Hardworking Hawaii: Pandemic doesn’t stop food pantry volunteers from helping out

Hardworking Hawaii

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Boxes of food filled to the brim seem to never end at Angel Network Charities’ Aina Haina food pantry.

Since the start of the pandemic, food pantries nationwide have never been busier.

“Pre-pandemic, a busy day for us was 400 to 500 families. We are now doing 1,000 to 1,200 families a day,” said Jewell Tuitele, the President of the Board of Directors of Angel Network Charities.

A year-and-a-half later, the need for food is still high.

“We’ve dropped maybe 10% in our numbers,” Tuitele said, explaining that even though many have returned back to work, people are still in dire need of food. “Even when they get on their feet, they go back to work, and they’re months and months in debt.”

As people began lining up for food at the start of the pandemic, another line formed. Dozens of people started showing up to the Aina Haina headquarters to help.

One of the volunteers is Danny Tengan who started volunteering at the start of the pandemic. Since then, he helps out two to three days every week.

Tengan said since COVID began, he has only missed one day of the volunteer work, and he’s not the only one dedicating his time to helping the community.

Jennifer Pacis graduated from high school during the pandemic. She chose to take a gap year to volunteer at the food pantry.

“While you’re signing them in, they will tell you their story, and it’s like you can really tell that they’re super grateful for what you’re doing, and that just makes you feel real good inside,” Pacis said.

Tengan said getting COVID didn’t even cross his mind because he was so focused on volunteering every week to help his neighbors.

“Driving force is just helping the people put food on the table,” Tengan expaliend.

Even those who were going through a tough time themselves came out to help when the coronavirus struck the islands.

“Being furloughed, I was coming here three times a week,” said Jaci Yokogawa, who continues to show up even though she is back to working full-time. “Once I started coming, it brightened my day. There [was] like no depression. Everything just went away because I got so much pleasure out of serving.”

Tuitele said she is beyond grateful for all the community members who volunteered throughout the pandemic to help their neighbors in need.

“Thank you. Thank you so much. You truly are the the unsung heroes,” Tuitele said.

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Angel Network Charities has pantry days on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The organization also gives out canned goods every Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For more information on how to sign up to volunteer or donate, click here.

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