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Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill dishes up 10th annual free turkey day

Updated: 
November 24, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — An unmistakable aroma, the savory smell of Thanksgiving dinner, wafted through the air as a crowd began to gather at Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill Thursday morning.

The annual Salvation Army Community Thanksgiving Dinner was about to begin.

Trucks, cars and vans were packed with to-go containers ready to deliver holiday meals to homebound kupuna and volunteers welcomed guests and invited them into the restaurant for a sit down feast.

So it looks when the annual free turkey day tradition begins in Kailua-Kona.

It was Salvation Army Lt. Raghel Satiago’s first time experiencing the annual event, the nonprofit agency that partners to host the event.

“This is beautiful to see,” she said. “This is what community is all about, bringing people together.”

“So many volunteers gave up their morning to be here,” Satiago, who arrived on island with her husband Jose four months ago, added. “I didn’t realize how loving this community is.”

Jackie Rey’s has been hosting this annual tradition for the last 10 years. Jackson “Jackie” Streiter, the restaurant’s namesake, was 9 years old when her father Paul and mother Angela first opened their doors to the Salvation Army’s annual event.

“This is a really good opportunity to see what we have in our community, to make a connection with the diversity on the island.” said Streiter, a College of Charleston student.

She added it’s been enlightening seeing the differences in people throughout the years, noting the growth in the homeless population and the corresponding increase in volunteers willing to help cook and serve.

Jeannie Kutsunai has been volunteering all 10 years. The smiling faces and knowing the guests are enjoying a hot, healthy meal — plus the chance to meet new friends — is what keeps her coming back year after year.

First-time guest OG Archer was at the dinner with his mother. They were a pair of roughly 300 who were served Thursday.

“It’s just amazing, very sweet,” he said of the fellowship and food. “We didn’t think it would be the virtue that it was, and that’s absolutely beautiful.”

As the line to the buffet table snaked out the door, volunteer servers scurried around the dining room delivering sodas, coffee and pie. With smiles, laughter, hugs, shakas and handshakes abound, the Corp. Band played holiday songs.

Dining room manager Anna Schmitt has been an integral part of the dinner for the past several years. She stressed that it was not a day to feed the homeless, rather a day of non-judgment open to everyone.

“I’m honored to be a part of this,” Schmitt said. “It gives me a sense of appreciation for what I have. I can’t change the world but small acts of kindness make a difference.”

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