On any given Wednesday afternoon, you’ll find Al Chiarella of Coldwell Banker Island Properties parked outside of St. Theresa Church, a cooler full of freshly prepared meals in the backseat of his car. After a final check to make sure every meal is accounted for, he starts the engine and hits the road. “I call it my ‘Wednesday afternoon paper route,’” he said.
Chiarella is a volunteer driver for Hale Kau Kau (“House of Meals”), a nonprofit organization that works to alleviate hunger by providing nutritious meals to South Maui’s hungry and homebound. Founded in 1991 and headquartered at St. Theresa Church in Kihei, Hale Kau Kau serves free dinners unconditionally—no questions asked—to anyone who comes to the kitchen at meal time. The nonprofit also delivers free, hot and nutritious meals to elderly, ill and disabled homebound residents 365 days a year—rain, shine or otherwise. In addition, in collaboration with Keolahou Hawaiian Congregation Church, Hale Kau Kau distributes food baskets and emergency food supplies to families in crisis. The nonprofit has also prepared and delivered dinners to the Maui Family Life Center, and in partnership with Ka Hale A Ke Ola (KHAKO) Homeless Resource Centers, donated meals to residents of KHAKO’s facility in Lahaina who don’t have kitchens in their temporary housing units. The need for Hale Kau Kau and its services cannot be overstated: Since its inception 28 years ago, the organization has served and delivered more than 1.5 million meals to individuals and families in need throughout South Maui.
Three years ago, Chiarella volunteered to help prepare and serve Thanksgiving dinner to South Maui’s unsheltered at St. Theresa’s Church. That’s when he learned about Hale Kau Kau. When the nonprofit’s co-founder, Kathy Worley of Pali Kai Realtors, told him drivers were needed, Chiarella signed up without hesitation. “I thought, ‘I should be doing more for the community,’” he recalled. “And this seemed like a great way to give back.” It didn’t take long for Chiarella to see Hale Kau Kau’s immeasurable impact. “It’s an amazing operation,” he said.
Today, his delivery route—the same one he’s had for the past three years—includes a dozen homes in North Kihei. Around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Chiarella leaves his office, drives to St. Theresa Church, loads the requisite number of meals into coolers, and heads out. It takes a little over an hour to drive his assigned route (he’s usually home by dinnertime), drop off the meals and chat for few minutes with the person answering the door. “I really enjoy it,” Chiarella said. “It feels good to do something kind.”
Chiarella is one of several Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members who volunteer to deliver meals for Hale Kau Kau. His fellow drivers include Kathy Worley, Randy Antonio of Keller Williams Realty Maui, Wesley Barut of Maui Tropical Realty, Karin Carlson of Wailea Realty Corp. + Windermere Real Estate, Dan Deknis of Keller Williams Realty Maui, Dean Truesdell of Wailea Realty Corp. + Windermere Real Estate and 2019-20 RAM President Mike Trotto of Pali Kai Realtors.
Chiarella encourages others to support Hale Kau Kau in any way they can. Now, more than ever, we need to look out for one another—especially the elderly, ill and disabled. Drivers are needed to deliver meals to homebound residents in South Maui seven days a week. “Give it a try,” Chiarella said. “Ride along with me if you want to see what’s it like.”
Volunteers can also help out in the kitchen, provide clerical support or serve on a fundraising committee. Hale Kau Kau relies on grants and private donations to keep the program running, so cash and in-kind donations are always welcome. To learn more about Hale Kau Kau or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.halekaukau.org or call 875-8754. To make an online donation, visit https://www.osvonlinegiving.com/1745/DirectDonate/35104.
The Maui News – March 28, 2020