MCKENNA MOTORS PHOTO VIA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gary Green helped Marcia Harter of Waikoloa lift bags of food she was donating to the Hawaii Island Food Bank after the charity had its van stolen over Thanksgiving weekend.
Car dealer replaces stolen van
A Big Island food bank is overwhelmed with donations after car lot workers’ example
KAILUA-KONA » A burglary and charitable gesture by a Big Island auto dealer have led to an outpouring of holiday season community support for an organization that feeds thousands of needy local residents every day.
The response has been so overwhelming that an extra truck has been brought in to handle the overflow of rice, Spam, tuna, macaroni and other food and household products.
It started after the Thanksgiving weekend, when burglars broke into the Hawaii Island Food Bank's South Kona warehouse, making off with the organization's van, which it uses to distribute up to 7,000 pounds of food each day to Big Island needy.
"For a couple of days, it really sucked us down," said Carol Ignacio, executive director of the food bank, which collects, stores and distributes more than 1.7 million pounds of food a year through 130 agencies across the Big Island. "Then, when we got the call, it was so wonderful. We are just so grateful."
Gary Green, new general manager of McKenna Motorcars in Kailua-Kona, called and told Ignacio he would get her another van that day.
Even after Green parked the white 1998 Chevy Venture at his dealership and his employees led the effort to fill it up, some residents were skeptical. It was, after all, a car lot. One of McKenna's salesman, Bryan Sporkin, said he thought at first it was "a bunch of bologna," but now he is a believer.
"It was a bummer. I know how hungry some families are here," Sporkin said. "It's made me feel so happy to help. I'm just beaming." He credits newcomer Green for providing the inspiration.
Green, who has been at McKenna's for just five months, said he was struck by the food bank's plight.
"This is really a bad time of year for this to happen," he said. "These critters knew what they were after. It was the most expensive thing in the warehouse, and it was also the most needed item."
At first he asked his 19 employees if they wanted to help collect donations at the car lot, but they wanted to do more. "So they chipped in $10, $50, $100, and 15 minutes later I bought the van," Green said.
"Pretty soon that collection jar was filled up. And then they said, 'Now let's fill up the van with food.' Now that's full up, and we've had to back up a truck to keep it going," he said.
Green said people have been stopping by to drop off donations all week.
By Friday afternoon the van was stuffed with everything from staple food items to Pop Tarts, cookies, toilet paper and soap.
Ignacio said the outpouring has been islandwide.
"It was automatic," she said. "People are coming in to drop off checks and sending in little notes. They are so sweet, saying, 'We're sorry this happened.'"
Marcia Harter of Waikoloa said she made a special trip to the car lot to drop off two bags of food.
"When I heard what was happening, I thought, 'These people are extremely generous,'" she said. "They are the kind of business we have to support, and I wanted to do my part."
Green says he does not want to take credit.
"What the staff has done is provide the community with an opportunity to do some good," he said. "I'm so proud of our guys. We're having so much fun doing this. Kindness is never wasted."