Wednesday | January 18, 2017
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Homeless receive help in Kona

Debbi Sale lives under a makeshift shelter of tarps in Kona. She and her husband Vance cook on a one-burner stove and use public restrooms across the street. They live on Vance’s Social Security check and improvise the rest.

So the Sales were grateful for a couple of hot meals and the chance to get vision screening and new glasses at the Old Kona Airport events pavilion on Saturday.

“I’m totally blind in my right eye from cataracts,” said Debbi Sale, picking through a table of free clothing. “I have glasses but they’re the kind you buy for $10 at Longs.”

Some 35 volunteers registered and screened 70 people and served meals to well over 100 — most of them showing the wear of homelessness but others appearing to be better off.

Cindy Hall, leader of the Help Everyone Regardless of Outcome ministry, is on a first name basis with many of them. That’s because her work with Kona’s homeless puts her out on the street almost daily on “mission walks.” When the 73 pairs of glasses arrive in the mail, she’ll be on another walk, delivering them one by one to haunts where she knows the dispossessed dwell.

“We’re here to be of service to our brothers and sisters. We’re here to love our neighbors,” said Hall, who brought in food throughout the day, starting with a pancake and sausage breakfast.

After receiving an eye exam, participants were able to order frames on an iPad. They were also able to get blood pressure and diabetes screening and a haircut. The event was a partnership between the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in Kona and the Welcome Ministry from San Francisco. It was funded by a $2,500 grant from the Grace Family Foundation.

The cause of homelessness in Kona was of particular interest to founder Dick Grace because he’d witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor from a tree house on Oahu when he was a boy, said Pastor Megan Rohrer of the Welcome Ministry.

Rohrer, along with her mother, Peggy Heard, and grandmother, Darlene Audus, bathed the feet of the homeless at a washing station. The three generations, all from the mainland, also applied lotion to the often cracked and ragged feet.

“You can get everything. Food, haircut. These people are good. They take care of everybody on the street,” said Freddie Winkle, sitting on the lawn outside the pavilion.

Ophthamologist Susan Senft of Island Eye Care administered the eye exams with the help of an assistant.

“What could be better than helping people see?” said Eloise Schafer, a volunteer with the Lutheran Church who helped organize a table of free essentials — detergent, razors, Band-Aids, shampoo and other toiletries.

“Imagine if you can’t even see people smile at you,” Schafer said.

A homeless man who wished to be identified only as Nick chowed down on a plate of teriyaki beef and cabbage salad. He recently got 26 stitches in his scalp after falling off a rock wall he was trying to climb.

“I lost my wife and job,” he said. “Since then I’ve just been drifting. I went up to Alaska but I got tired of the snow. I was working for Vets Helping Vets making $40 a day.”

He’s been waiting for veterans assistance for housing for two years now.

“The hardest thing,” he said, “is getting out of the homeless situation.”

Email Bret Yager at


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