Hundreds spend the day giving thanks and giving back

For most of us, Thanksgiving is a time to relax with friends and family.

For the Salvation Army, it’s a day that takes plenty of preparation as it feeds more than 2,000 people at its annual Thanksgiving lunch at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.

The menu included 900 pounds of turkey, 35 gallons of gravy, 250 pumpkin pies, and three cases of whipped cream. However none of this happens without donations and about a thousand volunteers.

On a day for giving thanks, those volunteers are also giving back.

“I’ve been doing this for the last five years and I think it’s important that everyone gets a hot meal on Thanksgiving,” Jody Shiroma said.

From filling drinks to serving plates, the spirit of aloha was alive inside the Blaisdell Center for the Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving feast.

“This time of year can be really stressful for our community and sometimes people can feel very lonely,” Maj. John Chamness said. “So many people want to come participate and not only help the Salvation Army, but I think to be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves.”

Clarence Ing has volunteered for the Salvation Army feast for more than 40 years. This Thanksgiving will be his last.

“It’s a way of aloha. The Lord tells you to do it, you do it,” Ing said.

The Salvation Army serves Thanksgiving meals statewide, from Hanapepe to Honoka‘a. More than 50 local companies including restaurants, florists, airlines, and other island suppliers donate food, paper, goods, and flowers. This year, approximately 200 individuals donated 250 pumpkin pies through the “Buy-A-Pie” program through Anna Miller’s and Zippy’s.

Over at the Institute for Human Services, volunteers from Hilton Hawaiian Village served up turkey and all the trimmings to about 500 in the homeless community.

“A lot of us take it for granted, like the food that we’re given,” Nicholas Helsham said.

“It makes me grateful for what I’ve had in my life. I’ve been very blessed in my life to never have to go hungry, which I’m in this business for a reason, to make sure everybody is fed,” said Charles Charbonneau, Hilton Hawaiian Village executive chef.

The organizations say it’s great to see so many volunteers during the holidays, however help is needed year-round.

“We would love to steer some of those volunteers to help us to ring the bell at one of our kettle sites,” Chamness said.

“It’s challenging, because a lot of people have their own priorities in life, but overall if they do find the time, just make it out. A weekend, a single day out of the week is enough,” said Apu Aro with IHS. “I think it would be an eye-opener and more so, it’d be very helpful for the soul.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, you can contact the Salvation Army at (808) 988-0634 or Institute for Human Services at (808) 447-2800.

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