Feed My Sheep: Maui volunteers bring prayer and provisions
LAHAINA – When a shepherd cares for a flock, many of those who have wandered away can still be reclaimed. In fact, concern and compassion build faith while fostering an invitation to return to the fold.
Serving with sincerity and integrity, the Maui nonprofit Feed My Sheep makes an immediate impact on the lives of the less fortunate. Bringing positive hope, the organization lifts the spirits of low-income workers and the unemployed while helping them through rough economic times.
“The giver and the receiver are both edified as they share insights and personal experiences,” said founder and CEO Joyce Kawakami, noting that Feed My Sheep is grounded in biblical principles to take care of those in need.
A unique mobile food distribution program, Feed My Sheep takes deliveries to designated neighborhoods each week, passing out bags of groceries to anyone who needs assistance. In an effort to make Maui hunger-free, the organization provides prayer and about 140,000 meals a month throughout the island.
Bags of food, packaged to last about a week, are distributed to the needy in five different locations every week and once a month in Hana. In addition, staff and volunteers provide emotional support by offering a listening ear so that all can experience humane concern, not judgment, in their time of need.
“We love what we do,” said Kawakami. In fact, her small staff has developed a roster of over 400 volunteers dedicated to the mission.
“The volunteers make Feed My Sheep such a welcoming, kind place,” she added.
There are many ways to help the organization, from handing out food at regular distribution sites, to pre-packing at headquarters, to praying with those so inclined.
Jami Farris, a volunteer for over ten years, said, “The highlight of my week is being able to be part of an organization with a heart for those in need. I am blessed to have the opportunity to provide spiritual insights as well as nutritional needs.”
“The results are extraordinary,” said Kawakami.
“Each month, Feed My Sheep supplies people that include the working but poor families, seniors on fixed incomes and homeless men and women. Each person who comes has a few moments with someone who cares and food for their week.”
For Kawakami, this ministry began in August 1996 when she was youth leader for her church. Noticing that many of the teens in the group were not getting enough nutritious food to eat, she started bringing provisions to the weekly meeting for the young people to take home.
Word got out, and others started asking Kawakami for help. This step began a regular distribution of food out of the trunk of her car.
“First I started loading the trunk of my car with groceries,” she said, “but then I had to get a truck!”
In 2002, the program moved into a room at Grace Bible Church in Kahului. Other churches joined the effort, as did businesses and members from the community at-large.
Currently, Feed My Sheep has a fleet of donated trucks serving locations in Kahului, Kihei, Lahaina, Haiku and Hana. The food is stored and processed at their site in Puunene, an area with land containers donated by Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar and their parent company, Alexander and Baldwin.
An effective new mobile Produce Market has recently been launched to offer a “hand-up” in addition to a “hand-out.”
“We are working with local farmers to provide fresh fruits and vegetables at a 75 percent discount to qualifying individuals,” explained Kawakami. “Plus,” she said, “we are also creating jobs by hiring people to help the farmers harvest their crops.”
Joseph Deloache, a client of Feed My Sheep now in the “hand-up” program, has had medical problems since moving to Maui as well as a hard time finding a place to live.
“I’m doing better thanks to Feed My Sheep,” said Deloache, who eventually found an apartment. “I applied to Napili Gardens to help grow some crops and start giving back to the program,” he said, excited by the possibility of his future contributions to the organization.
“We are thrilled to announce these initiatives that Feed My Sheep is making to extend our mission and expand our services,” said Kawakami, adding that their free, regular food distribution across Maui, five weekly and one monthly, continues unchanged.
“We feel blessed to be able to serve so many and to offer them prayer and support in addition to bodily sustenance.”
Current Produce Market and food distribution in Lahaina is held Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon in the parking lot at the corner of Dickenson and Wainee streets.
To donate time, food or financial support, or for other Feed My Sheep distribution locations, call (808) 872-9100 or go to www.feedmysheepmaui.com.