‘Tis The Season To Give Back

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - November 25, 2009
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The more the recession takes its toll, the more obvious it seems that this holiday season needs to be about giving, not getting. And you don’t have to look far to find someone in need.

Ever since my boys Max and Finn were able to reach out to touch the shining Christmas tree lights, at the beginning of the holidays I’ve brought them with me to the thrift shop or homeless shelter with donations of toys, clothes and books. I want them to learn that giving to other people is a life lesson right along with having good manners and cleaning up their room. Last year, instead of donating toys to a faceless organization, we donated them directly to a family struggling through some hard times. Annie and Alice Yeung of Panya Bakery made us an extra Thanksgiving meal, and as we delivered dinner, the boys handed over their toys to children who had none. They did it with all the natural grace and openness that very young children possess: As soon as they saw kids their own age without any toys, it seemed obvious to them that they should share.


There will be more homeless families this year in Hawaii than ever before - more working families living below the poverty line, more anxious moms and dads unable to cope with the stresses of daily life in a recession.

It’s likely that this holiday season may be one of the worst we’ve seen in decades. But I believe it’s also the one where you and your family can make a big difference.

Terri LaCoursiere Zucchero, an instructor and director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at UH-Manoa, works with homeless families, bringing them the food, clothing and the basic supplies most of us take for granted.

Hygiene supplies like diapers, soap, toothpaste, baby wipes, and personal items for both men and women are in high demand, Zucchero says.

“They are expensive, and it breaks my heart to work with homeless women, who are struggling in unimaginable ways, trying to survive day to day and dealing with not having the necessary basic supplies to care for their children and their own needs.”

Zucchero is as committed as she is passionate, and her energy to keep fighting for these often desperate families is inspiring. One of the organizations she works with is Waikiki Health Center. They operate Care a Van Homeless Outreach Program, which sends vans around Oahu each day to provide healthcare services at the beaches and parks.

And here’s where you can get your kids involved.

“It’s always wonderful to give books and toys to the kids,” says Zucchero. “The families look forward to the weekly visits from Care A Van, and directly giving a gift to a child is beneficial to the outreach workers, who often feel like they are not doing enough or seeing any real changes.”

In an often hopeless and seemingly helpless situation, glimmers of hope shine brightly.

And since my job is directly involved with food, I’ve been gathering support for Zucchero’s desire to bring food to as many homeless families as she can during these next few weeks. She’s in need of many, many items.

“Food is obviously the most expensive item,” she says. “I try to assemble lunches that are on the healthier side, and that runs up the cost, so a donation or gift certificate to a grocery store where we can buy fresh fruits and veggies is most welcome.”

Other needed items include diapers, baby wipes, tarps and umbrellas.

In Hawaii, we have a strong culture of giving and sharing. No better time to put it to work than now. You can reach Zucchero at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is the gift of giving something back. Happy eating!

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