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Unko’s Kitchen serves a community tree of hope

  • Contributed by Unko’s Kitchen, LLC

    More gifts are given by Westside community members for keiki in need this Christmas, at Unko’s Kitchen in Hanapepe.

  • Contributed by Unko’s Kitchen, LLC

    This is the Unko’s Kitchen’s community Christmas Tree at the Hanapepe restaurant, which offers needy keiki the gift of hope.

  • Contributed by Unko’s Kitchen, LLC

    Last weekend, several Kaua‘i keiki stopped by to pick up presents at Unko’s Kitchen in Hanapepe.

  • Contributed by Unko’s Kitchen, LLC

    Owners Sharon and Manny Cabral show the Unko’s Kitchen’s community Christmas Tree at the Hanapepe restaurant, which gives the gift of hope to keiki this year.

HANAPEPE — Through the pandemic, there was one uncle on the Westside working hard to help feed those in need, which made an impact on others’ hearts to pay it forward and donate to his community Christmas giving tree, which was made available to Kaua‘i keiki this holiday season without any strings attached.

Manny “Unko Manny” and his wife Sharon Cabral have been owners and operators since 2010 of a local favorite restaurant, “Unko’s Kitchen,” off Kaumuali‘i Highway in Hanapepe.

“Five years ago, we started to give back to our customers that had kids — wrapped presents,” Manny Cabral said. “This year, we decided to not wrap anything and leave it by the tree for the keiki to choose their gift. We have a few community members who saw me on the Mel Rapozo and Charlie Iona show on Facebook that stopped by with toys and made monetary donations for the keiki.”

Manny Cabral said when the holiday season began, he collected about 30 toys from the community each week, and over 100 kids have picked up gifts from under their Christmas tree.

Rapozo said a few kind words about the Cabral ‘ohana.

“He and his wife are among the many angels on Kaua‘i that are doing their part to get through COVID,” Rapozo said.

Stephanie Iona, wife of Rapozo’s cohost Charlie Iona, also had a few words to share.

“Charlie and I were so thrilled to join so many others in our community to support Manny’s giving tree,” Iona said. “He is a man that lives aloha for our families in need.”

Unko’s Kitchen has been doing its part outside of their kitchen and into the communities on the Westside, helping feed one family at a time. Besides keeping the restaurant moving as usual, during the pandemic Cabral has collaborated with a nonprofit on the Westside, E Ola Mau Na Leo O Kekaha, with help from a grant funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and made meals for kupuna and less fortunate at houseless campsites.

“I feel like everyone should have an equal opportunity. Doesn’t matter if you are less fortunate,” Cabral said. “Sometimes people come back door asking for a meal, so I said ‘Sure, one second,’ and then I come back with a big plate of kalua cabbage and ono sides.”

As far as the Christmas presents that are still left under his community tree at his restaurant, Cabral said keiki don’t have to purchase anything, they can just pick the gift they wanted and leave without paying for anything.

On Christmas Eve, Cabral and his ‘ohana will be passing out the rest of the presents left to keiki in need who live at Salt Pond Beach Park, and if there is anything left, he said he will go over to Lucy Wright Park and take care of his community.

“We will definitely do this next year,” Cabral said. “There are only two times a year that a keiki is really excited, on his birthday and on Christmas. Giving away presents is not common for myself and my wife.”

He continued: “Merry Christmas. We will get through it together. We will make it through no matter.”

Cabral credits his community tree movement to a few community members who supported his tree and the keiki in need of these Christmas.

“Sending big mahalos to all of the people who donated money and gifts to Unko’s giving tree,” Cabral said. “Ahi and Sherry of Ace Hardware, Debra and Eric Crivello, Glenn and Cyndi Alquiza, Dianne Castillo, Stephanie and Charlie Iona, Mel and Patsy Rapozo, and to all who supported Unko’s Kitchen. Mele Kalikimaka from Unko’s Kitchen.”

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Stephanie Shinno, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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