Good job with the turkey, Turkey.

Early Thanksgiving morning, we headed to Lanakila headquarters to do some extra volunteer work. We were assigned to the Tray Assembly line which meant helping to scoop hot turkey dinners for 800 meals that were going out to the neediest seniors.

We were half an hour early and yet by the time we got there the parking lot was full and there was a mass of people registering for their shift.

We got in line to wash our hands then get our hair nets and gloves. Everyone waited patiently while the the coordinators got the lines ready.

Once the food was brought out, one of the coordiantors thanked us all for being there and gave us a rousing pep talk.

We were asked to take a spot next to a ladle with a designated food label: green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Everyone scrambled for a spot and waited like dogs at the starting gate.

There are no pictures of what happened next because there was such a flurry of activity and suddenly me and K were scooping, scooping, scooping. Once in awhile the Lanakila staff would yell out some encouragement, or ‘level scoops!’ or ‘hot behind you!’ or ‘more gravy on line 2!’.

Two things I felt while we were scooping our meals:
1. Assembly lines are fun.
And 2. this is making me hungry.

Before we knew it, it was all over. The entire process took less than an hour. Russell the coordinator yelled out ‘Thank you people! Now go on home and watch some football!’ and everyone clapped and dispersed within seconds.

It was really well organized and very satisfying to be a part of. Like a flash mob, flash volunteering.

Holy Ma’o!

I had had such a great experience volunteering at He’eia Fishpond for Ma’o Organic Farm that I was eager to get involved again and learn more about what they do. Wei told me about Give Day on the farm and invited me to come out and volunteer. I had never driven to the west side of the island. I’d heard alot of things about the issues at Waianae Beach and I was very curious to see what it was like. Before Give Day I hadn’t had any reason to venture over to that side.

It took an hour to drive there. Easily the furthest and longest I’d ever driven on the island. A few minutes from the Farm, I kept thinking of the word festive. I could imagine that I was driving to a family friend’s house for dinner and this was a neighborhood I might have, in another life, grown up in.

I like Waianae. It feels like people really live there–maybe that generations have lived there. It’s distinctly more ‘real’ than any other part of Oahu that I’ve experienced.

If I heard a chorus driving through Waianae, Ma’o was the melody. There were over a hundred volunteers that day from eight different countries. We were welcomed warmly and although I came alone, I didn’t feel it.

They let us get our hands dirty. Some of us weeding the sprawling beds, some clearing rocks from new fields, and so on. The manual labor was very satisfying but the greatest part of the day for me was hearing from their youth staff and learning about their programs.

A large portion of the Ma’o staff is made up of interns. To be an intern one has to be between 17 and 24 years old, a Waianae resident, and Native Hawaiian. Interns put in 20 hour work weeks and in exchange their tuition at a local college is covered and they’re provided a decent sized stipend. Our tour guide said that for many of the interns, they were the first in their family to attend college.

There’s a big emphasis on empowering youth and making them a part of every aspect of running the farm. Part of Give Day was put aside for different groups of students to share the projects they have chosen to implement as part of a larger program. For example: campaigning against land fills in Waianae or helping schools to grow their own organic community gardens.

Most of what I’m sharing is just skimming the surface of what I learned that day. It feels as if they are bursting with new ideas and trying to make each of them a reality

I’ve spent my whole adult life helping to build communities. What Gary and Kukui do over at Ma’o is hugely inspiring to me. Not only is their approach smart, it is characterized by an almost tangible zeal. I love the farm. I’m so pleased to have been part of it even for a day.

Whoa doggie

K and I started our Lanakila Meals on Wheels route again yesterday. We took over a route that a woman named Rashan had been doing for a year. She did the route with us so that she could say goodbye and introduce us to the seniors. In contrast to how I’ve delivered meals, Rashan really took her time and did alot of talk story. I was touched by how gentle and genuine she was with each of them even though I got tired part way through and let K go on without me.

I never knew my grandparents. Before this, I wasn’t really curious about seniors and had no affinity for them. But my best friend Ruth, who passed away last December, was 75, Technically a senior, Ruth was younger than me in spirit and my favorite person in the world to talk to. I never saw her as any age until she got sick.

Spending time with her in hospice showed me that little things can make a huge difference to someone that can’t do everything for themselves anymore. Being able to do this route means alot to me…mainly a chance not to be a mainland boor.

Meals No Wheels


Today was my first day doing Meals on Wheels.  A couple of things went wrong right off the bat.  First, K got called into work and couldn’t do the training with me.  Second, Gladys (my trainer) apparently didn’t know she was training me.  And finally, a few minutes after Gladys and I started the route the car began to sputter in the fast lane of a busy road. We coasted down a hill and got enough juice to pull over on strip of grass along Kaneohe Bay Dr.  I think the sign on the dashboard could have had something to do with it.  Then it started raining.  And then I had to go to the bathroom really bad.

K had finished work by then and came for us. Winnie from Lanakila arrived with a new car for Gladys and we all set off to do the deliveries.


Despite the early obstacles I had a great time with Gladys and the route was very easy.  I found that I really enjoyed packing the meals.  It’s very satisfying.  K did the deliveries with Gladys, meeting all the recipients and in some cases putting the meals away for them in a fridge.  I hung back at the car organizing the food and punching addresses into the GPS.


At one point K was taking a long time at a delivery that he did alone. Gladys looked up and said  ‘what happen? kidnapping?’  I’m looking forward to seeing her again next week.

Eh! try nice


We visited Eric at Lanakila Pacific today for our Meals on Wheels orientation.  We start our route next week.  As someone that has worked almost exclusively in the not for profit world, I’m pretty impressed so far.  They’re organizational model is unique in that they’re striving to be wholly independant– cooking their own meals, hiring workers from their training programs.  Every element seems to be well thought out and carefully developed.  I’m most impressed by their relationships with Hawaiian farms–sourcing all of their food locally and cooking all meals in house.  K liked the fact that they’ve built relationships with schools and when young people are studying relevant periods in history Lanakila will refer one of the seniors they serve as a first person witness to give a testimonial.  I’m looking forward to getting to know the organization more.