One man's Thanksgiving commitment becomes a community's tradition

One man's Thanksgiving commitment becomes a community's tradition 5pm

WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One man's commitment to feed needy families on O'ahu's west side has turned into an entire community's Thanksgiving tradition that is quickly spreading to other parts of the island.

For the past 28 years, Uncle George Paris has spent his Thanksgiving preparing and delivering food to others.

"Thanksgiving is a day of giving and that's my gift back to our community," said Uncle George, who is the director of the Iron Workers Stabilization Fund.

An army of volunteers flock to Paris' home to help out and more people show up every year.

"They just love doing it.  They just come by and I know it's going to happen," described Uncle George, explaining he no longer calls anyone to ask for help as he did in the early years.

"To find these much volunteers coming out on Thanksgiving Day is just -- I'm -- but again, I'll continue doing it as long as I'm breathing," Uncle George said, choking up.

Volunteers say it's a privilege to participate.

"There are a lot of people who are less fortunate, who are hungry every day, every week, every month.  This is once a year.  All these folks from various churches, various groups, individuals, unions and business people – this is their way of giving back and trying to ease a special day like this for other people," explained Faauuga Tootoo, Paris' nephew and a long-time volunteer.

For years, the Ah You family of Laie and other volunteers have helped Uncle George with his mission.  The last five years, they've chipped in by cooking the turkeys for his Thanksgiving meal in an imu.

"We so admire that and wanted to assist and Dad wanted to help out by at least cooking the turkeys in the imu making it a little easier – as well as take care of all the needs we have here," said Kingsley Ah You .

This year they cooked more than 250 turkeys and more than 50 hams in the traditional underground oven.

"It's a connection to our roots – this is something that's unique to us," said Representative Richard Lee Fale, who helps volunteer.  "It's just part of celebrating who we are.  We're thankful that we live here in Hawaii and have the community that we do," said Lee, who represents House District 47 (Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Kahuku, Laie, Hauula, Waiahole, Sunset Beach, Punaluu, and Kaaawa).

Fresh out of the imu, volunteers get to work shredding the turkey.

"We've been doing this a long time – since we were small – so we're used to it. We love it.  We enjoy it," said Manny Crawford.  "Just watching their face enjoying the food, enjoying our hard work – even though, it's not hard work when you're doing it for a right cause," Crawford added.

While some of the turkeys stay in Laie to feed local elderly families or BYU students who are away from home there – the majority make their way to the west side for Uncle George's holiday tradition.

Volunteers plate kalua turkey, ham, gravy and a mound of rice – a local touch 18-year-old Kekoa Simeona especially liked.  He's raising his seven younger siblings all on his own.

"It's a blessing for my family to have lunch today for Thanksgiving and we're thankful for that," Simeona said with a smile.

One by one the plates are boxed up and loaded into trucks that make deliveries across the west side.  Students at one local school also collect canned goods to distribute.

"It means plenty to my family because one year ago we were on the beach so we're really grateful to the organization that came out today and made it possible for all our families here to have a hot meal," said Noah Miller.

"Every parent wants to see their children as happy as they can be, so smiles on their faces and loud cheering is great for us – we're excited," Miller added.

An estimated 2,000 people were served a hot Thanksgiving meal – an effort organizers say is only possible through generous community donations.

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