During pandemic, volunteers find they’re ‘essential’ to those they help

In times of turmoil, many turn to volunteering during pandemic

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lanakila Meals on Wheels lost half its volunteer staff last week.

Director Lori Lau says 100 of the 200 total decided to take a break, saying it was just too dangerous during the pandemic.

“Understandably most of our volunteers are retirees themselves and in that higher risk group. And we want them to stay safe. You can’t volunteer if you’re not comfortable," she said.

Meanwhile, orders for new deliveries are up as other seniors and those with disabilities shelter in place. Last week, 125 new people signed up for the service.

Lanakila Meals on Wheels frozen meals
Lanakila Meals on Wheels frozen meals

Lau is grateful others are stepping in to ensure the more than 1,500 members get their hot and frozen meals, plus canned and paper goods.

“People who are now working from home, maybe even some folks laid off from their jobs so they’re not working right now, even people that are connected to the school system because the schools are closed, they’re coming in to help us because they’re available,” Lau said.

Neil Yamamoto is a good example. He is an education outreach coordinator at the Battleship Missouri Museum, which has shuttered because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Neil Yamamoto volunteers at Lanakila Meals on Wheels while his employer shutters
Neil Yamamoto volunteers at Lanakila Meals on Wheels while his employer shutters (Source: None)

“We tend to get stir crazy but this is a way to combat that and give back to the community give back to those who really do need it,” Yamamoto said. He already volunteers with Meals on Wheels one day a week as part of the Kiwanis Club, but now he can volunteer more often.

Debbie Nakanelua Richards, a Hawaiian Airlines employee, also showed up at the agency to help Wednesday. She and two other airlines employees are working from home during the pandemic.

Hawaiian Air employees who are working from home find time to volunteer
Hawaiian Air employees who are working from home find time to volunteer (Source: none)

“As long as they need us and we’re not in the way, we’re here to help,” Richards said.

To help Meals on Wheels or to see if you qualify for the deliveries, click here.

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