KAINALIU — When Piilani Rivera came to the King’s Daughters Ministry thrift store on Saturday, she was expecting to pick up some clothes and other items for her family.
Instead, the nonprofit’s founder, Helen Vailuu, greeted her with the key to a Mercury Mountaineer parked right outside.
“I’ve heard about them doing this before, but I never, ever thought that it would be me,” said Rivera, an Ocean View mother of two. “They’re amazing people.”
Saturday’s giveaway marks the latest in the more than 15 vehicles King’s Daughters Ministry has given away in the last 14 years.
In this part of Kona, reliable transportation can be vital.
“This is life-changing,” Vailuu said. “It is such a big boost for someone, especially a single mother of two kids.”
Rivera, who helps clean with her auntie, said the vehicle will be a big help getting her kids to school and doctor appointments as well as getting to work.
When it comes to getting around without a car in Ocean View, she said, “it’s impossible.”
She said she has family that is able to help her out, but when they can’t, she and her daughters have to rely on the bus, which isn’t easy.
And on this bright Saturday Kona morning, Rivera had one particular destination in mind for her and her daughters.
“Beach,” she said with a laugh.
King’s Daughters Ministry’s dedication to helping its neighbors goes far beyond getting folks moving.
For 14 years, it has given away hundreds of Thanksgiving turkeys with trimmings to families. The organization also helps families and individuals with making first/last month’s rent as well as emergency assistance with utilities, gas cards, school supplies and more.
And with all that’s being done in the community, Vailuu is still looking at the need in the neighborhood — specifically for a youth center in South Kona, something Vailuu said has been a goal of hers since 2004.
Offerring local youth a safe place to get together is especially critical, she said, given that suicide was the leading cause of death for Hawaii youth from 2012-16, according to the state Department of Health.
“A safe place for our youth to wait for transportation, congregate and utilize is overdue,” Vailuu said in an email. “Many of our youth are ‘falling through the cracks’ and we cannot wait for just one person or place to accomplish this youth center goal.”
Vailuu said the organization has found a vacant building in Honaunau for the center and is now looking for donations as well as volunteers and partnerships that can help make the vision a reality.
The facility, she said, has two auditoriums, more than 10 classrooms, two kitchens and a music room.
In addition to stoves, refrigerators and pianos, Vailuu said the facility also has restrooms, showers and plenty of parking.
And the youth center — a “dream center” Vailuu calls it — will give kids the chance to meet their potential that they might otherwise forego without someone or something to help them reach it.
“We have talented sports kids. They want to get out; they want to play; they want to run,” she said. “But they can’t do it, because it’s limited, because the parents are working two jobs, or they don’t have enough gas to get clear across country for a game. They don’t have the $250 registration fee for these kids to join these sports, and they don’t have money to buy this expensive equipment.”
“With the center, we will be able to help these kids dream big,” she added.
But the future of that youth center and the work of King’s Daughters Ministry helping the region’s residents is going to depend on the community.
“Step up,” she said, “or else this service is not going to be available.”
King’s Daughters Ministry has a golf tournament planned for Dec. 1 at Kona Country Club. It will also be fundraising and auctioning off items at its thrift store in Kainaliu.
Its first organizational meeting, along with a potluck blessing, will take place at the thrift store on Oct. 26 at 3 p.m.
Vailuu said people can also contact her about arranging a tour of the site being considered for the youth center.
And while King’s Daughters Ministry works to make the center a reality for the region, she said, it’s up to the community to rally for the cause.
“We all see the need out there, and we say, ‘Oh I hope somebody does it,’” she said. “Guess what, that somebody’s you.”