Hilo, November 29, 2011 -This holiday season will be a tough one for West Hawaii’s families in need. That makes the organizations that help them even more important.

More than 600 children under age 13 are currently signed up for the Salvation Army of Kona’s annual Angel Tree program and that number continues to grow each day as more families request assistance, said Kona Lt. Kelly Pensabene. The charity is looking for money to purchase at least 240 more presents for keiki.

“There has been a fluctuation of so many families that have lost jobs this year. The need this year is actually higher than last year,” she said. “People are still calling (for holiday help) and we won’t turn them away — we will see this through, but it will be tough.”

The annual Angel Tree program helps provide toys and holiday gifts to children. Families looking for assistance should bring an ID and have verification of their income to sign up. The Salvation Army is also working to possibly put on a children’s Christmas program, however, finances will determine whether that can happen.

For more information, to get involved or to donate, call Pensabene at 443-8788.

In addition to the Salvation Army, various nonprofits and a business will help area families make the holidays happen. However, some have already reached the maximum number of families they can help.

King’s Daughters Ministry

The Kainaliu-based organization’s annual Love Giving program helps West Hawaii families who need a little assistance to make the holidays happen. Thus far, 55 families have requested assistance this holiday season, said Helen Vailuu, president. Families must sign up with the organization and include their holiday needs and wishes along with ages, gender and sizes. Those families’ needs are then able to be “adopted” by other families, individuals, groups and organizations, she said. The program does not require income, residency or citizenship verification meaning even those families who may not have gained U.S. citizenship can turn to the organization to ensure their kids have a memorable holiday season, Vailuu said. Sign-ups for the program began on Nov. 19 during the charity’s annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway. Families interested in signing up can contact Vailuu at King’s Daughters Ministry by calling 322-0797 or 937-5940.
For more information, call the ministry’s thrift store at 322-0797, email kingsdaughters@hawaii.rr.com or visit kingsdaughterskona.com.

Toys for Tots

Hawaii Electric Light Co. will once again coordinate the Toys for Tots program on the Big Island, which distributed gifts to nearly 7,000 keiki last year, said Paul Fujioka, the program’s Big Island coordinator. Various entities islandwide, including West Hawaii Today, will be collecting and distributing new, unwrapped toys and gifts to less-fortunate keiki, who have been identified by a social service agency. However, Fujioka understands there are some who may not work with or have been denied help from a social service agency. Those who still need assistance should email Paul at paul.fujioka@helcohi.com. Requests can also be submitted online.

For more information, including where to find an official drop-off location, call Fujioka at 969-0123, visit hilo-hi.toysfortots.org or email Paul.

Christmas Wish Program
Homeless families with children are eligible for Project Hawaii Inc.’s Christmas Wish Program, which provides holiday gifts for keiki. Families who recently found homes, but are still in need of assistance will also be considered, however, priority will go to those who are currently homeless, said Magin Patrick, executive director. Up from 800 in 2010, the Christmas Wish Program estimates it will reach 1,200 keiki this year, she explained. Keiki are treated not only to gifts and basic hygiene goodies, but to a Christmas party featuring Santa Claus, arts and crafts, and games in Hilo.

To sign up for the holiday program, call 982-8128 and leave a message.

Lokahi Giving Tree Project
The Lokahi Giving Tree Project is available to help struggling Big Island families by providing them with basic necessities for a brighter holiday season.

Those needing assistance should call 883-8832 and leave a message. One of the project’s volunteers will then return the call to begin the intake process.

HOPE Services Hawaii

HOPE Services Hawaii, a nonprofit corporation that includes an extensive Big Island operation of outreach vans, homeless shelters and services to the disabled will assist individuals and families with gifts and several programs this holiday season.

Those needing assistance for the holidays should contact the West Hawaii Friendly Place at 933-6062, said Brandee Menino, HOPE Services Hawaii executive director.From there, the organization will work to connect those in need with those in the community who can help.

On Dec. 22, the organization will host a meal at the Friendly Place in the Kona Old Industrial Area. On Dec. 23, the organization will also host a meal at the new Kaloko Transitional Housing. Details on the meals will be more concrete in December, Menino said.

Editor’s note: There may be services and programs in addition to those listed above.

Chelsea Jensen. “The spirit of giving” West Hawaii Today, 29 Nov. 2011.http://www.westhawaiitoday.com/sections/news/local-news/spirit-giving.html