6 Ways to Help Serve Meals to Those in Need This Holiday Season on O‘ahu

In the spirit of giving, lend a (much-needed) helping hand.
Ko Olina
Photos: Courtesy of Ko Olina Resort


With restaurants and others working overtime during one of the busiest seasons of the year, nonprofits and community organizations often rely on volunteers to help prepare and serve meals for those in need. Here are some ways you can help a few of O‘ahu’s shelters and nonprofits.


1. Ko Olina Thanksgiving Outreach

This year marks two decades that the nonprofit Ko Olina Charities has organized its Thanksgiving Outreach. The event, held on Saturday, Nov. 17 from 7 to 9 a.m., partners with more than 100 volunteers and provides about 4,000 meals to those in need on the Leeward Coast. In past years, volunteers have prepared 1,800 pounds of turkey, 460 pounds of ham, 500 pounds of rice and more, which are delivered to 15 churches, nonprofits and shelters from Pearl City to Mākaha.


To volunteer, contact any one of these 15 participating nonprofits:

  • Ark of Safety Christian Fellowship

  • Calvary Chapel West O‘ahu

  • City of Joy

  • Destiny Christian Church

  • Grace Lighthouse Outreach Christian Center

  • Hale Wai Vista

  • Holy Hill of Zion

  • Paradise Chapel

  • Pearl City Community Church

  • St. Jude Catholic Church

  • Wai‘anae Civic Center

  • Waipahu United Church of Christ

  • West Loch Elderly Village

  • Word of Life West O‘ahu

  • U.S. Vets of Kalaeloa


Or visit Ko Olina's website for more information.


Ko Olina


2. Hawai‘i Meals on Wheels

If you’d like to take your volunteer efforts on the road, sign up to deliver meals, prepared by several nonprofits and community organizations, to our kūpuna and those with disabilities across O‘ahu.


Hawai‘i Meals on Wheels is recruiting volunteer drivers for Thanksgiving Day and the rest of the holiday season. Shifts are typically about two hours and involve delivering up to 12 meals. Comfortable clothes and covered shoes are recommended.


Contact volunteer coordinator Brad Akamu at least a day before you’d like to help at brad@hmow.org. More information can be found on the Hawai‘i Meals on Wheels website.  


3. River of Life Mission

River of Life is looking for volunteers to prepare food and work in the dining room to serve meals on Christmas Day from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The nonprofit helps homeless people and families in need by providing meals, shower facilities, clothing, counseling and more.


Email Shervelle Gardner at shervelle@riveroflifemission.org to sign up to volunteer or find more details on the River of Life Mission website.


4. Next Step Shelter

Waikīkī Health’s Next Step Shelter in Kaka‘ako provides emergency shelter space and a hot meal every day to 135 homeless people. The organization is looking for a group of volunteers who can prepare and serve dinner on New Year’s Eve.


Contact volunteer coordinator Kapua Tani at stani@waikikihealth.org if you’re interested.


5. Institute for Human Services

Serving about 900 meals a day is not an easy task. The Institute for Human Services provides hundreds of homeless people three meals a day, a job that couldn’t be done without donations and help from churches, schools and other groups. IHS also provides emergency shelter and short-term housing to homeless people, along with support services.


IHS is typically able to serve about 60 percent of its meals every year through food credits from the Aloha United Way and the Hawai‘i Foodbank. But they rely heavily on volunteers, sponsors and donations to come up with the remaining 40 percent. The end of the year is when they usually run out of food credits and need the most help on days other than Thanksgiving and Christmas (those are covered by restaurants and other groups).


To help, you can sponsor a meal, volunteer in the kitchen, or prepare and bring your own meal and serve it at IHS. If you’re interested, call (808) 447-2810 or email volunteer@ihs.org. Visit Institute for Human Services for more details.


6. Churches across O‘ahu

Churches are a great community resource and typically a hub for volunteers and service projects. Check with your local church (or senior center) to see if they have signed up to volunteer to serve meals. Or get a group of your own together and head to one of the many shelters and centers on O‘ahu.


Two More Ways to Give Back 

The Hawaiian Humane Society is accepting unopened, unexpired, dry pet food donations. Drop your donations off at the humane society or at PETCO locations in Hawai‘i Kai, Kaneohe and Kapolei. For more information, call (808) 356-2222 or visit the website


If you’d also like to donate toys for children in need, popular programs include the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree campaign and the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots.