By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Healthy servings of good food and goodwill attracted hundreds without homes and little income to the free Luncheon and Community Resource Fair held Friday at Hilo’s Wailoa State Park.
Dozens of community-minded organizations provided a Thanksgiving-style meal, haircuts, hygiene kits, clothing, entertainment, games, door prizes and activities for children, all for free, as well as information about local resources available to less privileged members of the community.
Informally billed as “Thanksgiving for the Homeless,” not everyone who came was without a roof over their head. For even those with shelter, there are many needs among low-income residents in and around Hilo.
“It’s a community event,” said Angela Evans, housing programs manager for Hope Services, not just for the homeless. “It’s open to the public.”
Hope Services Hawaii, an organization dedicated to serving the homeless statewide, organized a coalition of community service organizations, local businesses and government agencies to help stage the event. A similar luncheon was held Thursday in Kailua-Kona, and another had been planned Puna but had to be cancelled, said Carol Matayoshi, homeless programs manager of Hope Services.
Dozens of organizations, from New Hope Christian Fellowship to the Department of Veterans Affairs, showed up to spread their aloha to those less fortunate at this start of the holiday season.
Tables stacked high with free second-hand clothing were a big attraction, as was the “Beauty Corner,” where lay volunteers and professionals provided free haircuts and manicures.
“We’re here to express our support for the homeless and veterans,” said Jamal Mayhew of Veterans Affairs. “Hope Services is one of our biggest partners.”
New Hope provided a Thanksgiving-style dinner for everyone who showed up. Seventy plump turkeys spent the day in an imu, preparing for the holiday meal.
Evans was expecting about 800 people to attend the event, which has been held for at least the past 16 years and has attracted as many as a thousand people in previous years.
“In the beginning, it was really small, but it grew,” Matayoshi said. “Now we take up practically the whole park.”
“I didn’t really expect all this,” said Sharleen Palakioko, as she was getting her fingernails painted by Hope Services Amanda McAtee, a Hawaii Community College student and volunteer at the Hope Services shelter. Both were participating in their first event.
“It feels great to be pampered,” said Michelle Ganotisi, a homeless Hope Services client. “It really helps people.”
Cliff Tavares waited in line for a haircut, only his second since he visited the same event last year. Tavares, 48, described himself as “houseless,” not homeless. “Homelessness is a mandate for helplessness,” he explained. “I live on the land.
“Every year I go to this,” Tavares added. “It’s God’s gift, sharing his blessings. “I’ll get some clothes and share them with another. I’ll get some food and share that, too.”
“We live in county housing,” said Christol Simons, 33, waiting to select clothing for her family. “Thank God we got that or we would be homeless. We look forward to this. During the holiday time it’s hard for us lower-income.”
The talents of stylist Colby Pilor from Flawless Hair Design in Hilo were in high demand for the crafty designs he could put on people’s scalps.
“I feel like the man right now,” he said. “We’re just trying to give back to the community.”
“For some people, it’s the only haircut they get all year,” Matayoshi said. “These are all professionals donating their time.”
“My mom instilled in me the desire to help people,” said Flawless salon owner, Ashli Quevedo. I participated in my first one five years ago and I was hooked.”
He sent two of his stylists this year on his own dime.
“It’s an outlet for giving,” he said. “It’s very humbling,” Quevedo said.
Margot Kimble, 51, also stood in the clothing line as light rain began to dampen everything but the spirit of the event. Someone nearby mentioned the beauty tent. “I could go for a manicure,” said the homeless Kimble. “That would be cool.”
Then, summing up her feelings, Kimble said, “As far as doing anything good, kind, and in terms of reaching out to people, this is awesome.”
Email Hunter Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org.