FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sharon Black, who heads up the Thanksgiving of Hope charity dinner, poses with some of the items she needs donated for tomorrow's event.
Sharon Black is rushing to find the supplies she needs to stage her annual meal for the homeless
AS OF A FEW days ago, Sharon Black was feeling pretty good about her annual meal for the homeless tomorrow.
Her Thanksgiving of Hope feed always occurs on the Saturday after Thanksgiving because, Black explains, "meals are provided on Thursday from several services, but people go hungry the other 364 days a year."
She was short only a few meal items. Maybe you could pitch in:
» Five pans of cranberry sauce.
» Several gallons of juice.
» Ten cans of whipped cream.
» Four roasted turkeys.
» Six hundred sets of plastic forks and spoons.
» Nine hams.
» Six pans of stuffing.
» Ten pans of yams.
Oh, there's more. Always is, when you're feeding more than 600 people.
Black, a crisis-intervention counselor with the Honolulu Police Department, has been doing this for nearly two decades, paying for much of the food out of her own salary. Not just on Thanksgiving-plus-two. Black and her "Kau Kau Wagon" crew, with the aid of the Honolulu Japanese Seventh-day Adventist Church, have feed-ins every Saturday at Gateway Park.
They do not check for a lack of address. "Some folks are simply poor, some are on fixed incomes and are strapped, some are elderly, some simply like the company," said Black. "We don't judge. Hungry is hungry. We don't care about your economic level or your religion. You're hungry, you come eat."
Despite the years of service, the Kau Kau Wagon charity operation was threatened with closure by the Department of Health this fall because the free food was largely prepared in home kitchens, not restaurant kitchens.
A compromise was worked out -- Black counts among her serving help people such as Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona and members of the police union, SHOPO -- and Black has all her permits in line.
THIS IS A pretty intense hobby for a woman whose day job, by definition, is stressful. Why does she do it?
For the first time, the normally cheerfully chatty Black quiets for a moment. "I can't help it," she explains. "When I was younger, I was homeless myself. My family was poor, and we were put out on the street. That affects you. You never get over the feeling of hunger, not for your whole life. It's psychologically damaging.
"And it's worse, so much worse, when it's the holidays, and you walk around because there's nothing else to do, and everywhere you look, you see other families celebrating together. You wish so hard that you could be a part of that. You want to be involved in a happy, safe family, but you're not. You're outside looking in.
"Sure, I know what it's like to miss a warm meal. Growing up it made a difference, and I want to do what I can. But food is just food. The important thing is letting these people know that there are people out there who care about them. That's nourishment more important than food."
"OK, we also need tables. The fold-up kind, and they need to be dropped off and picked up Saturday. Some tarps would be awesome! Old clothes. Fresh fruit. Fast-food coupons -- they're great for the homeless because they can use them any time."
"A generator! The loan of a generator. There's no electricity in the park, and some musicians really want to play for us. Drop-off time is a little past noon on Saturday. Any questions, the number to get me at is 398-6665. Can you print that?"
Will do. Happy holidays.