On DAWSON’s National Day of Service last September, more than 50 volunteers representing DAWSON’s Honolulu office joined hands to build and plant 12 garden plots for Lunalilo Home, a nonprofit that serves Hawaii’s kupuna (elders).

Today, 5 months later, the garden is yielding a bounty of produce that helps feed Lunalilo Home’s kupuna.  Aside from growing fresh veggies, the garden has also grown broader community involvement.  While Lunalilo Home has a dedicated caretaker for the garden, various volunteer groups and school groups come to Lunalilo Home to help maintain the garden, including 3 university volunteers from the UH-CTAR Master Gardener program who regularly monitor the garden’s progress. “The Lunalilo Home garden project is a great example of how a single giveback event can leave a lasting impact on multiple generations,” noted DAWSON Hawaii employee Donnie Torres. “While I knew the elderly of Lunalilo Home would benefit for years, I didn’t know this project would also become an educational tool for youngsters and University level Master Gardeners!”

“The best thing I can say is that we have found that 12 garden beds can yield far more than we thought and we love the aspect of volunteer groups adding their mana [spiritual strength] to the foods that will end up feeding the tummies and the spirits of our kupuna!”, said Diane Paloma, CEO of Lunalilo Home.

“The garden is thriving, and we are realizing how fertile Maunalua really is!”, Paloma added. “Kalo [taro] that was planted one week have lau [leaves] within the next week.  We have been harvesting much of the vegetables and most recently found the bok choy and eggplant to be the most prolific.  We have been introducing meals on the diet and kupuna are noticing that there are more foods from their past (such as ulu and kalo).  Even tomatoes, which I hear can be very fickle to grow, are flourishing.  With this wet weather, we are seeing the fruits of our labor (pun intended!).”

Kindergarten students from Kamehameha Schools visit the gardens and do an ‘oli (chant) to help the kalo grow the veggie garden: from build to bounty!  Post-NDS garden photos courtesy of Lunalilo Home.