Church and community group works together to provide meal and festivity to homeless

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KAILUA-KONA — The holiday season included a festive meal on Thursday for the clients of The Friendly Place, a homeless shelter in downtown Kailua-Kona.

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KAILUA-KONA — The holiday season included a festive meal on Thursday for the clients of The Friendly Place, a homeless shelter in downtown Kailua-Kona.

Members of the Living Stone Church, most in Santa hats, set up their serving table and served out a meal while Christmas songs played.

Then the clients, carrying plates with hot dogs, buns, macaroni salad, green salad and fruit cocktail, sat down at the shaded picnic tables.

The clients had hung globes, stockings and lights from the metal framework, while the church provided blue Hawaiian print tablecloths.

Volunteer Ken Churches said the goal was to create a more festive atmosphere, a goal he thought they achieved. The holiday part was an extension of their weekly meal the church puts on, as it’s done for years.

But the reminders of the season made things emotionally difficult for some people.

One was Melissa, who asked that her last name not be used due to the stigma some may associate with homelessness.

It’s a reminder that she can’t be in contact with her family, she said, but it’s also a joyful time. It certainly cheered everyone up, she said.

Volunteer Jean Hartley was running a mail station. She’d gathered donated and unused cards, along with envelopes, and brought them to the event.

Everyone could write as many cards as they want to, Hartley said, but most people do two or three. For those people who don’t want to, or are unable to, go to the post office, she’ll send them as well.

It can be hard working out addresses, she said. Often times, people don’t remember, which Hartley finds understandable.

“Not having an address is way down at the bottom of the list. Three meals a day is more important,” she said.

They do their best to turn up addresses, like family the client hasn’t contacted for 10 years, she said.

Steve, who also asked his last name not be used, was enjoying his meal and speaking with another client.

He’s been living “houseless” for three years out of his 30 years on the island.

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The event and Hope Services are “a blessing” he said, giving people someplace to go. The meal was “uplifting for many” and “positive for the community.”

“We, as people, when things go good, we take them for granted,” he said.

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