Donations with Dignity

Holidays come early for Maunaloa town.

By Sean Aronson

that there are those who care in this world,” says Castro, “that there are people out there with compassion.”

The Office of Social Ministry (OSM) for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hawaii oversaw the charitable effort.  Iwie Tamashiro, chair of the Oahu chapter of OSM, has been leading the diocese’s Molokai outreach efforts.  Tamashiro stressed that she did not want the gifts to be seen as a hand-out, but rather a helping hand.

“It’s very important that we send a message to the community that, ‘We’re here with you, we’re not here for you.”  Tamashiro continued, “We need to treat each person that we’re offering a gift to with dignity and respect.”

Teaming Up

Locally, Tamashiro worked with Deacon Mike Shizuma, of Blessed Damien Church in Kaunakakai, and his wife Leoda to organize the event on-island. From there, coordinators reached out to the Maunaloa `Ohana I Lokahi Association Ministry (MOILA) under the supervision of Aunty Kehau Pule and Aunty Janice Pele.

Prior to the toy give away, every household in Maunaloa was given a punch card to shop at Maunaloa General Store. For every $5.00 purchase your card got punched. Those who shopped had incentive to buy more because each hole punched represented a chance to pick a different gift at the give away.

The concept of this event was to give parents the "dignity" of getting brand new gifts to give to their children. Coordinators say this was not a hand-out because the parents gave by shopping at the local general store.

The charitable effort is the culmination of many volunteers working together and a fair amount of money.  Castro, of St. John Apostle Evangelist Church, put out the word to other religious organizations and received a tremendous outpouring of support, he says.  Hui O Laulima received nearly $10,000 in donations, both from individuals and charity organizations. 

Thanksgiving Generosity

The Christmas giveaway was the follow-up to another instance of charity displayed at Thanksgiving by the Catholic group.

In November, about half of the donated money was used for the Thanksgiving celebration.  For that event, 150 baskets of food were distributed to Maunaloa residents.  Baskets included boxes of stuffing and potatoes, cranberry sauce, brown sugar and marsh mellows.  Attached to each bag was an envelope that held a gift certificate for a turkey. The turkeys were purchased through the Maunaloa General Store, to further stimulate the local economy.

“There was just so much,” says Aunty Janice Pele, a long time Maunaloa resident.  In fact there was 1500lbs of food – a full barge – which Young Brothers shipped for free. 

Helping Themselves

While residents of Maunaloa graciously accept the donations from Oahu, they are also taking steps to provide for their community from within.  Through MOILA, Aunty Pele and Aunty Kehau are coordinating efforts to deliver food and other goods.  The recently opened charity shop, Blessing House, is a venue for residents to exchange goods without feeling embarrassed or ashamed, says Pele.

It has also become an informal gathering place for residents.

For the Christmas celebration, those families that were unable to attend the giveaway festivities were able pick up the extra toys at Aunty Pele’s shop.  More than a week later, Pele says families were still coming in to receive their toys. 

The Catholic Archdiocese will continue to support Maunaloa town through food bank donations.  There are also plans for similar holiday event next year.

It is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

The Maunaloa community would like to send a big mahalo and God’s blessings to all those that participated and helped in the effort.

And, Aunty Kehau says, “Next Maunaloa swap meet will be on January 3, 2009 – lots of ono grindz, and all kind of stuffs.  Check it out 9am-1pm in front of the Maunaloa General Store.”

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