Pahoa shelter celebrates Mother’s Day

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Three generations of a Leilani Estates family celebrated Mother's Day Sunday at the Pahoa emergency shelter. At right is Alvina Santos, Santos' daughter, Aileen Brown, left, with her daughters, Neelia and Nahlea, and Santos' granddaughter, Alicia, second from right.
  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary 3830, left to right, Gaylene Hopson, Jan Kama, Freda Hart and Libbie Ka'ahu were in attendance Sunday at the Mother's Day celebration at the Pahoa emergency shelter.
  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald A volunteer hands out lei to keiki Sunday at the Mother's Day celebration at the Pahoa emergency shelter.
  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald A band entertains Sunday at the Mother's Day celebration at the Pahoa emergency shelter.

The community took time Sunday to honor Mother’s Day with a celebration at the Pahoa emergency shelter for the mothers and families displaced by lava from Kilauea volcano.

The celebration was coordinated by the American Red Cross, with help from community partners Ahiu Hawaii, Hawaii Land Stewards, Kalalau Ranch, doTERRA and Paradise Automotive. Providing desserts were Zippy’s Napoleon’s Bakery, KTA Super Stores, Big Island Candies and Island Naturals, with Target donating leis for moms.


An estimated 250 people attended, 125 of them mothers.

“There’s quite a few women and mothers in all of the shelters, actually,” said Red Cross volunteer Ron Matayoshi. “We’re just participating with the community to provide part of the celebration. Mothers are important, and they’ve got leis, real roses, food and desserts and entertainment, all provided by the community. There are massages, aromatherapy. It’s just a special time to enjoy their free time here and relax.”

There also was a tent where keiki created hand-made cards for Mom.

Three generations of the Santos family, who evacuated more than a week ago from Leilani Estates subdivision, were among the celebrants — Alvina Santos, who evacuated from her Leilani Estates home, with daughter Aileen Brown, Brown’s daughters, Neelia and Nahlea, plus Alicia, another granddaughter of Santos.

“That’s really nice of them. I appreciate it,” Santos said of the Mother’s Day festivities. “I could really use the break, you know. I’ve been in Leilani for 20 years, and it was really a heartbreak to have to come and sign in here.”

Brown said the family is “OK.”

“They make sure we’re well taken care of, we’re comfortable and got everything we need,” she added. “But on the other hand, we’re frustrated, because we want to be at home. It’s hard to part from Leilani Estates because we’ve been here 20 years.”

Four members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary 3830 in Pahoa, all mothers and grandmothers — three of them displaced Leilani residents — were on hand to receive a donation of $500 from VFW Auxiliary 12111 from Kona, whose members were manning a food line in a pop-up tent.

“A lot of those displaced are veterans, and people want to help,” said Jan Kama of the Pahoa auxiliary, who evacuated Leilani with her husband, Rick Kama, Post 3830 quartermaster and U.S. Marine veteran.

Kama also enjoyed the Mother’s Day celebration.

“There are a lot of mothers up here, and maybe this gives them a bit of lightness after what’s been happening in the community,” she said.

Gaylene Hopson, another auxiliary member, said she and her husband, a recently retired police officer, were displaced after returning from four years in Kona to their Leilani home.

“We’d just moved everything back here in the last couple of months,” Hopson said. “We are fortunate we have a home. Unfortunately, there’s a huge cinder cone right behind us, and we have the lava splatter all around. … We have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Hopson’s home is right behind the home of fellow auxiliary member Libbie Ka‘ahu, who evacuated her residence at the corner of Luana and Malama streets, an unofficial “ground zero” for fissure activity in Leilani.

“There’s a lot of other people worse off, here and in the world. The sun is shining in Pahoa, and today is a good day.”

Ka‘ahu described the celebration as a great thing for the displaced moms.

“At least they can get some stress off of them and relax,” she said.

Also visible and helping out were Rotary Club members, some of whom came from as far away as Kona.

As of Sunday, there were about 150 residents at the Pahoa shelter, and another 35 or so residents at the Keaau shelter, according to the Red Cross. Almost 80 Red Cross workers have been assisting evacuees with their immediate emergency needs.


“During this time of uncertainty and hardship in having to evacuate their homes and stay in a shelter, we wanted our mothers to know that they are loved and appreciated,” said Coralie Matayoshi, Hawaii Red Cross CEO.

Email John Burnett at

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