For Denise Cabel and her family, adopting another family at Christmas through the Big Island Giving Tree has changed the way they see the holiday. She said her family started out small – the first year, through the Lokahi program, they adopted a small family. The next year they took on a bigger family. Now in their third year, Cabel said they’re hooked.
The Big Island Giving Tree started as a separate group from the Lokahi program last year. Rhonda Bell, who organizes The Big Island Giving Tree, said their goal is to help working families in need, many who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances such as a death in the family, recent loss of a job or sudden illness. Different families are helped every year. Bell said what differentiates the program is that all families helped go through a screening process and that she even makes home visits.
“We are giving to families who really need assistance,” Bell said.
The program also assists seniors that live in local area senior housing complexes with delivery of food bags on Christmas Day.
“Our program has grown in leaps and bounds since we started off,” Bell said. “I never pictured it being so big and touching so many lives.”
Cabel said her children contribute from their own money when they adopt a family. She said they were interested in helping, especially after she explained the circumstances of the families.
“It could be the only gift they have under the tree,” Cabel said of the adopted family members.
Cabel said that in addition to food, clothes and gifts, this year they are also going to include gift cards to KTA, Foodland and Target so their adopted family can buy their own supplies when they need them, not just at Christmas.
“They ask for necessities, they don’t ask for toys,” Cabel said. “That is when you know they really need it.”
Cabel, who works for herself as an aesthetician, and her husband, Oswaldo Cabel, who is the owner of OCC Electric, are glad they are able to make a difference as small business owners.
“I challenge other businesses to help out, too,” Cabel said.
“If you aren’t sure about it, start small,” Cabel added. “Encourage your kids to do it if you can because it encourages them to see how much they have.”
Bell said the Big Island Giving Tree benefits greatly when businesses, schools and organizations adopt families or hold food, basic necessity, or toy drives.
On Dec. 5, with retail space donated by Parker Ranch Center, the Big Island Giving Tree will open their seasonal store near the food court where visitors can fill out applications for assistance, drop off donations and sign up to Adopt-a-Family or Adopt-a-Child. Parker Ranch Center donates the space to them for the month.
“Parker Ranch Center has jumped on board,” Bell said. “That is important to me that they want to help us because they are so generous.”
The Big Island Giving Tree schedule of events starts with the tree lighting at Parker School, from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5. The Waimea Twilight Parade Day is Saturday, Dec. 7, with daylong events at Waimea Center in their center court. The parade starts at 5:30 p.m. There will be a Bucket Brigade for Big Island Giving Tree donations starting at both ends of the parade. On Sunday, Dec. 8, there will be a Big Island Giving Tree keiki entertainment program in the Parker Ranch Center in the food court from 12 to 3 p.m. At all events, there will be a drop off table for Big Island Giving Tree donations.
Bell said she is very grateful for the many community organizations that participate.
“Parker School opens up their entire school grounds for the tree lighting of the Norfolk pine,” Bell said. “Waimea Party Rentals is donating all of the chairs for the tree lighting ceremony, and many other companies are also helping.”
There are also countless volunteers that help set up, emcee, provide entertainment and help clean up after events are finished.
“Last year, Hilton grand vacations did a huge drive – an essentials food and toy drive, and adopted a family,” Bell said. “They filled up my truck every time I went to pick up from them. Their employees are very generous.”
She said that the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel also organized a drive and dropped off their collection at the parade start last year. Hulalai Resort did the blanket drive.
The Big Island Giving Tree Store at Parker Ranch Center is open from Dec. 5 until Dec. 20. Visit the store and choose an ornament from the tree with a child’s name, age and the items that are needed along with areas of interest for special gifts. Donors can Adopt-a-Family, which includes providing them with enough food items, basic necessities, and gifts (clothing, toys) for each member of the family, or they can choose to Adopt-a-Child. All items need to be new, unwrapped and unused. Canned food items need to be in good condition and not expired.
To download a form for the Adopt-A-Family or Adopt-a-Child programs, visit the Waimea Community Association website at waimeatown.org. For more information, call Bell at 880-1984 or Nancy Carr Smith at 896-2239.
To donate, checks should be written to The Christopher Nance Children’s Foundation with The Big Island Giving Tree noted in the memo.