Salvation Army serving up aloha during community Thanksgiving Luncheon in Hilo
November 22, 2023, 7:55 PM HST
* Updated November 23, 7:47 AM
The Salvation Army Hilo Temple Corps has a rich history on the Big Island, dating to its establishment in 1894. And since 1952, it has been located at 219 Ponahawai St.
Hilo Temple Corps Capt. Sam LeMar, who also is the Salvation Army’s Hawai’i County Coordinator, remembers running around the church as a child.
“The community and their support of others through The Salvation Army is what we’re most thankful for,” LeMar said. “It’s just this [interwovenness] — the real feeling of community.”
The Salvation Army Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division, along with several partners, is giving back to its Big Island community, serving up aloha and Thanksgiving meals on Thursday at several events that will feed the bodies and souls of more than 1,900 people around the island.
- A community Thanksgiving Luncheon for 500 people with hula and music, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. hosted by the Hilo Temple Corps at Aunty Sally Kaleohano’s Luʻau Hale, 799 Piʻilani St. in Hilo. The Hilo Lions Club will offer another 100 meals at 2:30 p.m. at the Hilo temple location as a grab-and-go option for those who can’t make it to the sit-down event.
- A total of 800 Turkey Day meals, provided by Jackie Rey’s, Papa Kona’s and members of The Salvation Army Kona Corps Advisory Board, will be served up in West Hawai’i, with delivery to senior homes in Kona starting at 9 a.m. and grab-and-go meals offered beginning at 11 a.m. at Jackie Rey’s, 75-5995 Kuakini Highway.
- Another 500 meals will be delivered by noon to homes throughout Waimea, Waikōloa and Honoka’a by the Waikōloa Community Church, Imiola Church and The Salvation Army’s Honoka’a Corps.
“In the spirit of aloha, we extend not just plates of food but more importantly a sense of unity and belonging,” LeMar said. “Thanksgiving is a day to come together, to be grateful and to ensure that no one in our community feels alone.”
Everyone is invited, no questions asked, to the sit-down dinner in Hilo. The last time the event was hosted was Thanksgiving 2019. It was on hiatus the past several years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hilo Temple Corps is partnering with Hilo company Pacific Mix Catering to put on the feast.
Pacific Mix is providing 350 pounds of turkey, cooked underground in a traditional Hawaiian style imu with the help of Kawika and Kaipua’ala Lewis of ‘Āina Ū, as well as all the fixings, including white rice, stuffing, gravy and salad.
KTA Super Stores donated pumpkin and apple pies, with Starbucks providing coffee.
Lila Parong, a member of The Salvation Army Hilo Temple Corps church, has volunteered to help with the luncheon for nearly 30 years and this year is in charge of the music. Seventeen members of her hula halau Daughters of God will be performing.
LeMar said food brings everybody to the table and he’s excited to feed the community that has supported The Salvation Army for all these years. Aloha means a lot of things to him, including being together, loving one another and serving others.
“We’re a church, first and foremost, so congregational fellowship and time is an exciting thing for all of us. We’re just excited to fellowship with everybody,” he said. “It’s a chance for us just to love others and show them the love of Christ.”
It will be community serving community, with at least 30 volunteers assisting The Salvation Army and 10 helping from Pacific Mix, incuding owners Autumn and Lee Soares, who is also the chef, and their seven children.
“We are so blessed to be involved this Thanksgiving with the opportunity to provide a luncheon to our Hilo community,” says a message from the catering company accompanying a video post on Facebook showing the imu being built and the turkeys for today’s dinner being cooked.
Autumn Soares said the catering company believes being involved in the community and networking with others offers a chance to see how to make more of a positive impact and be of service to Hilo and it’s people.
“We are a family-operated business and it is usually at this time of the year that our large family comes together from across the state to celebrate and kick off the holidays,” she said. “This is the first year we are doing something completely different.”
She said they are truly serving by helping with the Thanksgiving luncheon and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.
“We have seven kids and when we announced to them what we were doing this year, they were so stoked and excited,” Soares said. “We hope that it will become a family tradition that lasts.”
LeMar said The Salvation Army is all about bringing hope and joy to the community during the holidays. It’s just one of the main aspects of what the organization does. He encourages everyone who can make it to “just come, sit down and enjoy yourself.”
Hilo Temple Corps Executive Director of Salvation Army Family Intervention Services Roxanne Costa, who has worked for the organization more than 30 years and helped with the community Thanksgiving Luncheon whenever she’s been available, said the event is a celebration of the season and a way to give thanks for life “and each and every day.”
“It’s a humbling feeling that we can come together and celebrate the holiday,” Costa said.