KAILUA-KONA — As the sun set, a gathering of Kailua-Kona’s neediest citizens began to congregate on the pier as they do every Thursday night, coming for a hot meal served by the Salvation Army.
But this night was special. A full Christmas dinner including ham, salad, yams and all of the fixings was served, and everyone received a box of chocolates and a gift. Holiday songs filled the air courtesy of the Salvation Army Band and the mood was jovial, festive.
“We started Thursday dinner on the pier last year (in) July after seeing people picking food out of the garbage. We saw the need,” said Salvation Army Lt. Raghel Santiago.
When Santiago and her husband Jose started the pier ministry, they were cooking for about 40 people. As the word spread, more and more people started showing up. Now they serve 200 dinners weekly.
Thanks to a donation by Bruno Mars, Santiago was able to provide a real feast, towels, blankets, hygiene items and a $15 gift certificate to Foodland for the 200 people expected at the holiday festivity.
Santiago said they are there to feed the homeless both physically and spiritually.
“We bring church to them,” she said.
The dinners are open for anyone who wants to come and share. Denise Kina has been coming to Thursday night on the pier from the beginning.
“I come for the fellowship with everybody. The Salvation Army has really stepped up and done a whole lot of outreach and contributing to the community,” said Kina. “It’s awesome.”
Santiago relies on volunteers to help serve every Thursday as well as donations to buy the food, which she and her husband prepare every week.
Nano Padillio is one of those volunteers.
“We want to help out as much as we can, anyway we can,” said Padillio as he, his wife and their 8-year-old son set up the buffet table.
“I want to show responsibility to my son,” he continued, “Don’t speak, just do.”