Half an hour before volunteers were ready to begin handing out boxes of fresh produce and meat, Hualalai Elderly Housing residents were already waiting, shopping bags in hand.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Sally Angel said from her perch upon the seat of her walker. “It’s needed and everyone here is thrilled to death.”
As Angel and several other women watched, Nani Moreman, of Family Support Hawaii, and volunteers from Kaanalike directed about 10 Kealakehe Intermediate School students through a series of bagging, packing and sorting of the food. Moreman shouted out directions, as other people helped the students organize an assembly line of sorts, starting with putting plastic bags inside cardboard boxes, getting ice in plastic bags and ensuring equal amounts of each product was distributed.
The seniors waiting for the food didn’t need their reusable shopping bags, and the bounty Kaanalike and Family Support Hawaii’s Youth Development Service volunteers were bringing was too much food for one bag, anyway. Donations to Kaanalike allowed the organization to purchase 750 pounds of meat from Safeway, Chairwoman Nalani Freitas said. The grocery store cut the larger portions of meat into smaller packages, allowing each of the 50 food boxes to get 14 to 15 pounds of meat — chicken, steaks, pork chops and stew meat.
Freitas said people often think about donating food to help children or families, but kupuna don’t come to mind as often.
Ruth Zarit, another Hualalai Elderly resident, agreed.
“It’s nice to be remembered down here,” Zarit said.
Angel was also pleased to see the 10 or so Kealakehe Intermediate School students packing and delivering the food.
“It’s good for them,” Angel said.
Moreman said the outing was the first volunteer field trip her students had taken. Moreman teaches an elective class, the Youth Development Initiative, for students who may previously have ended up with an in-school suspension or other disciplinary action. The class is a way to motivate the students and help them become more involved in their community through compassionate projects, Moreman said.
After Friday’s food delivery, Moreman said the students would discuss the event and what other kinds of community service they would like to perform.
“They’re doing very well,” Moreman said, adding the students have made significant strides this academic year, improving their grades and relationships with teachers and other authority figures. “A lot of them have had poor experiences with authority. It’s a challenge to get them to work as a team. They’ve made a lot of progress.”
About 80 percent of students in the program have been successful in raising their grades, she added.
Not all of the teenage volunteers were from the Youth Development Initiative. Family Support Hawaii also runs an after school program, Positive Youth Development, in which any student may enroll. Those students were also invited along to volunteer.
Kiara Akana, 14, said the volunteering was hard work, but she wanted to come along “so we can help the elderly. They’re getting older and they can’t do as much stuff. I want to help them.”
Sierra Gray, 14, said Friday was her first volunteer experience.
“I haven’t had the opportunity,” she said. “It’s pretty hard.”
But as a student who doesn’t like school, Gray said she was enjoying the outing.
“It’s like a day off for me,” she added.