Keaukaha General Store Organizes Delivery of Kūpuna Care Packages

March 19, 2020, 3:48 PM HST (Updated March 19, 2020, 3:48 PM)
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  • Courtesy of manager at Keaukaha General Store Breeani Sumera-Lee
  • Courtesy of manager at Keaukaha General Store Breeani Sumera-Lee
  • Courtesy of manager at Keaukaha General Store Breeani Sumera-Lee
  • Courtesy of manager at Keaukaha General Store Breeani Sumera-Lee
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    • Courtesy of manager at Keaukaha General Store Breeani Sumera-Lee
    • Courtesy of manager at Keaukaha General Store Breeani Sumera-Lee
    • Courtesy of manager at Keaukaha General Store Breeani Sumera-Lee
    • Courtesy of manager at Keaukaha General Store Breeani Sumera-Lee

Big Island businesses have stepped up to provide shopping hours solely for kūpuna to stock up on essential household supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization’s declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic sent people worldwide to stores buying up toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer and thermometers. While supply chains to the Hawaiian Islands have not been impacted by the virus, hoarding has left store shelves bare of necessary items for days.

To combat that, KTA, Foodland, Keaukaha General Store, Target and Safeway have designated shopping hours for those who are the most susceptible to the novel coronavirus, the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

At Keaukaha General Store, the owner and manager took it step further and with the help of community partners, created 600 kūpuna care packages that include toilet paper, paper towels, face and body soap and granola bars.

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“The elderly are suffering,” said Keaukaha General Store manager Breeani Sumera-Lee. “Many of them are unable to get to the stores right now, or going to the stores and finding there is nothing left for them or too scared to go out to get items they need to.”

As of Thursday, 300 packages were delivered and Sumera-Lee said they plan to make an additional 400 packages within the next couple days.

Sumera-Lee said it was her mother’s idea to do the free packages.

“Mostly what we wanted to do was put a blanket on our community — to comfort them and reduce fear,” said Sumera-Lee’s mom Kim Kimi and owner of Keaukaha General Store.

Kimi was inspired with the idea on Sunday and mentioned it to her daughter, saying Sumera-Lee is the one who her takes her ideas and makes them reality. The following day, Sumera-Lee starting taking names from those who wanted a package. Deliveries started Wednesday.

With a group of six volunteers, Sumera-Lee assembled the 600 packages and created three distribution centers where volunteers could pick up the bags and deliver them to the doorsteps of the kūpuna. Once delivered, the kūpuna receives a phone call to inform them of the delivery.

Sumera-Lee said they were able to order the items in bulk from the mainland and have been receiving supplies throughout the week.

“No task is too big when we hold together,” Sumera-Lee said. “We all have a gift. We all have the ability to give and serve.”

Since deliveries began, Sumera-Lee has received phone calls a text messages from recipients full of gratitude as some of them aren’t even able to go shopping on their own because of physical disabilities or other chronic illnesses.

Keaukaha General Store has had help from its community partners to make this happen: Hawa‘ii Rise Foundation, Hawai‘i Affordable Properties Inc., Aloha Grown, Creative Arts Hawai‘i, Hawaii Paper Products, American Hotel Register, FFF Distributing along with County Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy.

“We all can do a little bit,” Kimi said. “If we can do that, we’ll be better off.”

To sign up for a kūpuna care package, call or text 808-333-8985 with their name, address and phone number. They can also email [email protected] They can also reorder.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.

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