King’s Daughters Ministry donates Thanksgiving meals to families for 20th year

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Outside the King’s Daughters Ministry Thrift Store in Kealakekua, tables were covered with canned peaches, beans, boxes of Stove Top stuffing, Punalu‘u Bread, cookies and pumpkin bread mix. Outside, a wagon was filled with the main attraction: frozen Butterball turkeys.

Juanita Carrisal (left) and Alana Colombo (right) stock the table outside King’s Daughters Ministry Thrift Store on Nov. 21, 2023, during the annual turkey giveaway. (Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)

For the past 20 years, the ministry has been giving away turkeys for Thanksgiving meals. The drive started at 7 a.m. on Wednesday with people stopping by on their way to work or dropping off kids at school. By the end of the day, 228 people left with the makings for a memorable holiday.

“This will help feed us for a week,” said Kaiulani Pagan, a mother of four young children with another on the way.

Pagan, 24, milled around the thrift store as the volunteers put her Thanksgiving box together. Pagan said she and her husband have been living between her mother’s and father-in-law’s house, with nothing affordable for them to rent or buy.

Excited and thankful for the food, Pagan said she plans to give back with a big donation of clothing to the thrift store.


Pagan wasn’t sure how she was going to provide a Thanksgiving meal this year until she heard from a friend about the turkey giveaway at the King’s Daughters Ministry.

The thrift store — with racks full of second-clothing, vintage jewelry on the front glass counter, and an array of small pieces of furniture and art scattered about the shop — was started 20 years ago to provide for those in need, said Helen Vailuu, president of the ministry.

From clothing to school supplies to baby formula to food, the ministry buys what it can to give away.

With the store not pulling in as much funds, Vailuu was only going to buy Thanksgiving meals for those in dire need.

Dozens of turkeys were given away during the King’s Daughters Ministry Thrift Store on Nov. 21, 2023, during the annual turkey giveaway. (Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)

“The coconut wireless was really going around and more people with more stories came looking for help,” she said. “We decided to buckle up and do it.”

Dolores, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, was at the giveaway with her 4-year-old daughter.

Unemployed since 2019, she said the turkey meal is a relief and a load off her shoulders. Last year for Thanksgiving, Dolores said her family’s holiday meal encompassed only what they regularly had in the refrigerator.

This year, she said she’ll be able to feed her husband and two daughters for at least a week with the food she’s been provided.


Vailuu said they bought dozens of the turkeys this year on sale for 99 cents per pound at Costco. It also was the first time the Hawai‘i Island Food Basket provided turkeys to the donation, along with the normal canned and boxed goods.

Loke Gonsalves and Jami Leonard, who live on fixed incomes in an independent group home just up the street from the thrift store, walked over to see about getting a holiday meal for themselves and others in the home.

The women said they barely have enough money to cover the $400 rent, not leaving much for bills or food.

“If it wasn’t for this, I’d only have cereal and rice,” 23-year-old Gonsalves said.

The food Gonsalves and Leonard picked up will help feed the rest of the house where four women live. Gonsalves is most excited about the Punalu‘u bread.

Vailuu’s heart is filled with gratitude over the success of this year’s turkey drive. She said: “I know I can eat my Thanksgiving meal somewhere in Hilo with peace of mind that I know others will be eating, too.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. 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 can be reached at [email protected].
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