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Pop Warner distributes bentos

PUHI — Everybody is doing meal distributions, said Kaua‘i Pop Warner Football League volunteers Sunday morning at the Grove Farm industrial area.

“The big difference is we wanted to do this,” said Teddy Arroyo, president of the KPWFL. “We talked about doing something like this for a long time, and when we voted on it, everybody said ‘We’re doing this.’”

Sunday, the five associations making up KPWFL, the Kaua‘i Officials Association comprised of sports officials, including those from the KPWFL games, and other community partners, including the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank that provided the bed of rice for the bento, combined their spirit and energy to distribute more than 1,500 bento for keiki 18 years and younger, and kupuna aged 65 years and up, at three sites around the island.

The commitment to distribute the bentos was demonstrated with the turnout of more than a handful of volunteers working pre-dawn hours to prepare the bento from the Grove Farm industrial central gathering site, and distributed to drive-thru sites in Kapa‘a, at the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex, Hanapepe at the Hanapepe Recreation Center, and in Puhi close to Grove Farm headquarters.

“This is amazing,” said Judge Randal Valenciano while stirring a batch of shoyu-flavored Spam. “Usually, when you get people together for party preparations, maybe half of those who commit show up. Look at this. You have everybody, including representatives from the five associations — Kekaha, Hanapepe, Koloa, Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a.”

Arroyo paused to chat with Dick Uyeoka, one of the founders of Pop Warner football on Kaua‘i, who was curious about the community project, about the league doing this to give back to the community during the time when the community needs the help.

“We go to the community for help with things like fundraising and other things,” Arroyo said. “Now, we go to the community with something to give back. We chose to do three sites because this is for everyone — the community. We wouldn’t be here without the community.”

The chat with Ueoka churned up memories of the KPWFL coaches and association leaders stepping up to provide support in players’ and participants’ personal growth beyond the football field — a meal after practice because there was not enough money in the family to get food, rides to and from practice because the family had no car, and more.

Collecting together from the pre-dawn hours to cook, the bento assembly line overflowed with the flavor similar to that of mochi-making in the early immigrant Japanese sugar camps, and house-building efforts from the days of the plantation camps.

That feeling seeped into the bento coming off the line and packed for delivery to the outlying sites.

“We have Goteborg,” one of the cooking volunteers said. “Not just one, but two. We just need the egg to go along with it. The good thing about Goteborg is you can have it for three meals a day, and snack in-between. And, for a long time, you could only get it on Kaua‘i.”

Joni Funamura capped the bento at the Lihu‘e site when she rolled up with a load of dessert, amazed that people were already parked and waiting for the start of distribution.

“Everyone helped,” Arroyo said, noting that Funamura is called on to create food for Wescon gatherings. “The goteborg? That’s because Wa‘alani Enterprises came up with a big donation, and Ishihara Market was good enough to slice it for us. Kelvin Moniz worked through KIFB for the rice, the Kaua‘i High School football coaching staff came out to help slice the Spam and hot dogs, and we have many others who put in to have this happen for the community.”

Mila Rapanot, volunteering with the Kekaha Titans Association, looked up from her dishwashing chores.

“We did this after Hurricane ‘Iniki,” she said. “This pandemic is just another one we can do this for. The hardest thing is being cooped up. I almost cried when they extended the stay-at-home for another month. I was so waiting for May 30.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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