What began as a donation of two Christmas trees in 1996 has blossomed into an annual giveaway of dozens of trees and food boxes through Kihei resident Robert Douglas and his Christmas Cheer Project.
Douglas, now 76 and nearly blind, has helped more than 3,500 families in need on Maui and Molokai over the last 16 years through the generosity of donors from as far away as Europe, who sent him cash to support the project.
Earlier this month, I received a letter from Robert.
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"I am again honored to be named by the Maui Food Bank as the leadoff donor for this year's holiday food drive," he wrote. "I am donating 100 holiday food boxes that can each feed a family."
A donation of $20 to the Maui Food Bank will provide a family of four with a wonderful holiday dinner.
The Maui Food Bank's (MFB) mission is to help the hungry in Maui County by collecting and distributing food through community partnerships. The MFB serves over 10,000 people a month who are in need of food. This year alone, the MFB will distribute over 1.5 million pounds of food to the hungry by working with a dynamic network of nonprofit organizations and agencies that distribute food to the hungry and who offer over 100 relief programs.
"And they do an outstanding job in getting the absolute most of each donated dollar," Douglas added.
Its statewide network of suppliers allows the MFB to turn each dollar donated into eight pounds of groceries, including fresh produce, staples, bread, meat, fish and poultry.
"It is our goal to end hunger on Maui," said MFB Development Director Marlene Rice. "We believe that a group of caring thoughtful, committed people can make a difference in the lives of those who are food insecure."
"As in years past," Douglas continued, "I offer a challenge to everyone to either equal my donation of $2,000 or make a donation in any amount to help meet the need that exists here in paradise."
Having run the Christmas Cheer Project for so many years, Douglas said he is very aware of how great the need really is.
"On so many occasions, I saw where the husband was working three jobs and his wife was working two, and they still needed help just to survive," he said. "Just think if that was your family."
Robert wants us to make sure that aloha never becomes just a word, but continues to be a way of life.
"This never was about charity," Douglas said. "It was always about neighbors helping neighbors."
Hunger never takes a holiday. Call the Maui Food Bank at (808) 243-9500 to arrange a drive or make a financial contribution online at www.mauifoodbank.org.