Hundreds of volunteers volunteer to serve Thanksgiving meals to the needy and homeless

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hundreds of volunteers turned out this Thanksgiving to feed the hungry and needy on Oahu.

Dozens of businesses also donated food, money and their time, including a Kalihi restaurant that resumed a family tradition of feeding the homeless in its neighborhood.

“This is the first time since the pandemic,” said Todd Matsumoto, owner of Matsumoto’s Okazuya. “Thank God we got the chance to do it again.”

For about a decade, Matsumoto’s family and friends loaded their two Volkswagen vans with lunches of 70 to 100 plates filled with turkey, ham, salad and pumpkin pie, dropping them off to people living on the streets of Kalihi, Iwilei, Chinatown and Sand Island.

She said she delivers the food to the homeless who would not otherwise go to a shelter for a Thanksgiving meal or the Salvation Army’s annual dinner at the Neal Blaisdell Center.

“Some people have their own issues where they don’t want to be seen or whatever. That’s why we go to the people who can’t reach, who are stuck on the sand island, at the airport or on the side of the road,” Matsumoto said.

They began feeding the poor after Matsumoto recognized that some of the people living on the streets near the Kapalama Canal were his former classmates.

But the pandemic halted food deliveries for two years. Her daughter Taylor Matsumoto said she’s glad she and her family are resuming the tradition.

“We know some of them. It makes me feel better … to help someone get back on their feet with a hot meal on Thanksgiving,” Taylor said.

Many said they appreciated the restaurant owner’s generosity.

“I think they’re listening to their innate nature to be kind to other humans,” said “B,” who lives on the streets of Iwilei and only wanted her first initial used.

Across town at the Blaisdell Center, hundreds attended the Salvation Army’s 50th annual Thanksgiving dinner.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiard cut the ceremonial turkey and Governor-elect Josh Green joined a team of 600 volunteers, serving meals to the hungry and elderly.

“The people you see here have real challenges in their lives in many cases — sometimes it’s poverty and sometimes they’ve just had a big challenge with their health. And so it’s wonderful to see them able to go out and receive the loving care of the Salvation Army,” Green said.

Salvation Army Commander Phil Lum said the event provided enough food for up to 2,000 people – food was donated by dozens of local businesses and restaurants.

“There’s about 900 pounds of turkey, about 35 gallons of gravy and the list goes on,” Lum said.

“We haven’t done it in a couple of years because of a pandemic. So it’s great to be back here in person.”

Blangiardi added that it is “a very heartfelt experience”.

“Times are difficult, we have a challenge, but there is still much to be thankful for,” said Blangiardi.

“Today is a great day to put all this into perspective.”

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