Karleen Chinen

Many years ago, I met a kind-hearted man named Brett Schlemmer who worked for the Hawai‘i Foodbank. I think he worked in donor relations, although I don’t remember his title. Something he said during an orientation session on the Hawaii Foodbank impacted me profoundly.

Sad as it is, Brett said, a homeless person can probably find shelter for the night by ducking under the eave of a building. But someone who has nothing to eat and must make it through the night and who knows how long on an empty stomach is sad — and especially sad and critical when the person with the empty stomach is a child. He said many children go hungry when school is not in session and free or reduced school lunches and breakfasts are not available to them.

Learning about hunger in our community was a wake-up call for me. That’s when I committed myself to supporting the Hawaii Foodbank however I could — through donations of nonperishable food and making monetary donations to the Hawaii Foodbank when I could. Last year, I became a sustaining donor to the Foodbank. I authorized the Hawaii Foodbank to withdraw $10 from my checking account every month to support their work in feeding Hawai‘i’s hungry. Ten dollars isn’t a whole lot, but it’s what I can afford.

The political climate of our times can leave us feeling helpless. We see decisions being made in our nation’s capital about which we have no say, unless we call or write to our senator or representative in Congress. And then what? If that is all we can do, is it any wonder we feel so helpless?

We may not be able to impact what happens in Washington, D.C., except on election day, but we can make a difference in our own communities through simple, individual and collective acts of kindness — by holding a door open for an elderly or disabled person, by helping someone needing assistance cross a busy street, by donating food or money to an organization like the Hawaii Foodbank.

“Every person can make a difference,” Hawaii Foodbank president/CEO Ron Mizutani wrote me in an email. “Yes, we are touching lives every day, but we cannot do what we do without the support of Hawai‘i.”

As we close out 2018 and prepare to ring in 2019, let’s keep Ron’s words in mind and think of ways we can make a difference in someone else’s life.

From January through March, our Japanese community organizations will be celebrating the arrival of the new year with their annual shinnen enkai, or New Year’s party. Make your party even more enjoyable and meaningful by asking the attendees to each bring a nonperishable food item to the party that the club will donate to the Hawaii Foodbank to help feed those in need. By social media, email, even phone tree . . . reach out to your members. Whether your organization is big or small, we all can make a difference in helping our community.

Lisa Nakano, the Hawaii Foodbank’s donor relations manager, said there are many pick-up options: The Foodbank can dispatch a van to pick up your donations, or you and several members can drop off them at the Foodbank’s Mäpunapuna warehouse. Lisa will even give you a tour of the Hawaii Foodbank and take a group photo of you with the items you donated. The Foodbank can also supply your organization with collection boxes. If you prefer, you can hang on to your club’s donations and drop them off at the Hawaii Foodbank’s Annual Food Day Drive on April 13.

For the most part, Japanese Americans have had a good life in Hawai‘i. We have come far — from Gannenmono immigrants who fled Japan 150 years ago to having elected America’s only AJA governors . . . two of them. We have had ups and downs in our history in Hawai‘i and we have come through them with the help of our extended ‘ohana in Hawai‘i. Let’s make life a little bit easier for those less fortunate than ourselves.

On behalf of our Hawai‘i Herald ‘ohana, best wishes for a joyous, safe and meaningful holiday season. We’ll see you again on Jan. 4 with our first edition of 2019!


1) Canned proteins such tuna and chicken

2) Canned meals such as stews, spaghetti and chili

3) Canned vegetables

4) Canned fruits

5) Rice


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