On any given Thursday afternoon, you’ll find Karin Carlson of NextHome Pacific Properties loading cooler bags full of hot meals into the backseat of her car at St. Theresa’s Church in Kihei. “I look forward to it every week,” she said. “I love it.”

Carlson 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’s Church, the organization serves free dinners unconditionally—no questions asked—to anyone who comes to the kitchen at meal time. Hale Kau Kau also delivers meals to elderly, ill and disabled homebound individuals 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 on a weekly basis to families in crisis. The need for Hale Kau Kau cannot be overstated: Since its inception 26 years ago, the organization has served and delivered more than 1.2 million meals to individuals and families in need throughout South Maui. 

Carlson started driving for Hale Kau Kau in 2004. She was at a weekly Realtors®’ caravan meeting in South Maui when Kathy Worley, a broker with Pali Kai Realtors® and the co-founder of Hale Kau Kau, made an appeal. “She told us ‘we need more drivers to deliver meals,’” she said. “Then she pointed out that Realtors® know every street in the area, so we’d be very good at it.”

It was certainly a convincing argument, but there was something else that piqued Carlson’s interest. “I love to drive,” she laughed. “I really like being behind the wheel.” Not to mention, Carlson was no stranger to making house calls: Before she became a Realtor®, she’d worked for several years as a home health care nurse. Carlson says there are many parallels between home health care and delivering meals for Hale Kau Kau. “I get in my car and go to recipients’ homes, where I make sure they’re nourished—and that they’re doing OK,” Carlson explained. “It gives me a new level of appreciation for them and what they’re going through.”

It takes a little over an hour for Carlson to drive her assigned route, drop off meals and chat for few minutes with the person answering the door. “It’s so easy to do,” she said. “You can make a big difference in short amount of time.” In fact, Carlson says it’s one of the highlights of her week. “It’s a real win-win for everyone,” she said.

Carlson encourages others to support Hale Kau Kau in any way they can. Apart from delivering meals, volunteers can help out in the kitchen, provide clerical support or serve on fundraising committees. Hale Kau Kau relies on grants and private donations to keep its programs running, so Carlson said cash and in-kind donations are needed, too. “Every little bit helps,” she said. And donations go a long way: A $100 contribution to Hale Kau Kau can cover 200 meals for people in need.  

When it comes down to it, Hale Kau Kau is there for all of us, Carlson said. “It’s there for anybody and everybody,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen in life—there may be a time when you or I or someone close to us will need Hale Kau Kau’s services. That’s why it’s so important to support this organization.”

Tickets are still available for Hale Kau Kau’s 18th annual benefit auction, which takes place tomorrow, Sunday, March 26, from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea. The event, which is set to raise around 30 percent of the organization’s annual operating budget, will feature entertainment, a Pacific rim dinner and hundreds of live and silent auction items up for bid. To learn more about Hale Kau Kau, for more information about donor or volunteer opportunities or to purchase tickets for the organization’s benefit auction, visit www.halekaukau.org, email halekaukau@rcchawaii.org or call (808) 875-8754.

By Sarah Ruppenthal

The Maui News – March 25, 2017

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