Free to roll — Giveaway of wheels makes Captain Cook woman mobile again


A car is a safety net and a ticket to freedom. If you don’t have one, you feel it.

Captain Cook resident Denise Amina was forced to catch rides to appointments for her four children and rely on the county bus schedule for more than five years, until the King’s Daughters Ministry stepped in to help out.

“I tell my kids, I’d rather have a car than a house,” said Amina, 38, who tearfully accepted the keys, title and insurance money to a refurbished sedan in Kainaliu on the Fourth of July.

Helen Vailuu, founder and president of the King’s Daughters, has been selecting a deserving person to receive a car each year since 2004. She met Amina in prison while doing jail ministry 10 years ago. Since then, Amina has returned to the Kainaliu thrift store to do community service and job training, help out with toy and food giveaways and to rebuild her life.

When her community service obligation ended about four months ago, she continued to volunteer.

“She’s a wonderful person, keeps her head down, always working, never asked for a dollar,” Vailuu said. “She comes through here, trying to hitchhike with her kid.”

The 1993 Lexus was donated by West Hawaii real estate agent Steven Rousseau. Precision Auto Repair put $2,000 worth of work into the car to bring it into top shape. And on Friday, Kailua-Kona dentist Melissa Nitta was on hand to present Amina with a voucher for free dental work.

It all left Amina a bit speechless.

“You won’t have to hitch any more rides, daughter,” Vailuu said. “It’s a new Independence Day.”

The King’s Daughters Ministry is in need of donations for the Fill A Bag For $5 program next weekend. Longer term, the ministry is seeking to acquire a facility on a rent-to-own basis. Many people come into the thrift store needing help, but there is a lack of space to process them, Vailuu said.

“What we really need is an emergency center,” Vailuu said. “We need a transitional home with a base office where we can screen applicants and refer them out to services in the community.”