Friendly Xmas Trees in the Piilani Village Shopping Centre, I decided to treat myself to a peppermint mocha latte, one of my favourite seasonal drinks from Starbucks. As I relaxed at one of the tables outside Safeway, a familiar sound which I remember from Christmases in Canada, caught my attention. It was a Salvation Army bell-ringer not only ringing his bell, but greeting everyone who passed him with a friendly "Aloha", or "How are you folks today?". The Maui bell ringer was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, a stark difference from our Canadian volunteers who shiver in the bitter cold all day long, woolen scarves wrapped snugly around their necks.
I have always admired the Salvation Army for the work they do and was happy to see the organization alive and well on Maui.
As I made my donation I struck up a conversation with the friendly young man. He told me his name was Nelson and that he was born and raised on Maui. I asked him what made him volunteer for this job, which requires standing for hours on end ringing a bell and hoping people will put a donation into your kettle.
Nelson then proceeded to tell me that he had been a drug addict and homeless person, until he decided to turn his own life around. He did this without help, because he realized that all the beautiful things in life were passing him by. He admitted that he had even lost his family during those bad times. Because the Salvation Army does so much on Maui towards helping the homeless, it was a no-brainer that he give some of his time to help out this worthy cause.
He then told me that the Salvation Army was helping him go to college in January, where he is going to study Culinary Arts and fulfill his dream of becoming a chef. Nelson had no qualms about me sharing his story with my readers, and was happy to tell me that now he is clean, he has his family back and is on the verge of a new and exciting life.
On Nov 25, 2010, Maui News staff writer Claudine San Nicholas wrote an article 'Expect Change' with donations. The article gives you statistics on what the previous year's collections during their Red Kettle Campaign helped pay for on Maui. Helping the homeless was high on their list including donations of 88,995 hot meals, 15,687 hygiene kits and 32,281 food bags for homeless people. They also give financial assistance to needy families as well as many other charitable endeavors.
For me it was uplifting to meet Nelson, and hear his story. It just shows what you can do if you are determined enough to make positive changes in your life. I wish him much Aloha and expect to see him as a well known Maui chef one of these days in the future.