Our 4th Annual Signature Event, “Hana Like Kakou—Many Hands Working Together” was held in Waikiki at the Pacific Beach Hotel on Saturday, April 20th. The ambiance was created with exotic orchid plant centerpieces on each table, as well as sea shells, candles, and hand-woven lauhala roses beside the event programs- also setting the tone, was a rich display of silent auction items that stretched across the entire ballroom.
The DENTAC Color Guard from the U.S. Army presented the colors of the United States and the State of Hawaii, after which a soloist, Ms. Ginai Hill, sang the National Anthem and the Hawaii State Anthem acapella while our military folks in the audience snapped to attention. Immediately following the opening, a “Certificate of Appreciation” for U.S.VETS – Waianae, was presented on behalf of Councilwoman Kymberly Marcos Pine to Executive Director Gladys Peraro. After the presentation, Mr. Darryl J. Vincent, Chief Operating Officer for U.S.VETS, gave an update of U.S.VETS as well as outlined the work being done by the two sites located in Hawaii- Waianae and Barbers Point.
The evening would not have been complete without success stories from two program participant families currently residing in the Waianae program. The first couple presented a touching summary of their lives, in which they illustrated how they became homeless and how their lives had changed since residing at Pai’olu Kaiaulu. They spoke of change and how their lives had become stabilized by receiving case management services, housing options, career development (both are now employed!) and a tremendous amount of support provided by staff. They had to deal with many challenges along the way but they stayed on track. Their story brought the audience to tears.
The second story shared was by a female veteran (former military officer) who lived a seemingly “near-perfect” life through her years of marriage to a career military officer. Then she shared the heartbreak of the abusive relationship she had endured for many years before making a clean break for the sake of her children and herself. She also gave advice to those present who may know of someone who is dealing with the same predicament, to support them and for them to know that there is hope for a better life. Our speaker shared that in her spare time she enjoys reading math and chemistry books for entertainment! She also stated that her bags are packed for when the time comes for she and her daughters move into her own place. She echoed the sentiments of the first family in stating that the services she receives at U.S.VETS – Waianae have helped her remain focused on what she needs to do for a better quality of life and ended her talk with a “BIG THANK YOU to U.S.VETS.”
Both stories spoke of courage and perseverance and the desire to move forward to attain goals. Both stories also deeply touched the hearts of those present, so much so that our emcee for the evening, KAP’N Paul Stewart stated that he wanted to donate his fee for the evening back to U.S.VETS – Waianae. “It was the right thing to do after hearing their stories.”
The evening also included an “Honor Table” presentation by Charles Peraro (Command Master Chief, U.S. Coast Guard, Ret.), beautifully done in memory of fallen comrades who were not present but their spirit lives on. U.S.VETS Case manager Eric Herd led the audience in prayer before a dinner of filet mignon, chicken picatta, steamed vegetables and roasted potatoes was served to the audience. The strawberry cheesecake topped off the scrumptious dinner.
Keynote speaker for the event was State Senator Brickwood Galuteria, who represents a major portion of Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. Senator Galuteria works tireless in the Hawaii Senate on many issues related to empowering the Native Hawaiian population as well as on the Committee on Military Affairs. The Senator expressed his gratitude to Executive Director Peraro for providing him with a tour and overview of services provided by U.S.VETS – Waianae for homeless veterans and non-veteran households and in keeping with the theme of the evening, he “wove a story of how U.S.VETS supports and encourages its residents to trust the staff to help them work through the intricate process of utilizing the numerous services available to them so they can move on with their lives.”
While diners enjoyed their meals, two musicians and a hula dancer from Tihati Productions provided entertainment during the dinner hour. The mellow music and hula numbers helped to top off an already-beautiful evening with good music and wonderful connections for U.S.VETS. The evening culminated with “highest bidders” from the silent auction collecting their prizes. The evening was very successful and Waianae staff is already looking ahead to our event next year!