St. Anthony of Padua, Oahu
Val has served as Outreach Coordinator at St. Anthony of Padua for 8 years, a position she is both humbled and grateful to hold. “Before I accepted this position, I didn’t have anything to do with social work, except life experience. I was the kitchen manager at Buzz’s Steakhouse for 27 years. My foot got bad, I just couldn’t do the job anymore, and I was really at the end of a career. But I believe that when one door closes, another opens.” Val was born and raised on the Kailua side of Oahu, and she has strong ties to the community and the families she serves. “Growing up, we were always struggling to make ends meet, to buy food…keep the car running, fighting over money was a part of daily life. When people come to our thrift store, to our food distribution days, or for financial assistance, I feel compassion for them. I know that it is very hard thing to ask for a handout. I understand where they are coming from.”
Val’s office is in a tiny house that sits just across from the St. Anthony church. It is mainly a thrift store in front, with attached office spaces, kitchen and storeroom in back, for all the donated clothing and food. An ocean breeze ruffles through the open windows and the air smells like plumeria. …the beach is a few short blocks away. Volunteers are buzzing around, as the weekly food distribution is about to begin, and a line stretches out the side door.
Families, moms with children, and single men wait in the sun to sign in and receive a box of food. Val is on crutches, and slowly walks with me out to the thrift store where I will be taking some photos. “I don’t know how we would do all this without our volunteers. I have 25 really committed folks who give their time to run the thrift store, give out food, sort the donations. They have hearts of gold, and we are blessed to have them.”
She eyes the growing line. “I know there are some who take advantage. I have a second job at a gas station, and see people coming in with food stamps, who have money to buy beer. And there are people who come in, and try to scam me. They want money not help…but I can see that. That is the advantage of taking the time for one on one interviews to really listen to where people are coming from. Often when you talk story with folks, and they can articulate their problems, they have solutions for themselves. They just needed someone to listen to them and let them know about resources. There are many, many people in need, and those are the ones I want to help.”
St. Anthony of Padua maintains a thrift store and food distribution program that is open 4 days a week. They also participate in an interfaith organization called the Family Promise Program as part of the Windward network, and they host homeless families 4 times a year, for week-long stays. For more about St. Anthony’s outreach program, please visit the parish website.