Ten thousand people. That’s how many men, women and children are served by the Maui Food Bank every month.
Through its network of more than 120 partner agencies and programs, the nonprofit organization collects and distributes food to individuals, families, children and youth, seniors, the homeless—anyone who is at risk of going hungry.
That’s why Debbie Arakaki stepped up to help.
In 2014, Arakaki, a REALTOR®-Broker with Elite Pacific Properties, hosted a fundraiser for the Maui Food Bank during a brokers open. It was so successful that she decided to do it again the following year—and the year after that. The three events raised $12,000, $18,000, and $22,000, respectively.
This year, Arakaki and her colleagues raised more than $23,000 for the Maui Food Bank—all in a single evening. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of our community supporters like Beau Petrone of A Sound Mind Home Inspection, Bank of Hawaii, and our generous matching donors like the Donegan Burns Foundation and others,” she said.
Arakaki says she was inspired to help the Maui Food Bank after reading an article about its Aloha BackPack Buddies program, which provides healthy weekend meals to elementary school children from food-insecure homes throughout the academic year. Children who are on their school’s free and reduced meal program can pick up a prefilled backpack on Friday afternoons; it contains six nutritional meals they can take home with them. “Having owned restaurants for 20 years, I have always made sharing food a part of our culture,” she explained. “It tugged at my heart that we have so many children who go hungry.”
More than 80 people attended this year’s fundraiser, which was held on Thursday, Sept. 13, at a home in Launiupoko as the culmination of a brokers’ caravan of properties in the area. “With the funds raised, we can supply 4,645 backpacks filled with food for all of the West Maui schools that participate in the program for the entire school year,” Arakaki said. “We also had enough to target the neediest schools in Kihei and Central Maui to feed their kids for the entire year.”
Clearly, Arakaki knows how to throw a good party: There was catered food, a teppanyaki food truck and an ATV valet service to transport guests up and down the long driveway. “It was a lot of fun,” Arakaki said. “The beautiful grounds of the majestic Maui home in Launiupoko set the tone with the fire pit roaring, the tiki torches blazing. It was just a perfect evening of fun, food, conversations, laughter…and an all-around great time.”
She credits the success of the event to her industry colleagues who stepped up to the plate to help her pull it all together. “We had people from Bank of Hawaii, Fidelity National Escrow and Title and Luxury Home Magazine helping with greeting and taking in donations and money for our prizes and gift certificates from Trilogy Excursions, Lahaina Grill and more. The Elite Pacific Properties agents helped create a fantastic dessert table and my husband, Gary, tended the bar with our homemade fresh lime margaritas. Mary Anne Fitch donated all of the wine that poured freely through the night. We had DJ Eliza Vasquez jamming on the music. Special thanks to the behind-the-scenes crew of my kids, Ryan and Casey, and also Reta Chin-Chiarella.”
Arakaki says she will continue her efforts to stock the shelves at the Maui Food Bank and fill backpacks for the Aloha BackPack Buddies Program. And she encourages others to do what they can to help, too. “It is a rewarding and fun thing to do,” she said. “It feels so good to be able to help so many of Maui’s hungry families.”
You can provide hunger relief for those in need by making a monetary donation or holding a food drive at your business, school, place of worship, community service club or in your neighborhood anytime of the year. To learn more about the Maui Food Bank or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.mauifoodbank.org or call 243-9500.
By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – October 27, 2018