April 10, 2017

A Conversation with Soledad Obado

Photo of Soledad Obado at Lanai Food Pantry with volunteers.
Photo of Soledad Obado at Lanai Food Pantry with volunteers.

Soledad Obado has helped run Lanai’s food pantry for nearly 20 years.

Soledad Obado, known affectionately as Mama Sue, is going strong at 91. For nearly two decades now, she has been a pillar of the food pantry at Sacred Hearts Church. Always quick with a smile and ready to offer a kind word, Mama Sue spent a few minutes talking about the food pantry she helped start in 1998.

How did you come to be involved with the food pantry?

In 1998 I had just retired. Two nuns from the church were talking about the lack of services for seniors on Lanai. They asked me if I’d be willing to help them set up a food pantry. My husband pointed out that it would be good for me, so I said sure!

Was it difficult to get the idea off the ground?

Not really. Of course, we had no plan when we started. We didn’t know what we didn’t know! But within a couple weeks, the nuns from Sacred Hearts Church reached out to their contacts on Oahu and received enough grant money to get the food pantry up and running. Before we knew it, we had a freezer delivered and a check for $2,000.

Who does the food pantry serve?

We welcome anyone. Most of the people who come in are senior citizens, but we’re happy to serve anyone who needs a helping hand. We’re currently serving approximately 40 individuals and families. Generally speaking, people who come to us for food usually have monthly incomes under $2,000.

What kind of food do people receive from the food pantry?

We typically give out boxes with well-rounded meals. We try to include protein, vegetables, starch and dessert in each box.

Where can people find the food pantry?

We are located in the Sacred Hearts Church at 815 Fraser Avenue in Lāna’i City. We are open on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. Our hours are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

How is the food pantry supported?

We partner with the Maui Food Bank. They are so generous. And the Lanai community is wonderful too. Many local residents donate canned goods and cash. We use the cash to fill in the gaps in our meal boxes. For example, we frequently run low on meat. When that happens, we use our cash to purchase meat so we can complete the boxes. We often buy several packs of hamburger meat the day before we prepare our meals.

How can people make donations?

People can bring donations to Sacred Hearts Church. The church is open 24/7. There is a cash donation box and canned food donation box inside the door. The cash box is secure.

What type of donations does the pantry need?

In addition to cash and canned food, we can always use non-perishable items. We are also happy to accept fresh produce (uncut).

How is 2017 shaping up for the food pantry?

Things are going very well. We just want the donations to keep coming in. We are humble and simple, which is the way we want it to stay. Our coordinators, Letti Castillo and Patricia Kawasaki, are doing amazing work. I can’t thank all our volunteers enough. It is a real gift for me to have the opportunity to work with these wonderful people. I love Lanai!

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