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Holy Innocents Church serves the homeless in Lahaina

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Nov 24, 2016

The Team Outreach Ministry is run by volunteers who purchase the food, make the sandwiches and distribute the provisions to the West Side community. “All community members are invited to be part of our Team Outreach ‘ohana,” said Rev. Amy Crowe (left). PHOTO COURTESY OF HOLY INNOCENTS CHURCH.

LAHAINA – Team Outreach is a ministry of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Lahaina. It stemmed from A Cup of Cold Water (ACCW) community care-van, an outreach program of the Episcopal churches on Maui. Distributing essential food, hygiene and clothing items, ACCW has grown into a hugely successful outreach ministry for the island.

With a strong volunteer base, the three-day-per-week ministry now includes churches from various denominations as well as volunteers from around the wider community. It visits the poor and needy in Wailuku on Wednesday, Lahaina on Saturday and Kihei on Sunday.

“We must continue to work together in collective community as a result of the great need to feed our homeless and houseless in Lahaina and throughout the island,” said Keku Akana, ACCW founder and president. “This model of service that we have created on Maui is a truly all-volunteer representation, which places its mission in spiritual gratitude and spreading responsibilities. Committed volunteers are now from all walks of life and faiths.”

Leo Comerton, the previous Holy Innocents outreach chair, considered the growth of the homeless and houseless on the West Side and came up with the idea of Team Outreach.

“Seeing a need to serve the Lahaina community more than one day a week, I presented the idea of Team Outreach to the Bishop’s Committee of Holy Innocents. In late June 2016, it was off and running,” he said.

Duke Casper from Holy Innocents said, “I personally felt a calling to do more for the folks on the streets in addition to the roughly two days a month I was volunteering with ACCW. I had started buying McDonald’s gift cards and randomly handing them out during the week. However, Comerton and I both saw the necessity for more assistance in the West Side community.”

“Needless to say, the people we are serving are very grateful,” Casper explained. “They are sort of puzzled as to why we are doing it. It seems that, more than the meager snacks we bring them, they appreciate that we recognize them as human beings and treat them with our attention and respect.”

“I continue to meet new people on the ACCW run, but I’m pretty much on a first-name basis with at least 50 folks that we have served from day one,” Casper added. “Now, with the implementation of Team Outreach, they have become a part of my everyday life as I make my way in and out of town on my daily comings and goings.”

A small number of people have made it into the homeless shelter and are off the streets for now. An equally small number have gone to another island or back to the Mainland. However, many people are chronically homeless, with no hope it sight.

“The shelter has shortened the time period people can stay there, which puts most of them back on the streets again,” said Casper. “This is why Team Outreach is so important and appreciated by all who need care and nourishment.”

Casper described a client this way: “One elderly gentleman told me he is out of the shelter in two months and has no place to go. Well into his eighties, he just purchased a tent and asked me if I knew of a place he could safely camp. He is a reader and writer who sits in Library Park most of the day and works on his novel. He is well-dressed, distinguished and articulate, and I find it distressing to see him in this situation.”

Team Outreach is funded through a Holy Innocents church program called Change for the Soul. Various church members adopt a plastic hippopotamus piggy bank for about four weeks. The hippos are filled with their loose change or cash and returned to church after four weeks to be blessed on the altar with all God’s gifts. The hippos are then re-adopted for another four weeks, and so forth.

All of the Change for the Soul collected is used for purchasing the water, bread, sandwich meats and spreads, and fruit for the weekly runs. Currently, team members make the sandwiches on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. between the 7:30 and 9 a.m. church services.

“All are invited to join in the preparations and be part of our Team Outreach ‘ohana,” said Rev. Amy Crowe from Holy Innocents Church. “Volunteers purchase the food, make the sandwiches, and distribute the meals, chilled water and fruit. Presently, there are two active runs, on Monday and Wednesday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.”

Rev. Crowe continued, “This ministry has been well-received. Joy of someone caring fills our clients’ hearts and minds, not just their stomachs. Holy Innocents is a church beyond its walls; it overflows into our community. Your hands and donations are welcome in this work!”

For more information, call the Holy Innocents Church office at (808) 661-4202 or e-mail holyinno@hawaii.rr.com.