Japanese Grandma’s loves teachers

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Keiko Napier of the Japanese Grandma’s Cafe, left, checks in lunches and raffle numbers Thursday with Malyn Miyashiro, ‘Ele‘ele School academic coach, Thursday on campus.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Sharon Viquelia and Keiko Napier of Japanese Grandma’s Cafe shows off one of the 200 lunches they delivered Thursday to teachers at ‘Ele‘ele School, Waimea Canyon Middle School and Kekaha School.

Keiko Napier of the Japanese Grandma’s Cafe in Hanapepe was met with a symphony of “Thank yous” from the group of rapidly-growing teachers in the ‘Ele‘ele School cafeteria Thursday.

“You know me,” Napier said. “I always do crazy things. One of our servers, Sharon Viquelia, has a child who is a student here, too.”

The stop at ‘Ele‘ele was just one that included stops at Waimea Canyon Middle and Kekaha schools, where Japanese Grandma Cafe delivered 200 specially-created bento lunches for the teachers at the schools.

“This is a volunteer effort,” Napier said. “We had Allison Toma taking out some of the lunches. Dave and Cathy Reando and Gail and Eric Gerlach made the desserts.”

Accompanying the lunches, Napier also threw in enough lucky-number prizes for each “pick-me-up” plate lunches. Drawings for prizes were done virtually, with prize winners posted @japanesegrandma on the restaurant’s social-media pages.

Napier created the lunches as a show of appreciation for the dedication to Westside keiki by the teachers.

“We can only imagine the challenges you face in keeping the keiki safe, engaged and learning during this unprecedented time,” Napier said. “The staff at all schools are going through such stressful times, and we wanted them to know that we appreciate their efforts in the challenges.”

Napier is not a stranger to these special-gesture events, previously preparing meals for each of the Waimea High Class of 2020 graduates who worked through distance-learning times and alternate graduation because of conditions created by the novel coronavirus. These meals, one for each graduate, were served up in a drive-thru pickup format using the facilities at Nana’s House in Waimea.

“This isn’t everything,” Napier said. “We’re going to be doing the flying saucers as a fundraiser for the Kaua‘i Soto Zen Temple during their virtual bon dance coming up Aug. 22.”

The flying saucers — they have a goal of creating up to a thousand — will be made and distributed on Aug. 21 between 5 to 7 p.m. at the Japanese Grandma’s Cafe in downtown Hanapepe.

“We’ll have church members volunteering during the pickup, and 100% of this goes to the church,” Napier said.

Customers can visit japanesegrandma.com and preorder and pay for the Aug. 21 pickup. Orders are in increments of four flying saucers for a $20 donation.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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