Lokahi lights the way

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Leslie Libunao of the Gather Federal Credit Union, Koloa Branch peers from behind the Show Aloha Challenge shirt that is being sold through Sept. 11 to extend the kupuna feeding program led by the Show Aloha Challenge Foundation.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Kaui and Dennis Neves show off a lunch from the Waipouli Deli & Restaurant before leaving with deliveries to the Anahola Farmlands and Bayview areas.

  • Courtesy of Kristi Villanueva

    Delivery team from Signature Flight Support bring lunches from Mark’s Place to Kaniko‘o senior housing in Lihu‘e.

KAPA‘A — When Dennis and Kaui Neves picked up their load of 60 meals from the Waipouli Deli &Restaurant last week, they described themselves as “just delivery people.”

But, as the meals roll out to the Anahola Farmlands and Bayview area with the Neves, Rachelle Nam, the vice president of Kukulu Kumuhana O Anahola, said the couple (along with KKOA) are connectors, bridges and ambassadors of Laulima during this time of COVID.

“The meals have opened so many doors and built so many new connections with people who would not normally share what is going on,” Nam said. “My mom is a recipient of these meals since she is 93 years old, and I shared with Kristi Villanueva, the Share Aloha Challenge program coordinator, that every Tuesday I get a call from mom telling me how delicious every part of her meal is because I am usually not at home when the meals arrive. She looks forward to receiving such an excellent meal from Waipouli Deli &Restaurant.”

Villanueva said The SAC Foundation originally started as the Show Aloha Challenge based out of O‘ahu in February with the goal of inspiring others to step up, look beyond their own needs, and aid the people most at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. The group continues to work the challenge by providing ongoing support to the most vulnerable individuals and senior citizens in communities across Hawai‘i.

“Thanks to a significant donation from the Hawai‘i Dental Services Foundation, we were able to expand our hot meal program to Kaua‘i and the other islands,” Villanueva said. “Each week, the program provides 600 meals a week from the Waipouli Deli &Restaurant, and Mark’s Place and Contemporary Flavors Catering, to kupuna and families in need throughout the island. With the current funding, the SAC Foundation is able to provide these meals until Sept. 11.”

SAC Michael Gangloff and the Gather Federal Credit Union are currently working to raise funds to continue providing support to the people of Kaua‘i through the donations for Show Aloha Challenge shirts. Supplies of these shirts are available at Gather FCU with a purchase of $20 for a shirt through Sept. 11, helping to provide two meals to Kaua‘i’s kupuna. All proceeds go towards SAC and its efforts to feed Hawai‘i’s kupuna.

Villanueva said volunteer drivers from KKOA like the Neves’s, and employees from Signature Flight Support take the meals from the restaurants to the families.

“Due to the reduction in flights to Kaua‘i, and wanting to make a difference in the community, Signature Flight Support has offered to volunteer in delivering the meals from Mark’s Place,” Villanueva said. “Every weekday, they deliver 20 meals each to Kaniko‘o, Lihu‘e Gardens, and the Lihu‘e Theater senior housings. Our second group of volunteers come from KKOA who pick up and deliver meals from Waipouli Deli &Restaurant and distribute them to seniors and families in need in the Anahola community.”

Villanueva said there has been positive effects on the restaurants as well.

“The community has come together to show true aloha every day with its different volunteers delivering to many families,” Mina Ikehara of Waipouli Deli &Restaurant told Villanueva. “The people show appreciation and thank us personally even if we are behind the scenes. These lunches have showcased our restaurant, and as a result, we are getting more orders for meals for other family members. We sincerely thank the Show Aloha Challenge, and the community for their endless support during this time so we can continue to open our doors.”

“It’s more than us,” Villanueva said. “It is Laulima — many hands working together — that make it happen.”

Nam said KKOA’s role has simply been to collaborate with other organizations to provide the means to deliver their incredible resources to the community.

“Dennis and Kaui have been a part of almost everything KKOA has been connected to since the pandemic hit Kaua‘i,” Nam said. “The Show Aloha Challenge was a connection that was made through Malama Kaua‘i that has been working alongside KKOA for a long time. Kristi shared her vision, and since we already had a team of people delivering to kupuna, and the current programs were about to end, KKOA was very thankful to be of service to Kristi as well.”

Nam said this connection got KKOA volunteers involved with Nourish Kaua‘i and Karolyn Freuler.

“Although I am part of KKOA, I am familiar with Nourish Kaua‘i because Karolyn and I attend the same church,” Nam said. “We have worked together on other relief programs like when we had the floods that devastated Hanalei and many other areas. We are very much in touch with one another, so when she needed help, I asked our volunteer drivers to consider giving back since Nourish Kaua‘i had provided Community Support Agriculture boxes and meals to the Anahola community that was not included in other programs. Kaui and others jumped at the chance to give back and assist with what Nourish Kaua‘i was doing with Child and Family Service.”

“St. Catherine’s Church has been a blessing to allow Nourish Kaua‘i the use of its facilities to cook and provide meals for Nourish Kaua‘i’s Kupuna Meal Program where Kaui helps put together the three meals that are distributed to kupuna on Wednesdays from Kapa‘a to Kalaheo,” Nam said. “When Nourish Kaua‘i needed help at 5 a.m. to pack boxes for the CFS Festival of Hope for Families in Kekaha and Lihu‘e, Kaui was there, and even brought her friend Leiola Oliver to assist.”

“Because we have such an amazing team of drivers delivering food, whatever comes up with any of the organizations we work with, we try to kokua,” Nam said. “This is how we were also at the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank food distribution in Anahola. We work closely with La Contrades of Ka Hale Pono who helped spearhead that event with the food bank, so whenever she needs help, we want to be there to help, and she does the same for us.”

Nam said she personally is impressed with the contributions put forth by the Neves couple.

“They are so generous with their time,” the KKOA vice president said. “I am amazed how they have connected with all the people they provide food to. They demonstrate a true servant’s heart because they love the people they serve. They really are way more than just ‘delivery people.’ They exemplify what we want to see more of in our community. I love our community, and the way things work out. It is amazing to see all the connections to help each other.”

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