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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 29, 2002

Thousands of meals served to needy

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

The season of giving kicked off yesterday with hundreds of volunteers serving up thousands of Thanksgiving Day meals to what some see as a growing number of needy in Hawai'i.

Salvation Army Capt. Michael Lutcher walks into the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall with the ceremonial turkey. More than 2,100 turkey lunches were served yesterday at The Salvation Army's 32nd annual Thanksgiving feast for the needy.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

But besides a warm, hearty meal, the gatherings gave those with nowhere else to go a chance to reflect, give thanks for what they do have and be hopeful.

Such was the case with Darrell Silva, 48, who has been living out of a Honolulu park for the past three months, having lost his Section 8 housing assistance. Silva, a single father, lost more than his home. "I had to give up my three children to their grandma," he said.

Silva said he appreciated the attention he was receiving at the 32nd annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinner at Blaisdell Center, one of the largest free holiday meal events of the year in Hawai'i. "I'm thankful for the food I got, even a plate to go," he said. "Long time I never eat turkey."

Still, Silva felt a sense of longing amid the gaiety around him. "I wish my children were here today," he said. "I hope they're having a nice Thanksgiving."

At the River of Life Mission in Chinatown, Wilma Raposa had just finished her meal alongside her husband, Gordon Momon, and was talking to friends outside on Pauahi Street.

Raposa said that she and Momon "have backgrounds we gotta deal with" but are also trying to piece their lives back together again. The couple is working on a permanent residence and a chance to rebuild their family by reuniting under one roof with two children who have had their own problems, she said.

Being at River of Life "just gives me hope that people care."

Among those from whom Raposa draws inspiration is her "spiritual sister," Venus Ah Quin, a former client at River of Life who is now a part-time worker. It's a special Thanksgiving for Ah Quin, whose family had been on the streets for more than a decade before managing to climb out of that predicament last summer.

Kyle Dilliner, left, Amanda Crowe, center, and Cindy Wendt served turkey lunches yesterday at the River of Life Mission Thanksgiving Celebration in Chinatown for the homeless and needy.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Festivities such as Thanksgiving dinners are important to the homeless and other needy because they offer encouragement and hope, Ah Quin said. "There's a lot of things that go on out on the streets. Many don't choose to be there."

The Salvation Army spokesman Daniel de Castro said more than 2,100 meals were served at Blaisdell yesterday, about the same number as last year. That translates into 38 pans of turkey, 150 gallons of gravy, 65 pans of rice, 42 pans of stuffing and 16 pans of corn, according to volunteer kitchen helpers Clarence Ing and Gary Cruz.

All of the food, paper goods and other resources for the event are donated by the community.

About 900 people help out with the Blaisdell endeavor, an undertaking that takes three months to plan, according to Salvation Army Maj. Victor Doughty. Schools, churches and community groups from all walks of life contribute their time, in addition to "just individuals, many of whom have had a difficult time in the past and want to give back to the people."

John Little, a member of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel, said his group specifically asks for the toughest and most thankless assignment at Blaisdell each year — cleanup crew. "Everybody else does the fun stuff," he said with a smile. "It's giving back to the community. I can afford a Thanksgiving dinner, and I can afford to give up a Thanksgiving meal."

The Rev. Bob Marchant, executive director for the River of Life Mission, estimated that about 500 meals were served at its site and that about 120 more were delivered.

Marchant said while the numbers yesterday were about the same as in previous years, on average more people are seeking meals and help daily than they did last year.

Those sentiments were echoed at the Institute for Human Services men's facility on Sumner Street, where meals were served by more than 100 Hilton Hawaiian Village employees and their families to some 400 to 500 IHS clients yesterday.

IHS, O'ahu's largest emergency homeless shelter, said it is hitting new highs at both the men's and women and families' facilities, according to Elizabeth Stevenson, IHS director of development.

Nonetheless, the Sumner Street dining room was dressed up like a ballroom and guests were treated to service with white linen and silverware instead of the paper napkins and plates that they usually get.

"They usually go through a cafeteria line and then go sit down," said Catherine Graham, IHS manager of public relations and volunteer services. "Today, the volunteers bring the food to them."

The Lanakila Meals on Wheels program was also busy yesterday, delivering more than 1,000 hot meals to homebound senior citizens, also supported by a host of corporations and individual volunteers.