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Lahaina pastor and team of volunteers delivering essential needs in the community

By Staff | Apr 9, 2020

Lahaina Baptist Church is receiving pallets of food each week from Sysco and Maui Food Bank, then distributing it in the community. Last week, the network of volunteers distributed more than 700 boxes of food to local families. 

LAHAINA – If you live in West Maui, you’re blessed. From one hand reaching out to the next, it’s a miracle of giving, a shower of love. We are all connected by this one road leading in and out of Lahaina.

In these surreal times, questions beg to be answered and asked. Leaders are stepping up, and Jay Wright, the pastor of Lahaina Baptist Church, is one of the chiefs of the Lahaina Strong, offering his best.

Jen Mather works at Waiola Church across the street.

“Pastor Jay,” Mather described, “is the most unassuming community helper you’ll ever meet. He gets the work done without needing recognition or reward. The reward, it seems, is that the community he lives in and the people he helps are vibrant and thriving.”

“Right now,” the young mother of two described, “Pastor Jay and his team of volunteers is organizing and delivering essential, basic needs to the entire community, not just his own parishioners.

Volunteers assemble and pack boxes with food.

“I saw him do this exact same thing during the Lahaina fires and Hurricanes Lane and Olivia,” Mather continued, “but you’ll be hard-pressed to find his name or Lahaina Baptist Church mentioned in reports, even though he and his church were integral parts of the response efforts and current efforts to keep us all fed, clean and safe.”

The 50-year-old pastor arrived in Lahaina six years ago with his family of four – wife Joy and three sons – and his kinship to our people has grown exponentially ever since.

“This is home for me and my family. This island has welcomed my family unlike anything I have ever experienced. I will give everything I have to help this community,” he pledged.

He stands by his promises by giving back on a number of occasions, including the meals for the homeless and Maui Rescue Mission (MWM).

“It’s a trailer that has showers and restroom facilities – that’s mobile – so we host it here at the church every Wednesday. People that are facing homelessness can come have a shower, get cleaned up, have their laundry done. We give them a bag of personal supplies.”

The parishioners have a collective purpose, “Community on Mission,” and some of their acts are astounding.

“When the fires happened, two years ago, our church, we cleaned about 80 homes of all the dust and the ash. We had, I want to say, 130 volunteers come to the church and help us clean up the community from debris,” Wright explained

Now he’s on a community-wide food quest, and the corps of volunteers Wright is leading has expanded this past month, not just out of necessity, but mostly from aloha.

Wright described how it started.

“I just kept calling restaurants and suppliers that (might) have extra food. I told them that I was willing to buy from them. That’s what I started with. I’m not asking for something for free.

“This week alone (March 29 through April 5), we have distributed over 700 boxes of food to local families,” he observed.

It’s been a long haul, but Wright is quick to honor others for their contributions, including “some of our wonderful members of our church.”

Michael Gallagher from Sysco Food is recognized as the “key guy” from that firm “helping us with food delivery. Gallager is also helping other churches on-island in Kihei, Kahului and Upcountry.

“We are receiving between 8-11 pallets of food each week from Sysco and between 10-14 pallets from Maui Food Bank,” Wright calculated.

Alfy Basurto of 808 Pick-ups is another outstanding, make-a-difference hero in our community.

“I’ve had one face-to-face conversation with Alfie and probably 100 text exchanges with him. Let me tell you how awesome and wonderful he is. He’s picking food up for any kupuna and taking it and dropping it on their doorstep,” Wright said.

During the distributions, Mather observed, “volunteers safely deliver food parcels to cars. No one gets out of the car; the box gets placed in car trunks. Volunteers are protected and so are recipients. I was absolutely gobsmacked to see the size of the refrigerated truck that pulled up to the church. It was clear that Lahaina Baptist Church, under the leadership of Pastor Jay, was doing what it always does, stepping up and serving.”

During Covid-19 Sundays, services at the church are being streamed online commencing at 9:30 a.m.

Donations are gratefully accepted on their website at lahainabaptistchurch.org.

“We’re here to make a difference in this community,” Pastor Wright observed. “We’re all doing the best we can.”