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HIANG helps dish out Thanksgiving meals

Air Force Staff Sgt. Uyen Tran assigned to the 154th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard, readies turkey dinners for delivery. Hawaii Air National Guard members and their families joined over 200 volunteers at Lanakila Pacific's Meals on Wheels program on Thanksgiving day, 2014. The program prepares and delivers meals to Oahu's home-bound senior citizens. (Courtesy Photo/Lanakila Pacific)

Air Force Staff Sgt. Uyen Tran assigned to the 154th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard, readies turkey dinners for delivery. Hawaii Air National Guard members and their families joined over 200 volunteers at Lanakila Pacific's Meals on Wheels program on Thanksgiving day, 2014. The program prepares and delivers meals to Oahu's home-bound senior citizens. (Courtesy Photo/Lanakila Pacific)

Hawaii Air National Guard members and their families joined over 200 volunteers at Lanakila Pacific's Meals on Wheels program on Thanksgiving day, 2014. The program prepares and delivers meals to Oahu's home-bound senior citizens. (Courtesy Photo/Lanakila Pacific)

Hawaii Air National Guard members and their families joined over 200 volunteers at Lanakila Pacific's Meals on Wheels program on Thanksgiving day, 2014. The program prepares and delivers meals to Oahu's home-bound senior citizens. (Courtesy Photo/Lanakila Pacific)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- This past Thanksgiving day, members of the Hawaii Air National Guard and their families joined over 200 volunteers at Lanakila Pacific's Meals on Wheels program.

Lanakila Meals on Wheels provides meal delivery to Oahu's Kupuna (senior citizens). Last year the program provided almost 260,000 meals to over 2,100 seniors. For this year's Thanksgiving Day, volunteers came together to help cook and deliver hot turkey meals to over 600 Kupuna.

"Lanakila Meals on Wheels started in 1971 with a lunch wagon in Aala Park." said Lyn Moku, director of the Lanakila Meals on Wheels program. "Today, it is Hawaii's largest and only island-wide meal provider for seniors. Nutritional meals are delivered to homebound seniors 6 days a week."

The HIANG's volunteer effort in the program started in 2004 by now retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Galen Kuwamoto.  That responsibility now lies with Senior Master Sgt. Nathan Koide, who has seen the HIANG's involvement in the program grow: from its humble beginning of 5 personnel to its current levels of around 30 while helping to serve meals on both Thanksgiving and Christmas days.

"We all have or know of homebound elder grandparents, parents, family members, and friends." said Koide, an inspection supervisor for the 154th MXS. "Our volunteerism helps to ensure they receive a full hot meal during the holidays."

With minimal staff, the program relies on help from volunteers; from cooking to packing to delivering or to even just saying "hello".

"Without volunteers we would not be able to provide meals and services to our Kupuna." said Moku.  "With a staff of 3.5 employees and almost 100 delivery routes, we are dependent on volunteers"

"For seniors who live alone, our volunteers are often the only person they see or speak with. They are a link to the outside world, someone to talk with. Volunteers also let us know if a senior needs more help to maintain their independence and quality of life."

According Koide, what volunteers receive in return for their service is invaluable.

"We are all proud to participate in the event. The sense of knowing that the less fortunate will be able to enjoy a hot meal without worries...when you return home from this event and sit down with your own family, you have a warm feeling, knowing that they too can share the good ole times".