While he’s been retired for nearly a decade, Ken Kitagawa is still heavily and happily involved with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). He still visits his friends at the Mililani Post Office to talk story. He still serves as an officer and director of retirees for Hawaii’s NALC union. And he still helps restock the shelves at the Hawaii Foodbank through his role as coordinator for the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.
Starting next week, bright blue bags and pre-paid postcards will be delivered to mailboxes throughout the state. Simply fill the plastic bags - which Kitagawa assures will later be reused courtesy of Safeway - with nonperishable items such as canned fruits and vegetables, soups, Spam, dried goods and even bottled water.
On May 9 letter carriers will collect the donations during their regular routes and, after clocking out, will sort and separate the day’s bounty at Oahu’s 18 postal branches.
“Fortunately we have the facilities, but it still takes manpower,” says the retired army lieutenant colonel, emphasizing that though last year’s drive brought in a record 73.1 million pounds of food nationwide, this year it is more crucial than ever to give back.
“Instead of having the people that you normally see (utilizing the Foodbank), you’re gonna see people that you didn’t expect to see. We still go through the same trials and tribulations like everyone else in the community, but because we are in the position to still help we’d like to continue that tradition.”
He’s even gotten his daughter Kalen, a former teacher at Waialua Elementary School, and students from area schools involved with this much-needed public service over the past 17 years.
“One of the by-products that I’m very proud of is all the children who come here to help us, they learn the value of giving, you know, giving to somebody not as fortunate as they are, and they can share this one day of providing food with their families.”
So while he may be retired, Kitagawa still believes his work with the NALC’s Stamp Out Hunger cause is far from over.
“We have a commitment, and we’d like to continue that because we see the people that we serve every single day. We do it because we want to, we like to do it. The main thing is that you’re giving from the heart.”
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