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Satellite bishops’ storehouse in Maui, Hawaii, helps those in need in unique way

Church works to meet challenges of living on an island as food costs soar

Living on the island of Maui means beautiful views, beaches, peaks, pools and waterfalls. But Hawaii is an expensive state to live in, and food costs have increased with inflation. Many of the jobs are in the lower-paying service or tourism industries — and more Church members have sought assistance to make ends meet.

Bishops’ storehouses are where those in need can go to obtain food and other supplies at the recommendation of their bishop. The storehouse is filled with food and supplies paid for by fast offerings and other donations from members of the Church. 

But about 100 miles of ocean separates Maui from the nearest bishops’ storehouse, in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. Because of this, the Church launched the Maui Satellite Bishops’ Storehouse in September 2022.

Members and leaders of the Church hope this service will be a tool for ministering to those in need while also helping them learn and apply principles of self-reliance.

Elder Trank Mabellos and Sister Jennifer Mabellos — the missionary couple called and set apart as managers of the storehouse — spoke to the Church News about how the process has been going.

The model utilizes the online bishop’s order system, mirroring the process at brick-and-mortar storehouses in the United States. But on Maui, the commodities are supplied by a local grocery supplier. Every other Thursday, commodities are transported to Kahului Hawaii West Stake center and then organized for pickup. As of Jan. 26, it has had 10 distribution events since the launch.

Elder Mabellos picks up a rental truck in the morning and drives to the local supplier that has agreed to provide the needed commodities. He often has two young full-time missionaries with him, and they and the supplier’s staff load the truck with the pallets of food and other household and personal care commodities that have been ordered.

Boxes of food are loaded onto carts to be driven to the Kahului Hawaii West Stake center as part of the Maui Satellite Bishops’ Storehouse on Maui, Hawaii, on opening day, Sept. 22, 2022. | Provided by Troy Witt

Meanwhile, Sister Mabellos and other volunteers prepare the stake center to receive the commodities. 

“The members help us with all the unloading and sorting. They all meet us over there about 8:30 or 9 a.m. to set up all the tables. Then when the truck comes, they separate it all out,” she said. 

Cold items like produce, meats, cheese and dairy go into coolers, and the nonperishable items are placed on tables with the help of carts or wagons.

Members arrive between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. “Volunteers take the dried box items and go to the cooler and get perishables and then deliver to the car,” Sister Mabellos said.

People often have several family members living in the same household, and Elder and Sister Mabellos said bishops and Relief Society presidents have been adjusting the ordering process as they learn how to best meet needs. The model is also being studied and compared to what other remote locations are doing to meet their members’ needs — for example, on two other Hawaiian islands, members in need are given gift cards to purchase food at grocery stores.

Volunteers organize food orders on tables in the Kahului Hawaii West Stake center for confidential pickup through the Maui Satellite Bishops’ Storehouse on Maui, Hawaii, on Sept. 22, 2022. | Provided by Troy Witt

Elder Mabellos said people in Hawaii tend to be close-knit and family oriented. 

“We try to use what little we have, and we try to make the most of it,” he said.

His ward has widows and widowers who have watched membership grow from a small branch to over 400 people in sacrament meeting. They have lived on Maui for decades, but as food costs have increased, they have had no other option but to ask for help.

“You can see their faces, and their faces are full of gratefulness,” Elder Mabellos said. “These are the kupunas — the grandparents — and you can see the spirit of service and charity is working with these people that are in real need.”

Volunteers and missionaries pose at the launch of the Maui Satellite Bishops’ Storehouse in the Kahului Hawaii West Stake center in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, on Sept. 22, 2022. | Provided by Troy Witt
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