The "largest humanitarian effort" ever to come to Molokai is already arriving in large shipping containers at Kaunakakai Wharf in preparation for Convoy of Hope Hawaii's Day of Compassion on Saturday, organizers of the event said.
Nearly 23 tons of food, as well as thousands of pairs of children's shoes, socks, backpacks with school supplies and clothing, are being delivered to the Friendly Isle this week and distributed at Kaunakakai Ball Park starting at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The "Day of Compassion" also will offer medical and dental screenings, job fairs, haircuts, manicures, family portraits, computer giveaways, entertainment, games, rides and activities, all free of charge.
"We have the blessed opportunity to put two bags of groceries in every home on the island of Molokai on Saturday. We will have more shoes than kids, and they are all brand new," Convoy of Hope Hawaii Media Director Bulla Eastman said Monday.
Local businesses in Hawaii have been donating their goods and services to the cause as well. While Convoy of Hope could only afford to bring three hairstylists from Oahu, 10 more hairstylists from the Paul Mitchell Beauty School of Honolulu raised money to pay for their own airfare and lodging so they could take part in Saturday's event on Molokai, Eastman said.
"The need is so great on Molokai. . . . People need to know that even when things seem hopeless, there is still hope," said Eastman.
Molokai has had the highest unemployment rate in the state for several years, nearly doubling the statewide average of 5.4 percent in January with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate.
Saturday's efforts are expected to reach at least 3,500 residents on the island, marking the "largest humanitarian effort in the history of Molokai," Eastman said.
The Christian organization has been organizing one-day charitable giveaways on Oahu since 2011 but will make its first stop on Molokai this year after Dawn O'Brien, a morning announcer on The Fish 95.5 FM, who also emcees the annual Molokai Summer Praise Concert, asked Eastman in a broadcast last year to bring the charity to the rural island.
About 400 volunteers on Molokai have mobilized over the past five months to prepare for the convoy, with 40 volunteers flying from Oahu to help organize the event.
Pastor Cameron Hiro, the Molokai site coordinator, called the convoy "a miracle" that has brought the community together.
"This is a partnership between churches, businesses, organizations. . . . There's no label when someone is in need of help. Molokai (may be) poor in a sense that there's not economical opportunities, but we are in no way poor when it comes to the main thing of loving each other," Hiro said.
No one knows this more than Molokai resident and event volunteer Jonna "Minky" Hoopai Young, who said that she is elated to have the opportunity to help her community.
"A lot of families are going through hardships, high unemployment levels, drug and alcohol usage. . . . Everybody's going through whatever they're going through in life, but (this) is about giving hope to people and letting them know it's OK to ask for help and lean on your fellow brother and sister," Young said.
"It's a blessing that they've chosen Molokai to be the first island they've expanded to outside of Oahu, we need this and our prayers were answered," Molokai volunteer Wanette Lee said.
Local groups like Molokai Occupational Center, Maui Economic Opportunity, Tutu & Me, Alu Like Wellness Center and the Red Cross are among a number of groups that have signed up to have booths at Saturday's event.
Trinity Broadcast Network, the world's largest religious network, which is based in California, will be filming the day's event as part of an ongoing documentary about Molokai, according to event organizers.
Convoy of Hope Hawaii expects to serve 20,000 additional people at a similar event on Oahu at its Aloha Stadium and Kapolei Fairgrounds sites, beginning at 10 a.m. July 27. Eastman said that, combined, the two events will distribute about $1 million worth of goods, with 23 tons of food on Molokai and 45 tons on Oahu.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.