For parishioner Bill Culhane, it was a love of food that initially led him to serve those in need. “I’ve always loved to eat and I think that’s what has drawn me to it, an appreciation of food and an enjoyment of food,” Bill says.
Nearly six years ago, Bill and his wife, Cindy, moved to Kailua-Kona from the mainland. Attracted by the weather and the friendly community they experienced, they became involved at St. Michael the Archangel shortly after their arrival. And it wasn’t long before they started finding ways to give back. Bill then began sharing the Bread of Life as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at the Saturday 5 p.m. Mass. He soon found himself becoming involved in other ways — all centered on the idea of bringing nourishment to others.
Each Tuesday, Bill and Cindy go to The Friendly Place to serve lunches with other parishioners.
“St. Michael’s provides a hot meal for whoever comes for it and we normally serve about 60 people, about half of whom are homeless,” Bill says. “Cindy and I seldom provide the food or do the cooking, but we provide support and help with the serving.”
Bill is also involved with the Sharing Garden, located adjacent to Immaculate Conception mission church. Last year, the garden harvested over 1,000 pounds of food each week for local food pantries, including the one that Bill and Cindy help to coordinate, at Immaculate Conception. Three mornings a week, Bill works with several other “regulars,” planting, maintaining and harvesting the garden.
“We grow fruits and vegetables and all of it is donated to local pantries,” he says. “We do bananas, squash, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, okra, eggplant, radishes, turnip, star fruit, citrus, pineapples, avocados, and lemongrass. It’s fresh, locally grown food and it’s healthy food.
“In the couple of years that we’ve had the pantry up at Immaculate Conception, the popularity of the produce has grown tremendously,” he adds.
“Initially, a lot of the people were reluctant to take it and weren’t sure what to do with it, but now, when we open up the table, there’s a rush over there. It’s very fulfilling to be able to harvest God’s produce and know that it’s going to those who need it.”
The couple is also very involved coordinating the Food Pantry at Immaculate Conception, which primarily serves low-income households, including a large number of keiki and kūpuna, and feeds more people than any other agencies on this side of the island.
“I like to think that we are not just the biggest pantry, but also the friendliest,” Bill says. “If all we do is provide food, we’re not fulfilling our mission.”
In recent years, as he has become involved in various ways, Bill has found that his attitude towards service has changed.
“I’ve been extremely blessed and because of that I felt I had an obligation to give back, so traditionally, I’ve done things out of a sense of obligation,” he says. “And now, I do it more out of a sense of love. It’s a richer experience.”
His wife, Cindy, agrees.
“When we’re out, there are many of our clients who we meet on the street and they always say ‘hi’ and thank us for serving them and giving them food,” she says. “It’s a nice feeling. When I first started, I was just supporting Bill, but now I’m doing it because it makes me feel better too.”
Bill has also found himself growing in his faith and relationship with God and hopes that, in some way, his service might encourage others to do the same.
“Being involved with the interpersonal nature of these ministries has helped me to realize the more spiritual side of ministry and the idea that it’s not just about providing things for people, but also showing them that you care,” Bill says. “If all we’re giving them is food, we’re not doing the complete job.”
Bill encourages those who want to get involved to find some way to serve, even if they just start off small.
“The ministries here are set up to be incredibly convenient,” he says. “If you can give an hour a month or prepare one meal a month, we can use help. If you do it and you find it rewarding, then you know God has shown you the way.”
St. Michael the Archangel Parish congratulates Bill and Cindy Culhane on their reception of a 2018 Island Treasures Award. Thank you for your example of service in our parish and community.