Sunday, December 2, 2001

At the annual Christmas penny sale held at Jarrett Intermediate School yesterday, Ualani Kamealoha, 5, bought gifts for her parents and had them wrapped.

Power of a
penny helps needy
at school’s sale

The annual event gives kids a
chance to buy their parents gifts

By Lisa Asato

The biggest sale of the Christmas season may have been at the Jarrett Intermediate School cafeteria yesterday as needy children scooped up presents for their moms and dads, all for a penny each.

"I came here because I don't really have that much money to go buy something for my parents," said 11-year-old Jovana Shigetani, who was shopping with her sister Emma, and Emma's friend Stacey Tran, both 4.

Shigetani has been coming to the annual penny sale for at least four years and said she likes being able to buy her parents something nice.

"When my mom told me about this I thought it was cool, you can get cool stuff for a penny," she said. "I feel good because now I don't have to find something that's cheap."

Shigetani was among some 800 children who were invited to yesterday's penny sale. The children, age 2 to 12, were referred by various Head Start programs and housing projects in the Palolo, Kaimuki and Kapahulu areas.

After children selected assorted presents at the annual Christmas penny sale at Jarrett Intermediate School yesterday, Robyn Bursey, a Niu Valley Intermediate School seventh-grader, helped the children gift-wrap their purchases.

"Each of them can pick up two gifts, one for their mother and their father, or for those with one parent, for their grandmother" or others, said Pat Kaslausky, outreach coordinator for St. Patrick's Church and the event organizer for the past decade.

"They come to the gift wrapper, and they'll come pay their two pennies over here," said Kaslausky, sitting with a koa bowl of scattered pennies.

"It's just so children can learn they can give back, not only receive, (that) they too can give back something at Christmas time," she said.

The first invitees arrived by 9 a.m., and throughout the morning children lined up outside waiting their turn. At any given time, about 30 children peered over tables of jewelry, dress socks, aloha shirts and dish towels, or watched as volunteers from Niu Valley Intermediate School dressed up their gifts with Christmas wrap and bows.

"I found an angel for my mom, and I got shaving cream for my dad," said 10-year-old Ikaika Thompson.

Meanwhile, Justis Hoopii, 6, proudly carried a potted Christmas tree meant for his mom. And 9-year-old Tanya Kouch said her mom would be happy with her gift, a black sweater with gold beads and faux diamonds, "because my mom wears nice clothes."

Kaslausky, the coordinator, said the event usually makes about $60 a year, and all the money is used to buy supermarket gift certificates for the poor.

"It's not a fund-raising effort," she said. "Like some people always tell me, why don't you raise the price to a quarter? I say no -- these are children. It's for the children."

The Hawaii Community Action Program led the drive for donated gifts and provided volunteer staff yesterday. The items were donated by community members and others, including Star of the Sea Parish and Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Kaslausky said.

It was the first penny sale for parent Noelani Mori, who said she would bring her children, Chanel, 6, and Jordan, 4, back again if they were invited.

"I think it's neat," Mori said, as she waited with other parents outside the exit doors. "It gives the chance for kids to show initiative in buying something on their own, and it makes them feel happy that they can give something to their parents."

That was the case for 10-year-old Gina Ifenuk, who spent her pennies on an iron for her grandma and perfume for her mom. "I feel happy and excited," the 10-year-old said. "'Cause then they feel we care about them."

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