SuperCity: Be the change
BY CHRISTA WITTMIER / Special to the Star-Advertiser
It’s been a long time since I’ve been involved in any major community outreach projects. Too long.
This past Thanksgiving eve, I bumped in to some nightlife friends who said they were going to feed the homeless on Thanksgiving. In my head I thought about standing in a row serving at a soup kitchen — but the reality turned out to be so much more hard work. As a result, I felt much more of a sense of fulfillment than I originally expected.
I remember being at Palama Settlement with my co-workers a few years ago sorting and handing out food for the Hawaii Foodbank. It was devastating to see families trying to take more than we were giving and having to tell them no. Last week, the hardest part was handing meals we prepared to kids.
“There’s a little girl over there under that plumeria tree,” said the first person we found at Mother Waldron Neighborhood Park in Kakaako, making sure we didn’t miss anyone.
I didn’t want to show any emotion, but it was hard.
“What church are you guys from?” someone asked us at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park. No church, we answered. We’re just here to help.
While there was still a significant feeling of helplessness, this little bit we did to help on the holiday made a difference, and now I can’t wait for Christmas.
Carl Richards has participated in this type of grassroots outreach on his own for more than four years, and not just on holidays. When he moved to Honolulu he had $500 and lived in his car. He survived on the kindness of others, and now that he has been able to make a life here he spends quite a bit of his free time giving back.
I met Carl while out and about as he is a staple on the scene as a musician and friend. He’s now playing trombone in a new band called Smokestack with reggae/R&B soul sister Mindy Ka’imipomaika’i (aka Mindy Smokestack). They perform this week at First Friday in Chinatown.
When I met him at 7:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving, he had been cooking with a small group since the night before. The kitchen in the small school he used to prepare the food was a mess of dishes and food waiting to go in the oven, but there wasn’t really anything we could do to help at that point besides clean up while the stuffing and gravy were finished. There was a stack of take-out boxes outside waiting to be filled, but until the food was ready we were mostly just in his way.
» Where: The Dragon Upstairs, 1038 Nuuanu Ave.
Once the food was ready, we went to work carving the turkeys and dishing up the stuffing, green beans, turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy and desserts. We managed to prepare more than 100 meals and got them loaded before noon. Carl has quite a few friends who work with him — not just on holidays — and they had a great time mocking us newbies (“Hope you enjoy your tax write-off”) who silently took the ribbing, knowing this was a good lesson for us to learn.
The best kind of good we can do for others is to just do it. I didn’t really want to talk too much about the experience, but I realize I’m in a position where I can share with others in hopes they will decide to also make a difference. As much as we have or don’t have, there will always be someone else who needs help.
When I think about how much money I spend on unnecessary things it makes my chest hurt. The least I can do is spend a little bit of time trying to make a difference, especially as a holiday orphan with my family in Olympia, Wash. It’s something to think about all the time, not just during the holidays.
If your bar, restaurant or club is doing a food/toy drive this holiday season please email me. I would like to help spread the word.
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young’s Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for Pow! Wow! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular Bacardi Pool Party on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.