In the heart of Honolulu, Hawaii, on Christmas Day, the spirit of giving and kindness shone brightly as volunteers from Lanakila Pacific, affectionately dubbed “Santa’s elves,” embarked on a mission to deliver hot meals and heartfelt joy to hundreds of individuals who might otherwise have spent the holiday alone.
The efforts of these dedicated volunteers transformed into a bustling assembly line, commencing at 7 a.m. in Liliha, where an abundance of traditional Hawaiian hot meals, including hot laulau, kalua turkey, kalo pa’a, and haupia, were meticulously prepared.
Valaine Vasquez, one of the volunteers, encapsulated the essence of the aloha spirit and the significance of community care, expressing, “It’s important to give back to our community to make sure that we care for our kupuna. You never know when you are going to need help, so it’s always good to pay it forward, and what better day to do than Christmas.”
A total of 875 meals were prepared and delivered island-wide, reaching recipients from Waimanalo to Kahuku to Makaha. Volunteers like Carol Chong, participating for the first time, echoed the sentiment, stating, “We wanted to be a part of the magic of Christmas and the aloha spirit of the island.”
Lanakila Pacific stands as the largest and sole island-wide meal delivery service catering to seniors and individuals with disabilities. Lori Lau, the director, emphasized the crucial role of this program, stating, “Our meal recipients are homebound, which means they are not able to get to the grocery store on their own. They are not able to cook and prepare food, so a Meals on Wheels program is really important for people to be able to age in place in their own home.”
The impact of these acts of kindness was deeply felt by individuals like June Kawamoto in Pauoa, who expressed her gratitude, acknowledging, “I’m thankful that they volunteer because, without them, there wouldn’t be any meal.”
Lori Lau further emphasized the significance of human connection, highlighting, “It’s really important for people to have loved ones around them, and our meal recipients largely don’t, so they are part of our ohana.”
For the recipients, these deliveries are not just meals; they represent a special gift that extends beyond the holiday season, fostering a sense of community, care, and belonging every day of the year.
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