Hundreds volunteer to serve Thanksgiving meals to the needy and homeless

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Hundreds of volunteers turned out this Thanksgiving day to feed the hungry and needy on Oahu.

Dozens of businesses also donated food, money and their time, including a Kalihi restaurant that was reviving a family tradition of the homeless in their neighborhood.

“This is the first time since the pandemic,” said Todd Matsumoto, owner of Matsumoto’s Okazuya. “Thank God we got the chance to do it again.”

For about a decade, Matsumoto’s family and friends loaded their two Volkswagen vans with 70 to 100 lunch dishes filled with turkey, ham, salad and pumpkin pie – and took them to the people who lived on the streets of Kalihi, Iwilei, Chinatown and Sand Island .

He said he delivers the food to homeless people who would not otherwise go to an animal shelter for a Thanksgiving dinner or the annual Salvation Army dinner at the Neal Blaisdell Center.

“Some people have their own issues where they don’t want to be seen or whatever. That’s why we go to the people who can’t make it, who are stuck at Sand Island, at the airport or on the side of the road,” Matsumoto said.

They began feeding the poor after Matsumoto realized that some of the people living on the streets near the Kapalama Canal were his former classmates.

But the pandemic halted food deliveries for two years. His daughter, Taylor Matsumoto, said she’s glad she and her family are reviving the tradition.

“We know some of them. It makes me feel better…to help someone get back on their feet on Thanksgiving with a hot meal,” Taylor said.

Many said they appreciated the restaurant owner’s generosity.

“I think they listen to their innate nature to be kind to other people,” said “B”, who lives on the street in Iwilei and wanted to use only the first letter of his name.

Across town, at the Blaisdell Center, hundreds turned out for the Salvation Army’s 50th annual Thanksgiving dinner.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiard carved the ceremonial turkey, and Governor-elect Josh Green joined a team of 600 volunteers who served meals to the hungry and elderly.

“The people you see here, in many cases, have real challenges in their lives – sometimes it’s poverty, and sometimes they just had a big challenge with their health. And so it’s wonderful to see them come out and receive the loving care of The Salvation Army,” Green said.

Salvation Army Major Phil Lum said the event provided enough food for up to 2,000 people – food was donated by dozens of local businesses and restaurants.

“There’s about 900 pounds of turkey, about 35 gallons of gravy and the list goes on,” Lum said.

“Because of a pandemic, we haven’t done that in a couple of years. So it’s great to be back here in person.”

Blangiardi added that it was “a very heartfelt experience”.

“Times are tough, we are being challenged, but there is still so much to be thankful for,” said Blangiardi.

“Today is a great day to put all of this in perspective.”