backpack program and need the food for the weekend. I continued my birthday collection, and in the second year, collected 1,750 pounds of food. During my third year, I collected 2,060 pounds of food. There is no better feeling than to see the smiles of those who need the food, and we should all show the true meaning of aloha.”
Evan Schrader of the Boys & Girls Club, Lihue, represented the organization, which is the beneficiary of Keiki Cafe, a program where healthy, nutritious snacks are served during the after-school program in clubhouses from Kekaha to Hanalei.
“They look forward to the Keiki Cafe and bombard the staff with ‘What’s for snack?’ on a daily basis. I represent about 130 young people from the Lihue Clubhouse who are so appreciative, they created the special ‘Happy Birthday’ banner. As staff, we appreciate the help KIFB offers in helping us care for the keiki. We are also inspired by KIFB, knowing that we are not alone in caring for the keiki.”