Hundreds volunteer to serve Thanksgiving meals for the needy, homeless

Hundreds of volunteers turned out this Thanksgiving day to feed the hungry and needy on Oahu.
Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 5:02 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2022 at 6:13 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hundreds of volunteers turned out this Thanksgiving day to feed the hungry and needy on Oahu.

Dozens of companies also donated food, money and their time, including a Kalihi restaurant which resumed a family tradition of feeding 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 up their two Volkswagen vans with 70 to 100 plate lunches filled turkey, ham, salad and pumpkin pie — dropping them off to people living on the streets of Kalihi, Iwilei, Chinatown and Sand Island.

He said he delivers the food to the homeless who wouldn’t otherwise go to a shelter for a Thanksgiving meal or the Salvation Army’s annual dinner at the Neal Blaisdell Center.

“Some people got their own problems where they don’t want to be seen or whatever it is. So that’s why we go to the people that can’t make it, that are stuck down by Sand Island, by the airport or are on the side of the road,” Matsumoto said.

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

But the pandemic put a halt to the food deliveries for two years. His daughter Taylor Matsumoto said she’s glad that she and her family are resuming the tradition.

“Some of them we know. It makes me feel better... to help someone get back on their feet with a warm meal on Thanksgiving,” Taylor said.

Many said they appreciated the restaurant owner’s generosity.

“I think that they’re listening to their innate nature to be kind to other humans,” said “B,” who lives on the streets in Iwilei and only wanted the first initial of his name to be used.

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, serving meals to the hungry and elderly.

“The people that you see here have real challenges in their lives in many cases — sometimes it’s poverty and sometimes they’ve had just a great challenge to their health. And so it’s wonderful to see them be able to come out and to get the loving care from Salvation Army,” said Green.

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

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

“We haven’t done this for a couple of years because of a pandemic. So it’s great to be back in person here.”

Blangiardi added that it’s “a very heart-felt experience.”

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

“Today’s a great day to put all that in perspective.”