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The Food Basket, Denny’s offer help to employees affected by the government shutdown

KAILUA-KONA — As the partial federal government shutdown rolls into a fifth week, some are stepping up to offer a helping hand to employees who have been furloughed or are working without pay.

On Friday, The Food Basket, Hawaii Island’s food bank, hosted an Ohana Drop at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole for furloughed and still working federal employees in West Hawaii, with another Ohana Drop scheduled for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. today at its Hilo warehouse.

“We do Ohana Drops wherever there’s a need and when we can,” said Kristin Frost Albrecht, The Food Basket executive director.

They’re not the only ones recognizing a need to help their neighbors. The Kailua-Kona Denny’s also is offering free meals from its value menu to federal workers affected by the shutdown.

“We can do something good for them,” said operating partner Ali Sahito. “And we cannot give money; we cannot give any cash-value things. The only thing (that) was left: to feed them.”

Albrecht on Friday said The Food Basket was receiving calls from friends and families of federal workers, specifically Transportation Security Administration employees, so the organization connected with airport management about setting up an Ohana Drop for those who need it.

The Ohana Drop on Friday offered federal employees a variety of fresh and nonperishable foods, including turkeys and ground beef, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread and canned products as well as some household goods.

Sahito, who formerly worked in airport security, said he saw an opportunity to help those affected by the shutdown after a regular customer, whose son works with the TSA, reached out to him. Already, Sahito said, the restaurant has served meals to more than a dozen families.

It’s not for recognition or accolades, he said. Sahito wants to see more people and businesses working to support their neighbors in need.

“And that’s all we need, if everybody can jump in,” he said. “Everybody can use somebody’s help.”

Albrecht said The Food Basket will continue organizing weekly Ohana Drops until the government reopens. She said the food bank is asking federal workers who want to pick up food to bring a federal ID. Families and friends of affected workers can contact the organization or provide a photo of the ID to get assistance on that person’s behalf.

She also added that The Food Basket is happy to accept any donations from members of the public who want to do so, including farmers interested in donating surplus crops.

“People have been really stepping up,” she said. “And we’re always happy to take people’s donations for events like this.”

Donations can be delivered to either the Kona or Hilo warehouses. The organization also does pickups for donations, she said, and those looking to arrange that can contact The Food Basket by calling 933-6030.

People have been reaching out to find out how they can help their neighbors.

“It is a remarkable place that we live in,” Albrecht said. “This community really takes care of its families, its friends, its neighbors. Whenever there is something impactful that’s happening in the community, people step up.”

Federal workers who came to Friday’s Ohana Drop declined to speak to press or be photographed.

Email Cameron Miculka at cmiculka@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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