HONOLULU (KHON2) — The highest demographic at risk by the COVID pandemic is our kupuna. But one positive influence of the pandemic was it provided the chance for them to learn how to be a part of the digital realm.   

Lanakila Meals on Wheels wants to celebrate their 50-year milestone by playing a favorite kupuna game, bingo — but virtually. When they first launched in 1971, they were known as the Honolulu Nutrition Program with a lunch wagon at Aala Park, which served nearly 500 participants in its first year. 

Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8

Now, Lanakila Meals on Wheels serves over 3,000 people.   

Since COVID began, the pandemic forced the organization to find new ways to keep our kupuna cared for during a time when physical interaction is not the safest.  

“First was our Kupuna Tech, which are digital classes for seniors,” said Laurie Hara, Marketing and Communications manager for Lanakila Meals on Wheels. “They can learn basic technology; You know, things like how to dial on their smartphone. The other service that we launched — which was our Kupuna Connect classes and these are virtual gathering spaces. The third service that we launched because of COVID was what we call the Green Bag.”

Green Bag is a home delivery service, featuring a curated selection of fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Hawaii has one of the highest poverty rates among seniors, with one in six kupuna who face hunger each day. 

“My grandmothers, I lived with her for almost 20 years,” Hara said. “My mother was a primary caregiver, and I assisted my mom in that. So, my grandmother was fortunate in that way. Unfortunately, some seniors are not. They don’t have the family network to support them. Many live alone.”

In celebration of 50 years of servicing kupuna and as a way to thank the long list of volunteers over the decades, Lanakila Meals on Wheels is hosting a virtual bingo event on Saturday, Oct. 2. Those who would like to participate can go to Kahala Mall by Friday, Oct. 1, and pick up bingo cards from participating vendors.  

“Then, on Oct. 2, you can log on virtually, and they can play bingo with us,” Hara explained. “And there are going to be great prizes — $50 Kahala Mall gift cards from different merchants.  And we’re also having a random drawing, a big drawing for $250 shopping spree from Kahala Mall.”

Participants will have until Friday to get their bingo cards at Kahala Mall for Saturday’s virtual event.

Stolen jewels, boa constrictors killing owners, check out Weird News here

Additionally, Lanakila Meals on Wheels is looking for volunteer drivers to distribute kupuna meals. For more information on this and the full list of participating vendors for bingo, click here.