April 2020 - Without a doubt, our work at IHS, The Institute for Human Services has hit a fever pitch. It’s the generosity of the community that keeps us marching on. April is Volunteer Appreciation Month and fearless and passionate volunteers like Rhonda Khabir inspire us.
When Rhonda steps through the doors at IHS, she is connected to something powerful from her past and in her present life. When asked why a busy executive carves out time during a pandemic to serve meals to Oahu’s impoverished, she shared with me: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
The Vice President of Sales for Aqua-Aston Hospitality is responsible for nearly 40 properties mostly throughout Hawaii, a position that comes with 24-7 responsibilities. Yet, her life's abundance of blessings compels her to serve others.
IHS' meals program holds a special place in her heart. Rhonda has never forgotten what it’s like to be hungry. Born in Michigan, she was adopted at the age of 13 and spent her formative years in foster care until finding a family of her own with a Navy serviceman.Being near those who are suffering keeps Rhonda close to the childhood that inspired her to achieve all the success that she now enjoys. In some ways, when she steps in to our kitchens, she feels like she’s come home.
Her volunteer service comes at a time when IHS’ food service demands have increased from 1,000 meals daily to 1,500. “Most of those who come to eat here are so grateful as it’s the only meal they’ve eaten that day,” she says. “They didn’t ask to be there. They are struggling with finding work, managing their mental health or coping with life. Sometimes IHS only has one or two people to serve an entire meal for hundreds of people. I truly believe that If you can’t serve or give food, donate. Without charity, this program would cease to exist.”
Covid-19 has presented our team with an opportunity to figure out how we can do even more with less. As cases of the virus rise in Hawaii, our community needs us now more than ever. We run nine shelters including two emergency shelters that are now full.
With fewer hands to help, we have ramped up outreach to businesses and individuals asking for all to give in whatever ways they can. Whether it’s sewing or donating masks, shopping from our Amazon wish list, giving us cases of toilet paper or finding protective gear, the community is finding a role with us.
This month Popeyes Hawaii donated thousands of pounds of food from their kitchens to ours and it was just what we needed. The demand is never ending for take-out boxes, fresh produce, canned food and volunteers like Rhonda to help serve or prepare meals.
Despite their own struggles, small businesses have stepped up too. South Seas Canvas arrived at our doorstep with boxes of protective face gear that they manufactured. KoHana Distillers brewed us gallons of hand sanitizer.
An army of people like Jo Rowley, Lauren Hauck, Katie Smith, Tia Bourke, Samlynn, Lily, Ellen and her friends have sewn a vibrant array of cloth masks. A community group, Every1ne Hawaii, recently donated thousands of disposable ones. This made it possible for us to institute a mask-wearing culture for staff and guests at all of our shelters and also those unsheltered. We feel so loved and protected.
As our wish list continues to expand, we are so pleased to announce that Bank of Hawaii is mobilizing a massive supplies drive event on April 29. We hope that you can join the effort. Learn more about the Bags of Hope goods drive here.
There are so many ways that you can help to support our work on the front lines.
We are all in this together and every act of kindness that you have shown has been received with tremendous gratitude.
P.S. Click here to read this KITV story about the recent Popeye’s donation.