Dec 25, 2021
For Jelena Dackovic, there’s no better way to spend Christmas Day than spreading comfort and joy, especially with those who might need it most.
The Maui Rescue Mission’s West Maui outreach director said she’ll be spending her morning today with a team of volunteers who will be assembling gift bags filled with T-shirts and hygienic supplies, Christmas cookies and cooked meals provided by nonprofit West Maui Community Task Force for the houseless community.
“We don’t see a better way to spend Christmas than going out and seeing our unsheltered ohana,” Dackovic said Friday afternoon. “This is the time where you spend with family and friends, and so I can only imagine what it’s like living alone, sleeping on the bare concrete. So my goal is just to go out and wish them ‘happy holidays’ and remind them that they are loved and not alone.”
A mobile personal care trailer, the Maui Rescue Mission provides free laundry services and showers to those in the community impacted by the housing crisis.
Outreach volunteers also collaborate with other nonprofits to provide meals and other supplies, as well as assist with connecting individuals with addiction recovery programs and other community resources.
The typical outreach schedule is from 12 to 4 p.m. Monday at Saint Theresa Church in Kihei, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at Lahaina Baptist Church, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at Kanaha Beach Park in Kahului and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday in Lahaina at United Methodist Church.
The West Maui Christmas Day outreach started a couple of years ago and Dackovic hopes that with enough funding and volunteers, they will be able to expand to other communities across the island next season.
During regular outreach days in Lahaina, the team usually serves between 50 to 80 people, which takes the whole community’s help, she said.
“There’s very limited resources,” she added. “Especially if you struggle from a mental illness or addiction, or if you have both, which is very common. . . . The beds are very limited. It’s just very sad.”
And during the holiday season, she believes that it can sometimes add onto the stresses for individuals living in the streets.
“You live in survival mode 24/7, so I am hoping we can remind them that it’s the holidays and that they are not alone,” said Dackovic, who volunteers six days a week. “That is my family, they are my friends, I love them all, and I want to share Christmas with them.”
Though what the Maui Rescue Mission does every week is not the full solution — which will come with systematic change — Dackovic said that they continue to try to “fill in the pukas” where they can.
Executive Director Scott Hansen said on Friday that this past year wasn’t as financially successful as the Maui Rescue Mission team had hoped, so they’ve been trying to fundraise throughout the month of December with the goal to not only continue operating, but to expand services a bit more in 2022.
Maui Rescue Mission surpassed the halfway mark of its $5,000 holiday fundraiser on Christmas Eve; however, there’s still one week left of the fundraiser as a generous donor has recently volunteered to match all donations up to $5,000 until Dec. 31, the organization said.
To donate, visit weblink.donorperfect.com/december-double.
In addition to the work of Maui Rescue Mission, there’s plenty of generosity to go around.
On Thursday evening, volunteers gathered at Waiola Church in Lahaina to help distribute 400 holiday meals provided by Kalei’s Lunchbox & Catering.
Na Mea Ike Ia, which sponsored the event through its Aloha Legacy Program, also teamed with the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Old Lahaina Luau, Down the Hatch, Salvation Army, Maria Lanakila Church, Kumulani Chapel, Citizen Church Maui, Waiola Church and Maui Economic Opportunity to prepare and distribute 800 meals at several different locations Thursday.
Bakery Lahaina also announced that it would give away 100 free holiday meals to those in need on Christmas Day. The individually boxed meals of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, country-style green beans, Caesar salad, poi rolls and pie will be available on a first-come, first served basis from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the bakery, located at 991-D Limahana Pl.
For those living unsheltered and/or in poverty, such challenges do not cease just because it’s Christmas, which is why nonprofits, community outreach programs and individuals continue to work around the clock to ease some of the burden.
Catholic Charities Hawaii, including the Maui Community Office located in Wailuku, is a nonprofit that strives to help vulnerable families and individuals facing uncertainty year-round.
This holiday season, people can help by donating gift cards to grocery or retail stores such as Foodland, Walmart, Target, Long’s Drugs or Ross Stores, according to their website.
There are also outreach opportunities with Family Life Center, Mental Health Kokua, A Cup of Cold Water, Maui United Way, Women Helping Women, Hungry Homeless Heroes Hawaii and Aloha House Inc.
The Maui Youth & Family Services Safe House through Maui Behavioral Health Resources provides shelter and support for teens and young women. An Amazon wish list called “Maui Youth & Family Services Holiday Wish List” has been open for donations to “help make their holidays a little merrier,” according to the organization’s Facebook page.
The Salvation Army Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division, meanwhile, has been providing a wide range of services to families in need for over a century, like meals, rental and utilities assistance, and holiday gifts.
Every holiday season, Maui County Corps locations conduct the red kettle campaign to collect donations for Christmas gifts ranging from children’s toys to two nights’ shelter.
The virtual red kettle fundraiser for Kahului Corps gathered just under $4,000 while about $200 each was donated to the Lahaina and Molokai red kettles, according to the website.
The online and in-person Angel Tree campaign also encouraged keiki toy donations where the community could pick and purchase Walmart items from the Salvation Army Maui County Registry.
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at email@example.com. Managing Editor Colleen Uechi contributed to this report.
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Dec 25, 2021