Founder, Kupuna Needs Project
Ryan Fielding created the Kupuna Needs Project in March 2020 alongside John Fielding, Dallas Carter, Ron Gochenouer, Jared Zick, and Riley Lau. At the time, he was finishing up his Senior Year at Moanalua High School as the Class President. But, when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the State of Hawaii, he decided to make his top priority his community, more specifically: our Kupuna. It just so happened that Ryan was also a Boy Scout with St. Theresa Co-Cathedral’s Troop 39 and needed to organize his Eagle Scout Service Project. So, he combined his love for his community and his journey to Eagle to create the Kupuna Needs Project.
I would like to extend a huge “Mahalo” to all that contributed to the Kupuna Needs Project: our donors, our partners, our volunteers, and our Kupuna. Mahalo!Ryan Fielding
Kupuna Needs Project Timeline
A walkthrough of how the Kupuna Needs Project began and continued to serve
by Ryan Fielding
At this point, no one is a stranger to COVID-19. This practically invisible virus has affected everyone around the world in some way, shape or form. On March 6, 2020, the State of Hawaii saw its first confirmed case of the Coronavirus 2019. Everyone began to panic and there wasn’t a single roll of toilet paper insight. People were panic buying.
At home, I live with my elderly grandparents. They immigrated to the US from the Ilocos Norte region of the Philippines over 50 years ago. Over those 50 years, they worked hard to raise 7 children, including my Mother.
Today, my parents are their primary caretakers. My Mama, Catalina, has been living through Alzheimer’s Disease and my Papa, Romeo, has been handicapped for 2 years now, ever since he hurt his hip trying to play volleyball.
With thousands of people flooding to the stores doing their panic buying, my father and I began to worry about how we were going to get the supplies necessary to take care of my Grandparents. This got us thinking about all the Kupuna out there who were struggling to get through the crowded stores just to obtain their necessities.
On top of this, those ages 62 and older, are at a higher risk for a fatal outcome if they contract this virus, especially if they have pre-existing conditions. These people should limit their time out in public around people and shelter in place. But, many of them live alone or don’t have someone that can go into public to get them their food, toiletries, and cleaning supplies. So, we decided to be the ones to help.
Proposal & Plan
On March 18th, we got to work.
Our original plan included setting up a hotline system where Kupuna may call and request items to be delivered to their door. From there, they would pay for the full cost of the supplies through online means or socially distanced in-person when their items are delivered. The supplies available would include toiletries and cleaning supplies with an option to sign up for meal delivery through Hawaii Meals on Wheels or Lanakila Meals on Wheels.
With this idea in mind, we began contacting a multitude of community organizations and corporations all over the island of Oahu. We started with these Meals on Wheel services, then made our way to many grocery stores and supermarkets.
Then, next we needed to plan out the logistics for our volunteers. We understood that before our volunteers are sent out to work and deliver packages on our behalf, they needed to go through some sort of training. So before anyone worked a volunteer shift, they were required to attend an hour long training class created by our safety officer, John Fielding, Director of Risk Management at ALTRES, Inc. At this training, all volunteers were taught about COVID-19, how to prevent its spread, proper hygiene, basic chemical safety, and safe driving.
We were given permission from the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace to use the old Cathedral Academy on Nu’uanu Avenue as our base of operations. We created a layout of the building where volunteers must first be medically screened at the door, then sent to the restrooms to thoroughly wash their hands. From there, we set up packing stations with plenty of open space for volunteers to space out where only 10 people were allowed in the same area at a time. Each area was disinfected after each use.
When volunteers were delivering, we gave them a large plastic storage bin, a small plastic storage bin, and a bottle of disinfectant. The package was placed in the large bin and placed in front of the Kupuna’s door. Then, the driver would take a few steps back and call them outside to pick up the package from the bin and leave any monies inside. When the kupuna was safely back inside, the driver would retrieve the bin, place and money inside the small storage bin, then spray down the large bin before moving on to the next home.
All of these procedures were then reviewed by our Safety Officer, as well as our Medical Advisor, Dr. Ira Zunin.
With little time to waste, this plan was quickly approved by Aloha Council as an Eagle Scout Service Project.
Going to Work
On March 20th, we put the word out to friends and family on what we were planning and brought Dallas Carter, Malcolm Zara, Jared Zick, and Ron Gochenouer onto the team. Dallas became the Volunteer Coordinator and our everything else man. He organized volunteers and kept them updated with our day to day needs. Malcolm is the head of EPIC Ministries, which became our fiscal partner, coordinating all donations. Jared became the Operations Manager, coordinating the packaging and distribution out of our headquarters. Ron became the Supply Manager, communicating with the various distributors and supermarkets, getting the supplies that our Kupuna needed.
On March 21st, we began our first training classes, getting volunteers trained and ready to begin our services. By the end of that weekend, March 22nd, 50 volunteers were trained and ready to be mobilized into action.
That day, we also opened our hotlines. Our project was advertised on the 6pm evening news and our phone lines did not stop ringing till late at night.
First Island-Wide Shutdowns
March 22nd also brought news of the first of many Citywide shutdowns. People were beginning to panic and many kupuna were now realizing the need for a service like ours. So, our phone lines continued to ring continuously all day.
Volunteers were also being scared away, choosing to stay home instead of helping others. We had to assure them that we were considered an Essential Service by the City and we were to remain working with the same procedures that followed our Medical Advisor’s advice as well as the CDC.
Changes to the Original Plan
The first major change was how our Kupuna paid for the supplies they were receiving. We made it optional. We understood that many Kupuna, especially now, have a low fixed income and they are not able to really afford the necessities. So instead, we only asked that if they were willing and able to make a donation that they please do so that we may continue to serve them and many other Kupuna in need.
Then, our original idea to have food provided to our Kupuna through Meals on Wheels programs was unable to happen, so instead we collected non perishable foods to be added to packages that request food assistance. But we continued to refer Kupuna to Meals on Wheels programs for any extra assistance that they may provide.
Malama Meals Partnership
A few days after we began our own services, Malama Meals reached out to us asking for volunteers. Malama Meals was a City & County coordinated project that delivered meals all over the island. From March 24th to May 15th, up to 10 of our volunteers a day went to UH West Oahu to help them prepare and deliver on average 300 meals a day to Kupuna, homeless, and at risk individuals on Oahu. By the end of our partnership, our volunteers helped them deliver around 19,500 meals.
Hawaii Meals on Wheels Partnership
Although we did not directly tie in Hawaii Meals on Wheels into our main service, they were still a huge partner with the project. We supplied them with packages of toiletries and cleaning supplies that they could deliver to their clients and we also provided our training classes to their staff and volunteers. They also asked for assistance in delivering meals through St. Francis’ Show Aloha Challenge. Throughout April and May, we provided Hawaii Meals on Wheels with volunteer drivers to deliver hot meals made by local restaurants to Kupuna with the St. Francis Healthcare System. We helped deliver 60 meals a day, totaling to 3,100 meals by the end of May.
Volunteers Help Parish Food Pantries
Being a Roman Catholic based project, we also helped parishes all over the island with their own food pantries. We provided them with volunteers, non perishable food, fresh produce, milk, and protein boxes. Some parishes we helped include Immaculate Conception in Ewa Beach, St. Pius X in Manoa, and St. Rita in Nanakuli.
Balancing High School and the Project
All of this was occurring while I was still a Senior in High School, so I continued to attend my classes while organizing this project.
On top of normal classes, I also happened to be the Senior Class President. Which meant I had to also help guide and lead my senior class through this challenging last quarter before our graduation. I tried to help plan our alternate graduation activities, continue to participate in school wide activities, and encourage my classmates to push through these difficult times.
It was tough not having all of our lasts of High School. Senior Prom was cancelled and our Graduation ceremony was up in the air. I tried my best to keep everyone’s spirits high and finish strong.
Fresh Produce Donations from the USDA Food Box Program through Ham Produce & Seafood, Inc.
In June, we began to receive boxes of fresh produce and protein from Ham Produce & Seafood through the USDA Food Box Program. 6 days a week, we got 35 hearty boxes to distribute to our Kupuna or anyone who needed it.
Dallas began coordinating “Food Drops” each day, where we chose an organization or center within the community to deliver these boxes of produce or protein along with a package of non perishable foods and toiletries. The community organization then organized how they distributed these boxes. These Food Drops resulted in the delivery of 418 boxes of food that were given to Kupuna or families in need.
More Island-Wide Shutdowns
The Kupuna Needs Project was originally scheduled to go from Mid March to the Beginning of April—2 weeks. With the first wave of lockdowns, it became a little over 1 month. Then, it was over 3 months.
By the start of month 3, it was becoming a challenge to continue our mission. The number of volunteers available dwindled down as people were returning to work or they decided they have helped enough. Plus, donations were slowing down. But, the demand remained the same.
Wrap on Requests and Deliveries
We continued for as long as we could, then decided to end our main service in early June while continuing food drops till the end of July.
At that point, the city was starting to open up again and people were getting smarter with their healthy choices. We decided it was a good place for us to stop. We did our duty for as long as we could and we enjoyed every minute of it.
Continuing to Support Parish Food Pantries
Our volunteers are still active, ding what they can on their own and when we need help, some still take up the call. We continue to support the local parishes and their food pantries if they need volunteers.
We are also looking into forming our own non profit to continue our work with some annually projects. More details will come out at a later time.