One weekend in the mid-1980s, a woman and her two young children walked through the streets of Chinatown, lugging about 40 homemade sandwiches, a couple gallons of juice and cupcakes in a Radio Flyer. They must have been a strange sight.
They distributed the food to homeless people in Aala Park. These days that woman, Sharon Black, is a very familiar sight - she still lugs around sandwiches to share in Chinatown.“I think that was a time when people were not really as aware about the homeless or needy people,” says Black, who then worked at the Department of Health. She decided to fill that gap. “It was a childhood dream that I had never given up on. My dream was that I was going to make a difference.”
Thanks to partnerships with businesses and churches, donations and a dedicated volunteer base, Black was able to expand her venture, now known as the Kau Kau Wagon. Black facilitates meals for hundreds of people on the corner of Hotel and Bethel. They serve 500 sandwiches each Saturday, meals for more than 600 people on Thanksgiving and Christmas and other meals throughout the year depending on the amount of supplies and volunteers.“The great part is that it’s unconditional,” says Black. “It’s not just for the homeless; we feed anyone ... It’s like a huge ohana picnic.”
She also participates in a number of other projects, including pet therapy. As part of the Tails of Aloha program, Black takes her three Great Danes to visit hospital patients. Kau Kau also collects supplies for homeless people, including toiletries, blankets, jackets and slippers and donates canned goods to struggling families. And they work at the Hawaii Foodbank Walk.
Black says that it’s Kau Kau’s partnerships and volunteers who have kept the project going. It receives grants from the Atherton Family Foundation; Love’s Bakery donates bread; Aloha Harvest donates pizza and chicken; Central Union Church and Seventh-day Adventist Church donate supplies and regularly cook meals; the Hawaii Foodbank and Jamba Juice also donate; Hawaiian Self Storage stores supplies. Kau Kau also has a volunteer base that comes out to help each week. “My appreciation for the volunteers, the supporters and the people whom we serve is so deep ... I am so thankful,” says Black.
Black hopes that Kau Kau can sustain its service for years to come. “I love it ... I am living a dream,” Black says. “I take it as a privilege.”
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