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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 10, 2010

Shelter throws a party for homeless mothers, keiki

By John Windrow
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sharal Lasit-Fernandez kisses her daughter, Alsham, at the Mother’s Day celebration at the Next Step shelter.

Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Gov. Linda Lingle waves to shelter resident Mejin Majmeto, 6, in the arms of volunteer Tammy Kubo, who is the wife of Circuit Judge Ed Kubo.

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You knew something special was afoot yesterday at the Next Step shelter in Kaka'ako: All the little girls were running around with bright pink ribbons in their hair.

"They've got great kids here," said Next Step volunteer Tammy Kubo, a mother of five, who was handing out the ribbons.

Great moms too, who hold things together while facing great hardships.

So to honor mothers — and put a bit of brightnesss into the lives of some people who could really use it — the folks at the homeless shelter threw a Mother's Day party.

The girls got pink ribbons and the moms got flowers and other gifts.

Keith Ward was busy setting out the chow. "Brown rice," he said, "fried noodles, broccoli, corn on the cob, chicken adobo, mahimahi, ham and roast beef."

Ward works for Kenekes of Waimānalo, which catered yesterday's food. His church, the Kalama Valley Assembly of God, regularly provides the shelter with free meals.

Ward led a prayer to bless the food and then carved the beef. He's a big supporter of Next Step.

"Imagine you're a single mom with three or four kids living in the park," he said. "This place gives you a roof, a hot meal, a safe place to sleep and social services."

Samiana Langi, who manages the shelter with her husband, Utu, said the shelter had 42 kids under the age of 17 among the 195 people living there. The two dozen volunteers expected to feed about 150 people yesterday.

"We've been looking forward to this," Langi said.

One of yesterday's guests was Gov. Linda Lingle, who posed for photos with moms, their kids and the volunteers.

"People need hope," Lingle said, "and they find that at Next Step."

Lingle described yesterday's Mother's Day as "a little bittersweet" for her because her mother died two years ago "and my hānai mom, Catherine Morreira of Maui, died about two weeks ago" on April 19.

Morreira, 81, of Kula, was a retired branch manager for American Savings & Loan.

Lingle said Morreira helped her greatly when she first started in politics and described her as "everything you'd want in a mom and more. She really was like a mother to me."

State Rep. Lynn Finnegan, R-32nd (Lower Pearlridge, 'Aiea, Hālawa), who is running for lieutenant governor is a mother of two, has volunteered at Next Step and joined Lingle yesterday.

"Anytime you help with the moms here, it's special," Finnegan said.

One mom sat watching the preparations with her youngest child, a 2-week old baby boy, on her lap. She lives in a domestic violence shelter with her five children (ages 7 and under) and came to Next Step for the celebration and to show her gratitude.

The woman had stayed at Next Step for about a month until workers helped get her into the domestic violence unit.

She asked not to be identified because she fears her ex-husband.

Of Next Step she said, "They gave us everything: basic necessities, free lodging, transportation — everything."

She sat there with her three boys and two girls and said: "Mother's Day is just another day for me, taking care of the kids, cooking and cleaning. But without Next Step, I would have lost them. I would have lost everything. I'm so grateful. They did so much for me. The people here are awesome."

The shelter admits abused women, homeless pregnant women, mothers with children under 6 months, and homeless people 62 and older, as emergency admissions even if it is full.

And it was full yesterday, Langi said.

Tammy Kubo's husband, Circuit Judge Ed Kubo, watched his wife handing out gifts.

"I'm so very proud of her," he said. Like the many others who volunteer at the Next Step shelter, Kubo said, "she has such a good heart."