© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cheers! ‘Tis the Season of Volunteering

Noe Tanigawa
Hawai'i Public Radio
Institute for Human Services Executive Director Connie Mitchell after a meeting at Hale Mauliola Housing Navigation Center on Sand Island.

Thanksgiving usually kicks off a season of increased generosity.  Social service agencies notice an uptick in volunteers as Christmas approaches, and people who want to make a contribution wonder how to be most useful. Here are recommendations from a professional who knows the value of contributing to a cause.

Credit IHS
IHS programs and services fed approximately 410 people for Thanksgiving this year. IHS serves three meals a day for about 300 people at their men's shelter, totaling about 900 meals per day.

Thanksgiving was a feast, even at the Institute for Human Services’ Hale Mauliola housing Navigation Center on Sand Island. Members of the homeless group, Ka Po‘e o Kaka‘ako, KPOK, cooked and organized the festivities there.

“Food always brings people together!” Says Aura Reyes, a KPOK leader. Homeless organizing to help themselves is what KPOK is all about.  

“I had my own stereotypes on homeless people before I became homeless,” Reyes continues. “We’re brought up like that. They’re just bums, they don’t want to do nothing…”

“It’s a hard time for people who are experiencing homelessness,” says Connie Mitchell, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Services, IHS. She says interpersonal relations means so much now.

“So we really try hard to bring a sense of community to people, and to invite community to come in and actually share with people more.”

Mitchell maintains actually connecting people to people changes perceptions and outcomes.

Currently, IHS operates the men’s and women and family shelters many are familiar with in Iwilei--but they’ve added emergency housing in Sand Island, and specialized housing for veterans, for those recovering from drugs or surgery, and for mentally ill, nine different facilities plus service fairs and pop ups around the island.

If you want to help, Mitchell recommends donating something to the IHS Holiday Store, where people are allowed to choose gifts they will give to others.

“When people are given the opportunity to give, I think their dignity is restored. They realize, “I have something to give to somebody, and I want to bless somebody else.”

The Holiday Store will be open one day only, December 21st, so go to the IHS website to donate or call 808-447-2800.

Mitchell says, “Think, What do I do during the holidays? They would enjoy it too.  So you might want to think about how you can bless somebody that way.”

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
Related Stories