Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poi Dog Deli owners Taylor and Celeste Cline knew they wanted to help keiki in Kona at the start of the pandemic. Partnering with the community, they created the Keiki Food Fund.
“We started the Keiki Food Fund the last weekend in March when the governor had his stay at home order and the kids were forced to go home from school,” said Taylor. “We wanted to do something that would allow the parents a little leeway.”
Taylor recalled talking about an idea with her wife to start $3 kids meals.
“When my wife and I were first talking about it at the register, one of our customers standing there said ‘I’d like to donate $20 to that.’ Then the person behind them said they wanted to donate too,” she said. “Pretty soon it snowballed and we’ve had some big donations. It’s been huge for us as a business, because ultimately it’s money in the door and food out the door, so it has helped keep us in business.”
Taylor remembers having friends talk about the only meal their kids eating all day was the one or two they got at school.
“Those stories just break my heart,” she said. “So we started with the Keiki Food Fund and opened up an account where the community could come and donate money and all of that money was completely set aside for kids meals.”
To date, they have given away close to 3,500 kids meals.
“We still have funds for about 100 kids meals to give away,” she said, noting as more donations come in, more free meals will be given out.
There is no other purchase necessary for the free keiki meals.
“It’s our whole kids menu,” she said. “We do a peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese and ham and cheese, all with a side of popcorn.”
Taylor said throughout the pandemic there were a couple of times the account was getting a little low, but the community would always come through and donate more money.
“At its peak, we were giving away 35-40 free meals a day,” she recalled. “I was stoked. People would come in and say thank you this makes such a difference.”
“We have had a ton of fun with the keiki food fund, feeling like we can make even a small difference for people,” she added.
They are still accepting donations. Interested individuals can stop by or call the deli at 329-2917 and tell the server they would like to make a donation, or donate through their website at poidogdeli.com.
“We want to do this as long as we can. Every day we get people calling wanting free keiki meals so every day we keep giving them away,” said Taylor. “I don’t have an end in sight. The community is doing an amazing job making sure we take care of each other and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
She said besides helping to feed over 3,000 kids, the program has been an outlet for people who wanted to help but didn’t know how.
“So many people have been out of work, but many have stayed working too,” she said. “It’s been so awesome to see the two sides come together. We’re just happy to do it. It’s the basic of Aloha.”
“It’s been magical,” she said. “Plus we’ve always been a kid-friendly place.”
Know a Hometown Hero who should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.