Delivering compassion


POSTED: Sunday, September 20, 2009

Farrington High School sweethearts Ken Chun, 89, and his wife Alice, 87, volunteered for Hawaii Meals on Wheels when it began in 1979 and they've been delivering meals ever since to homebound, disabled and frail elderly residents.

They have taken their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with them, they said.

“;It seems so routine volunteering,”; Ken Chun said. “;It seems like only yesterday that I started. Time goes by so fast.”;

The nonprofit organization will celebrate its 30th anniversary with “;Meals from the Heart 2009: The Roaring '20s,”; a gala fundraising event Thursday night at the Willows Restaurant.

Executive Director Claire Shimabukuro said the “;Roaring '20s”; theme was chosen “;because it was a time of great optimism. In the midst of our economic recession, we want to show others that there are those who care and want to reach out to others who are homebound and need nutritious meals.”;

The organization has grown from six clients, six volunteers and two routes to 300 volunteers, 350 clients and 43 routes, from Hawaii Kai to Kailua and Kapolei. Volunteers over the years have delivered 1 million hot meals to 8,000 people.


Irmgard Hormann, former state librarian and daughter of a Lutheran minister, saw the need 30 years ago and formed a committee representing different churches to find a solution. The result was Hawaii Meals on Wheels.

“;I remember that we started on a Monday, 30 years ago,”; the 91-year-old woman said in a speech at a recent anniversary volunteer luncheon. “;We were so resolute and felt we were starting something important. There were only six clients then and now, look, we have hundreds of volunteers and hundreds of clients.”;

The oldest volunteer was 99 in July.

“;He has a driver's license but no longer drives,”; Shimabukuro said. “;He rides along and puts meals together for deliveries.

“;What drives this organization is the fact that it was founded by volunteers and continues to be driven by volunteers who have amazed us with longevity and dedication to doing this work. It's the heart of what we do.”;





Tickets for the “;Meals from the Heart 2009: The Roaring '20s”; gala fundraising event are $150 each, with table sponsorships available for $2,000 and $4,000.


The event will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at the Willows Restaurant. To sign up, go to or call 988-6747. The “;Jazz Age style party”; will feature “;tasty cuisine, cocktail tastings, massages, casino games, a silent auction, tarot card and palm readers and general revelry.”; Ginai and The Hot Club of Hulaville will provide jazz entertainment. Tesoro Hawaii is contributing $10,000 to Hawaii Meals on Wheels for fuel cards for volunteers and to support the anniversary.




Says Ken Chun: “;Volunteers without patience and compassion would not last long. ... Another thing, 'volunteers' means just that. There's no compensation.”;

But, he said, it's “;an ideal way of helping those who are less fortunate.”;

“;The issue of food and security is still around,”; Shimabukuro said, noting 47 people are on the organization's wait list for hot meals.

Andrew Nomura, president of the board of directors, said a route was added in June for Salt Lake and Red Hill area clients and by the end of the year, routes will be added in Kaneohe and upper Kalihi and in the University of Hawaii and Waipahu/Ewa areas.

“;In keeping with our 30-year tradition, wherever there is a need, that's where we want to be,”; he said.

But more volunteers and funding are needed, Shimabukuro said, explaining that five to 10 volunteers are recruited to start a new route and funding is necessary to buy nutritious and therapeutic meals from 10 care home and hospital kitchens.

The program has diversified private funding and a little federal money under the Older Americans Act, but it receives no state support, she said. Clients are asked to make a contribution, which isn't required but helps them feel they are contributing, she said, noting one client contributes $1 a week.

“;We try to have relationships with our clients ,and personal interaction goes a long way in terms of their well-being,”; she said. “;It's not only the meal people are looking forward to but the ability to have a friendly neighborhood visit and to chat with us on the phone.”;