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Two volunteers standing in front of a Foodbank truck
Colette Fujii and LaVache Scanlan

The Lunalilo Scholar’s Program at Kapiʻolani Community College has managed a weekly Pohukaina Food Pantry, offering non-perishable food products to students, since January 2020. Director LaVache Scanlan, Assistant Director Colette “Aunty Coco” Fujii and campus volunteers have been accommodating approximately 100 families a week.

On February 12, however, through a partnership arranged by Service Learning Coordinator Denise Pierson, Kapiʻolani CC was able to add perishable food from the Hawaiʻi Foodbank. Calling this inaugural event, “Kapiʻolani ʻOhana Produce Plus Food Distribution,” students and families in the community who registered and made an appointment for curbside pickup received both perishable and non-perishable food items.

Volunteer faculty, staff and students provided an organized front of receiving, bagging and distributing the food items to the cars lined up. The line flowed steadily, and the volunteers kept pace with welcoming smiles and visible team spirit.

There were also patrons who walked to campus to receive food. Joshua, for example, walked from McCully with an empty backpack. When he saw the amount of food being distributed, he was awed. As he signed in, he used an expired bus pass which he confessed he could not afford to renew. Health Sciences Chair Sheila Kitamura sprung into action when she heard this and Aunty Coco was able to procure bus fare for Joshua without blinking an eye. Staff also gave Joshua a cold bottle of water so he could hydrate himself for the trip home. Before leaving, Joshua turned, waved goodbye and said he wanted to volunteer in the future at Kapiʻolani CC as a gesture of appreciation.

One car in the queue drove up with keiki in the backseat. The keiki unbuckled and waved chorusing “Thank you, thank you,” through the back windshield until the car disappeared from the parking lot.

The outpouring of sharing and giving from Kapiʻolani CC ʻohana was magical. Never mind that the sun was beating down without the tradewinds, and that some volunteers skipped lunch to keep their commitments. To see the volunteers modeling every nuance of giving unconditionally was proof of how the people at Kapiʻolani CC mālama (protect) their communities.

The next Kapiʻolani ʻOhana Produce Plus Food Distribution is scheduled for April 8. Interested students, faculty and staff are urged to keep a lookout for the announcement and to volunteer. It is a “feel good” moment that will bring you face-to-face with the communities that Kapiʻolani CC serves.

Louise Yamamoto, director, community relations

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