Volunteer Mahealani Winters serves up pumpkin pie at Waimea’s community Thanksgiving. (Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Kuulei Kalani, from Waimea, holds her 3-month-old niece, Haley-Ann Kalani, as they enjoy Thanksgiving at Kuhio Hale in Waimea. (Photos by Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Mari-jo Allen brought her own plate, cup and silverware to Thanksgiving, as event organizers from The Pantry recommended, in an effort to reduce waste. (Photos by Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Volunteer Lisa Fujioka serves up food alongside other volunteers at Waimea’s community Thanksgiving event.
A Celebrate the Bounty Waimea community Thanksgiving was held at Kuhio Hale in Waimea. The entire community was invited to attend and share the meal at no cost. (Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)
The theme for Thursday’s Thanksgiving meal at Waimea’s Kuhio Hale was celebrate the bounty.
With more than two dozen turkeys — some roasted, others deep-fried and the rest cooked in an imu — as well as potatoes — mashed and sweet — and all the related fixings, plus more volunteers than could be put to work at one time, North Hawaii residents added to that bounty.
Nonprofit The Pantry put together the meal, which was open to anyone in the community, Executive Director Beth Mehau said.
“The whole idea of The Pantry is to live from the overflow, celebrate the abundance,” Mehau said as people tucked into plates piled high with traditional Thanksgiving fare. “There is enough to take care of our own in North Hawaii.”
The meal isn’t a handout, she added, but more the community offering what extra ingredients they have to be combined into a meal, like in the stone soup folk tale.
About 100 people called asking to volunteer, and about 150 people said they would attend the meal, which featured live music and pony rides for children. Volunteers were ready as community members trickled in to enjoy a hot holiday meal.
“We think every day is a gift,” Waimea resident Lisa Fujioka said. “It’s really important to teach our kids that serving in our community is necessary. It was just really important to give back.”
Fujioka’s two younger children pitched in and helped, standing on the serving line offering portions of potatoes and other sides to meal attendees.
The event came together fairly quickly, project coordinator Kuuipo Pahinui said. She wanted to reach everyone in North Hawaii — people of all backgrounds — and bring them together for the holiday celebration.
“It’s giving anybody in the community, whether you be of high class or no class, the opportunity to come know people in your community of all walks of life,” Pahinui said.
Donors for the event included Hawaii Preparatory Academy, Red Water Cafe, Mamane Bakery, Kohala Ranch, Parker Ranch Grill, Mana Christian Ohana, Waimea Middle School and Nakamoto Farms. Featuring locally grown ingredients, including the potatoes, sweet potatoes and the salad ingredients, was important, Mehau said, in emphasizing the point that North Hawaii can sustain itself.
The idea behind a community meal got started last Thanksgiving, when Mehau volunteered to deliver meals around the community. The meals included everything for a holiday dinner, but the ingredients were uncooked, she said. Two of the homes on her list had no electricity. Two senior citizens on her list had ovens that didn’t work. So Mehau took the food home, cooked four turkeys, and brought the finished meals back to the recipients.
She wondered then if someone had a better way to serve the community. More recently, someone shared with her about a community meal in California, which was focused on local ingredients. That, Mehau said, was the kind of meal that would be a good fit for Waimea.
“Why reinvent the wheel when you know something works,” she said, adding the large amount of food donated on a relatively short notice is “a testament to North Hawaii. We know how to take care of North Hawaii.”