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Police recruits deliver gifts, cheer to in ‘Stocking’ operation

LIHUE — Mario wanted a tuna sandwich for Christmas. One of his neighbors asked for a ham. Another put a blender on her wish list.

They got what they wanted, and so did the other 30 or so residents of Lihue Gardens who participated in Operation Kupuna Stocking, the Kauai Police Department’s annual Christmas gift campaign. The only one who didn’t get their wish was Lorna Navarro.

“If I wrote down, I need a brand new car, would I get a new car in my stocking?” she asked a volunteer who showed up at her door.

When he offered her a toy car, she laughed and told him, “No! I want a real car!” She settled for “chocolates and my gift certificate from Times and Walmart.”

“The policemans came and was nice,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

The chief of police and a class of new KPD recruits came to her neighborhood the evening before to hand out stockings. Auntie Lorna — she’s named after the Lorna Doone cookies and just made 74 this month — pointed out her screen door, into a soggy Christmas Eve afternoon, and said, “You see that lady walking her dog?”

Veronica Colobong was out for a walk in between rain showers. Her little dog huffed and puffed. She looked at him with a mixture of love and genuine annoyance. She thought the blender she put on her wish list would be too big to fit in one stocking.

“I no think I’m going get ‘em,” she told Johnette Chun, a secretary in the police chief’s office, who organized the project and collected the wishlists.

“You never know,” Chun replied.

Every year she organizes some kind of giving campaign for the police department. Last year they sent stockings to military troops overseas, but this time Chun wanted to do something for the kupuna because, “So often the seniors get forgotten, that’s why.”

“It was so awesome, because these tenants asked for such simple things,” she said. “A couple of them didn’t want anything. They just wanted to wish us a Merry Christmas, but we filled up their stockings anyway.”

“We even had this lady who just wanted cat food. And we had some cat lovers who were fighting to bring it to her,” she said. “It was a really nice project, and I’m glad the recruits could come.”

Gaylan Matagiese, 24, of Waimea, is one of eight KPD recruits scheduled to be sworn in as an officer on Jan 2, the end of six months of training. She helped hand out the stockings to kupuna on Monday evening, along with the other members of her recruit class.

“Man, I never seen somebody smile so much and be so happy,” she said. “I love my elderly community. I love taking care of them, and if they ever need help, we’re there.”

Another recruit, Shaun McClain, 27, came from San Diego to become a KPD officer and hand-delivered a gift to a man named Mario, who lives in Building E and asked for nothing more than a tuna sandwich. His stocking was packed with all the ingredients — things like canned tuna, mayonnaise and foil.

“When he pulled the bread out, that was the moment he smiled, and it was like he’d forgotten how to smile,” McClain said. “It was really cool. His caretaker too, said it was probably the brightest she’d seen him in a long time.”

Norma Cortez lives in Building C. She wanted a ham for Christmas.

“I had one case water, my tablecloth,” Auntie Norma said, lifting up the corner of a brand new white tablecloth with brightly colored flowers on it. “I love my new tablecloth. That’s why I put the towels, so I no get ‘em dirty.”

She poked at one of several neatly folded towels stacked on the tabletop.

“Oh! This is good! They should do this often!” she said to herself when the police came with stockings. “Especially for the elderly … a lot of them use walkers.”

Auntie Norma was watching Jurassic Park in her living room Tuesday afternoon. On a bookshelf next to the TV was an oval-shaped photograph of her mother, who had 16 children and passed away earlier this year.

Now, Auntie Norma said she only has to worry about taking care of herself. That’s why, when she wrote “boneless ham” on her wishlist, she was happy the police gave her, “one small one.”

“One half-piece ham,” she said. “Perfect for just me.”
Source: The Garden Island

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