Believe it or not, the holidays are right around the corner, and for many Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members, the season wouldn’t be complete without a generous helping of kindness. That’s why you’ll find some of them preparing and serving meals on Wednesday evenings at the Ka Hale A Ke Ola (KHAKO) Homeless Resource Centers in Wailuku and Lahaina during the holiday season and throughout the year. Debra Merle of Island Sotheby’s International Realty spearheaded the Wednesday night dinners at KHAKO in 1989—and three decades later, they are still going strong.
On the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 11, NextHome Pacific Properties made its debut in the KHAKO kitchen. The team of NextHome volunteers included Bonnie Aleman, Michele Andrion, Bill Buffington, Karin Carlson, Jodie Hogin, Joe Hogin, Steve Hogin, Rosie Poree-Hogin and Marilyn Steinmetz.
It was the first time the group served meals at KHAKO under the NextHome Pacific Properties company name (many of them had previously volunteered under the company’s former name, ERA Pacific Properties), and they say it won’t be the last. “We will be serving another meal in November,” Poree-Hogin said. “We are hoping to do them every other month. It is our way of giving thanks for our blessings and helping our neighbors at the same time. We truly care about our community and the people in the community.”
Buffington says he signed up as soon as the opportunity presented itself. “We had done this in years past and I remembered it as a positive experience, so when Rosie asked, I was all in,” he said. Like Buffington, Carlson says she didn’t hesitate to join the volunteer roster. “It aligned with my volunteer work at Hale Kau Kau and the Maui Food Bank,” she explained. “Anyone thinking of signing up will find the experience to be very rewarding.”
Steinmetz also found the experience to be profoundly gratifying. “As a Realtor, I feel blessed to live and work on this beautiful island. I like to help the less fortunate whenever possible,” she said. “The people at KHAKO were so appreciative and thanked us many times. It was a good feeling to help them, even in such a small way.”
KHAKO is a comprehensive resource center that prepares families and individuals for permanent housing while providing emergency shelter, counseling services, addiction recovery management and adult education and training, as well as a primary care medical clinic and childcare facilities. The nonprofit organization recently redirected its focus to breaking the cycle of homelessness by finding and maintaining permanent housing for its residents.
The Wednesday night dinners run like a well-oiled machine: Meal prep typically starts around 4:30 p.m. in the KHAKO kitchen (some groups bring ingredients to cook from scratch; others purchase meals beforehand and heat them up), dinner is served cafeteria-style around 5:30 p.m., and once the last resident finishes his or her meal, cleanup begins.
Poree-Hogin encourages other RAM members to consider signing up for a volunteer shift at KHAKO. “Step up to the plate. It only takes a couple of hours,” she said. “It doesn’t get any better than this when you know in your heart of hearts that you paid it forward—that you made a difference for someone and they are grateful.”
Buffington couldn’t agree more. “It is super rewarding and the appreciation of the residents is over the top,” he said.
KHAKO provides thousands of meals to its residents every year and volunteers are always needed to prep, cook and serve food at its Central and West Side facilities. KHAKO also accepts monetary donations and contributions of goods or services. To learn more about KHAKO or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.khako.org or call 242-7600.
The Maui News – October 14, 2019