By Catherine Cluett Pactol
In its fourth year, a huge giveaway on Molokai drew hundreds of residents, who took home free clothing, household items, toys and more. Organizer Edee Silva of Oahu said she visited Molokai a few years before the first giveaway and “saw a need.” She had a dream about the giveaway, which sparked her to start accepting donations and start the event four years ago.
Held at Lanikeha Community Center in Ho’olehua, the event last Thursday, Friday and Saturday was brought to Molokai by Silva and her husband, along with volunteers from the Oahu organization Hui Malama Ohana they founded. They were assisted by many Molokai volunteers, including members of the Molokai post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The giveaway was made possible through a partnership with Young Brothers, who donated shipping for goods, Silva said, as well as Sen. Lynn DeCoite, Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance and Pomaika’i Trucking.
In 2019, in its second year, the giveaway was held under tents next to Molokai Fish and Dive, and the Hui Malama Ohana brought a 20-foot container with more than three times as many items as the first year, Silva said. Last year, because of COVID restrictions, Silva and fellow Oahu volunteers couldn’t make the trip but still sent over goods to be distributed. This year, they brought a 40-foot container packed full of giveaway items.
Entry to Lanikeha required attendees to either bring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. Free community drive-thru COVID testing was provided throughout the week for those needing it to enter the event.
Residents stood in line to wait their turn to enter the building in small groups, each having 10 minutes to browse items then exit. Many attendees returned multiple times throughout the three-day event, volunteers said.
Along with men and women’s clothing, Hui Malama Ohana brought furniture, household goods, baby toys and clothes as well as tools, crafts and Christmas items this year, said Silva. There was also prize drawings for larger-ticket items.
Silva accepts donations on Oahu throughout the year and stores them at her house. Though the ministry is now run through her church, New Hope, she said it didn’t start there, and continues to be a community, multi-faith effort.
“It’s just by word of mouth,” she said. “I’m Christian, I rent space from the Catholic nuns who own my building and Mormon missionaries helped us pack the container. It’s just anybody, it’s all for the same purpose.”
It all began with a trip to Molokai for Silva’s birthday a number of years ago.
“[We saw] how much Molokai needed things, people don’t really ask for it but you can see the need,” she said. “I walk around the shops and I see what they have and how expensive it is. Our stuff that we get is practically brand new, we take it for granted. I wanted to do it because you could see the heart of the people, just the spirit of the place. They’re so calm and accepting, even though they need, they’re not greedy… It’s just that you see the need and try to fill it as best you can.”