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Volunteers help the homeless and needy at community hub in Lahaina

By BY LOUISE ROCKETT - | Mar 5, 2021

Maui Rescue Mission brings its trailer to the parking area of Lahaina Baptist Church on Wednesdays and Fridays. The West Maui Community Task Force (above) provides lunch on Fridays. WMCTF has 4-6 members who assist with the weekly feedings, unless it’s a special themed event where more hands on deck are required.

LAHAINA — There’s a hub in Lahaina, where a corps of hands have joined together for the good of us all.

The gathering place is at 520 Wainee St., in the parking lot next to Lahaina Baptist Church.

It’s a flurry of activity, a resource center for the West Side needy, with hot meals, haircuts, showers, laundry and an abundance of services offered by Lahaina Baptist Church, Maui Rescue Mission, West Maui Community Task Force and an army of volunteers.

The Maui Rescue Mission (MRM), a charitable organization, travels island-wide weekly and specifically to West Maui on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Scott Hansen is the executive director of the nonprofit, and the director of operations and outreach is Abel Garcia.

According to its website (https://mauirescuemission.org), their mission is “to provide a new path to a new life for those who are homeless, lost or have broken relationships with family or faith in Jesus Christ.”

Garcia and Hansen are determined advocates for their unsheltered clients.

“We have approximately 120 to 150 people that we serve regularly. I suspect there is a lot more, but that’s going from roughly the Olowalu-Pali area all the way up to Honolua and that area,” Hansen observed.

“We are basically a catalyst for the next step,” Garcia described.

“Initially we started with the laundry and the showers,” Garcia continued. “As a result of the pandemic, we’ve had some new volunteers step up. It started with stimulus checks; we had volunteers help with that.

“We’re here if they need help getting their ID or their birth certificate. There’s also a nonprofit called Project Vision that comes out and sets up with us, and they help with food stamps,” he added.

Clothes and hygiene and first aid supplies are distributed There is a medical team from Malama I Ke Ola Health Center on-hand along with people who can help sign up for free health insurance.

Jelena Dackovic, a photographer transplant from Serbia, is an outreach worker for MRM, spending seven days a week caring for the homeless in West Maui, mostly in the field.

Her days are full “by bringing food to those in need, sitting outside the emergency room where I just dropped off someone in dire medical need, or sitting patiently on the phone with one of Maui’s resource agencies to connect a friend to a much-needed community resource.”

She is passionate about the displaced on the West Side. It is not going to go away anytime soon without action.

“The idea that so many of us are working on this just shows you there are so many people in need. They are marginalized; no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to see them in their neighborhood. Don’t keep pushing this issue on the side; instead stand up and help these people go back in the community and be part of the community,” Dackovic suggested.

She is steadfast in her approach.

“She has a much better relationship with the homeless in Lahaina than pretty much anyone I know. She goes above and beyond many times,” Garcia noted.

“It takes time to build a relationship; it takes time to build trust; it takes time for someone to say, ‘Hey, I need help!’

“What I do as an outreach worker? I will show up day-after-day,” she said.

In any case, it’s not a quick fix; it’s complex, Hansen said. It’s not a one-size-fits-all type of solution

“I think that a lot of people know there is a homeless situation, but they don’t necessarily understand the breadth of it. They don’t how many people are homeless, or how difficult it is for the homeless to get off the street. It’s not as simple as ‘go get a job and get yourself someplace to live.’ It’s way, way more complex than that,” Hansen advised.

“There is a severe lack of resources for mental illness as well as drug addiction. There’s just not enough resources for people here. We do our best,” Hansen said.

“Our desire,” Garcia continued, “is to get to know each person’s story and try to figure out what can we do, how can we help.”

Lahaina Baptist Church has been a part of the Maui Rescue Mission since their launch in 2018, Pastor Jay Wright said.

Up close and personal, Pastor Jay is all too familiar with the conditions.

“Homelessness is not going away anytime soon, and turning a blind eye to those in need will never help solve this growing struggle on Maui. Maui Rescue Mission is stepping into the street, the bushes, the graveyards and alleys to share the Love of Jesus and the compassion of a caring volunteer. I believe this group is important to bring a much-needed solution to homelessness; and, I would add, I believe it’s imperative for people to become more involved in serving others and loving others to help combat the growing self-interest and self-focus,” he concluded.

Other groups can be seen on weekdays at the hub stepping up to offer their best efforts to resolve this community dilemma.

The 16-member West Maui Community Task Force is one such entity, working hand-and-hand with other good people of West Maui to offer hot meals on Fridays. Maria Terra is the non-profit’s leader.

“Penne Pasta Cafe has donated to our Friday luncheons — they prepared, and we served. Two chefs from the Ritz-Carlton, April Matsumoto and Meredith Manee, have offered to provide lunch once a month — they prepare, we pick up and distribute. They get their fresh vegetables for the meals from Hua Momona Farms,” Terra said.

“The big picture is creating bridges,” Abel advised, “to develop relationships, develop trust and treat people like human beings and make them feel like they are part of the families. That gives us an opportunity to move them along, to help them in a more meaningful way than the county might get from doing sweeps.”

The community can contribute to Maui Rescue Mission on its website at mauirescuemission.org or mail a check to Maui Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 330381, Kahului, HI 96733.

Donations are also being accepted at the 501(c)(3) West Maui Community Task Force at https://wmctf.org.