its bounty with
It's fortunate that many people
gave food, supplies and cash to
charities since 'there's
more poor than ever'
Big Isle survey sheds light on strugglesBy Mary Adamski
f you bought a stock of rice and Spam for the shipping strike that wasn't, the island's charitable food pantries will be glad to help you make room in your pantry.
The folks that provide for the poor emptied their cupboards in a big way this week with the distribution of turkeys and other food in the tradition of Thanksgiving sharing.
Twenty families carried turkeys home from Kaumakapili Church this week, and seven got turkeys at Olivet Baptist Church. Some 250 supermarket certificates for turkey dinners were passed out at St. Patrick Church.
Customers at Foodland stores have helped pay for 1,778 certificates for turkey and the trimmings bought so far in the Share a Holiday Meal program, which will continue through Dec. 31.
Hawaiian Electric employees surpassed their previous generosity, collecting $8,300 for turkey and other grocery certificates at two in-house "country fair" fund-raisers. That's in addition to a flatbed truckload of canned and packaged foods donated at company offices in the annual Thanksgiving drive, said spokesman Fred Kobashikawa.
"There's more poor than ever," said Patricia Kaslausky, outreach coordinator at St. Patrick's Church, one of four Oahu churches that distribute the Heco employees' largess. Volunteers at the east Honolulu church handed out more than 600 boxes of canned and packaged foods this week, goods donated at a dozen area schools and churches as well as Heco.
"I can't really say" more food was given from the surplus of strike hoarding, said Kaslausky, "but it's a good idea, I hope they do."
Leelamma Palazzotto, Oahu program director with the Catholic Office for Social Ministry, said there's been more rice donated this year -- "I think they stocked up for a strike."
The statewide agency pooled donations made to several churches to get $22,000 in Safeway and Foodland certificates at cost. Palazzotto said $5 or $10 grocery certificates are given to single people or small families, many of whom don't have a place to cook a turkey.
"There are so many needy people, and it's not just at Christmas or Thanksgiving that they need food," she said.
"I find it hard to know I have something when there are people with nothing. When you give you receive," said Palazzotto, who worked with Mother Teresa of Calcutta in India and with her Missionaries of Charity operations in California. "I've seen so much poverty and I saw her faith in divine providence."
Chad Buchanan of the Salvation Army Kauluwela Corps said requests for food increased by 10 percent this year, and the demand in 1998 was up 15 percent from the previous year.
At Thanksgiving, the Salvation Army focus is on the banquet served at Neal Blaisdell Center and 2,000 tickets had been distributed through various agencies.
Students and teachers at 15 public and private schools collected nonperishable food in Thanksgiving drives that stocked Salvation Army pantries for the months ahead. That food is distributed to households. "Throughout the year, we do about 1,200 in Honolulu," said Buchanan. "Leeward Corps would match that, Kaneohe does 1,000 and Central Oahu, about 1,000. That's 4,400 households, and they come back for more.
"For all our services, we saw a 20 percent increase this year," he said. "We've been one of the largest providers of financial assistance and we are having a lot more we haven't been able to serve." He said the Salvation Army pays financial assistance for emergency housing -- people who face eviction or homeless families who need to put down a deposit to get into a place -- funded with grants from government and private foundations.
No home for the holiday
The Office for Social Ministry distributed $90,000 to help people meet rent and utilities payments, Palazzotto said. The agency, which works with the wider population and not just Catholics, also receives city and Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.
The Kau Kau Wagon, which serves sandwiches to homeless people weekly in Chinatown, planned to give out necessities at Hotel and Bethel streets Thanksgiving Day.
Donations of soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo are sought, said volunteer coordinator Sherri Rigg. Also welcome are used T-shirts, rubber slippers, socks, sweat shirts, sweat pants and towels, washcloths and blankets.
Last year more than 3,000 families received free holiday meals and Foodland expects to surpass that by Dec. 31, said spokeswoman Sheryl Toda. Customers may donate at the cash register for certificates to be distributed by the Salvation Army.
Some $26,000 in certificates were sold at cost to nonprofit organizations including Salvation Army, the Angel Network of Calvary-by-the-Sea Lutheran Church and St. Clement's Episcopal Church.
Toda said the Hawaii Pacific University social work club designated its investment in turkey meals for residents of the Waimanalo Weinberg transitional housing project.
Olivet Baptist Church is in the Agape Ministry, an interfaith group of churches in Makiki, Manoa and Waikiki that meets monthly and shares efforts with the assistance of the Hawaii Foodbank.
The Pawaa church gives out a three-day supply of emergency food to applicants all year round, a spokeswoman said. The seven turkeys given this week were the gift of one special donor.
Kaumakapili Church secretary Nancy Hitchcock said, "Since welfare reform went into effect, I've seen a longer line" at the Palama church's weekly free store on Wednesday. "When I read a headline this week that the number of homeless is getting in control, I thought 'I haven't noticed it.' "
The church gets donations from businesses such as Costco but primarily relies on individuals' generosity. Hitchcock said that many people donate on a regular basis.
As each agency would say in it's own way, may their numbers increase.
Big Isle survey sheds
light on struggles
Among the findings: Many recipientsBy Mary Adamski
sometimes are forced to skip a meal
When Big Island charity recipients were asked how they feel about having to ask for free food, the top answers included shame, embarrassment, not good and really bad.
Some 44.1 percent said they occasionally skip a meal because they don't have enough food, and 27.3 percent said that happens often.
Only 8.6 percent said they were homeless.
The survey was commissioned earlier this year by the Office for Social Ministry, an agency of the Catholic diocese which operates the Hawaii Island Foodbank, a resource for 130 food distribution organizations.
The answers came from 1,801 recipients among the 8,000 to 11,000 served each month on the Big Island, said Carol Ignacio, director of the agency, which operates statewide.
Nine out of 10 who answered said they receive some form of public assistance, with 35.6 percent getting food stamps or welfare support. Some 51.4 percent were unemployed, but 28.9 percent had full- or part-time jobs. Some 58 percent have less than $5,000 income per year, and 38 percent earn no more than $20,000.
"I have no money" was the answer by 97 percent to a question about why they came to a distribution center that day. Other answers were that the food stamps had run out (85 percent), their money went to rent (64 percent) and they had recently lost their jobs (18 percent). Four percent admitted they spent their money on drugs.
There were few surprises in the survey results.
"We kind of knew it, but when you hear from the people themselves, it helped," Ignacio said.
Donors to the food bank are principally retail and wholesale businesses which give goods that are slightly damaged or close to an expiration date. Ignacio said their responses to the survey revealed that they were more motivated by business, not humanitarian, reasons such as tax benefits for contributions.
Ignacio said that one result of the study was that the food bank increased its delivery of food to elderly residents. She said the survey revealed that the elderly are not likely to go to a food distribution center, but they are still in need of food.