PRINCEVILLE — Since March, the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay has looked for ways to serve the local community and identify the greatest needs of the community, identifying food and medical supplies as the top two, a Rotarian said recently.
With so few cases of COVID-19 on Kaua‘i, food seemed the likely area to focus on, he said.
“Our club has been chomping at the bit since early March to help our community,” said David Dinner, this year’s club president.
”While our weekly Zoom meetings have provided inspiration from people like Kaua‘i County Councilmembers, Kaua‘i’s chief of police, local doctors and Rotarians from around the entire world, service is at the heart of what we do. Although many in the club are seniors, they were eager to help our community.”
Since 2015, when the Kaua‘i North Shore Food Pantry was created through a joint effort of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay and Christ Memorial Episcopal Church in Kilauea, the pantry has grown in serving North Shore families.
In addition to food, the pantry provides health essentials such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo and sunscreen.
And since pets need to be fed, too, KNSFP provides dog and cat food for those struggling to feed their pets in addition to their other monthly expenses. During COVID-19 arrangements, pickup was halted until the situation could be organized to distribute items with COVID-19 safety in mind.
Anaina Hou Community Park in Kilauea allowed distribution on its premises. Following best practices and social distancing, one car at a time drives up and receives a box of food.
Rotarians and additional volunteers get together on Friday afternoons to put the boxes together. With recent grants from First Hawaiian Bank, Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation and Hawai‘i Community Foundation, the KNSFP is assured to serve its community through at least the end of 2020.
In addition, the club volunteered to distribute approximately 150 to 200 boxes of fresh vegetables and fruit, fish and more to kupuna living in the Princeville area every Monday morning through the end of August.
With help from a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and collaboration with ‘Aina Ho‘okupu O Kilauea, 25 Kaua’i farmers, ranchers and fisherman, food boxes are put together for the community.
The boxes, assembled by volunteers at the Kilauea Community Agricultural Center, are then distributed by club volunteers.
China Price, who recently became the Hanalei Bay club’s newest member, said, “When I first saw the food giveaway outreach hosted by Hanalei Bay Rotary, I contacted them to see how I could volunteer my time and help. Since I was a child, my grandparents taught me that helping others would always bring me joy and that giving to others is one of life’s most precious gifts. I carried their words with me, and the opportunity to share in the work that Rotary does is a very fulfilling experience.”
Food deliveries were made to kupuna while Kaua‘i was on lockdown. Once the stay-at-home restrictions were lifted, community members in need of food were asked to pick up their boxes at centralized points throughout the island.
Hanalei Bay Rotarians established a central pickup for the North Shore at the Princeville Community Association clubhouse.
Each week, a large food truck arrives at the clubhouse Monday morning. Rotarians and volunteers unload the truck, stack the boxes of food under a tent and await the community’s arrival.
The Rotary Club receives a list of families that have reserved boxes, and these are set aside. All remaining boxes are distributed to anyone who requests a box, regardless of age, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Rotarians also home-deliver approximately 25 boxes weekly to kupuna who are unable to come to the center.
“I’ve been delivering food to the same route for eight weeks now,” said Dinner. “The highlight has been a walk down a paved path to a house practically buried in trees and a little woman who lives alone with her barking dog. Every week she greets me with bright eyes and cheery good spirit.
“She is elderly, to be sure. When we first met, I guessed she might be in her seventies, but I dare not say. I didn’t need to. Within the first 30 seconds of my initial meeting with her she told me that she was 102. I could not believe my senses.”
Mark Wolfendale, club treasurer and a coordinator of the food-distribution efforts, said, “Many Kaua‘i farms are very small operations run by families whose members are old enough that they are in the highest-risk demographic for COVID-19. This whole cycle of cooperation between farmers, fisherman, volunteers and Rotarians is such a beautiful example of how much our community cares for each other.”
Plans for extending the grants that are enabling the food distribution from the USDA grant beyond Sept. 1 are not known at this time. But, if there is work to be done helping Kaua‘i’s North Shore, the members of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay are standing by to be of service, said Dinner.