Debbie Kaeo served the Nanakuli community with great love and care for many years. As the social ministry leader of St. Rita Church, Debbie’s aloha was unending – she was a Hawaiian with a big loving Hawaiian heart! Food Pantry coordinator, Receptionist, stand in Administrator, Debbie led by example and embodied the Christian values of unconditional love of neighbor!
This little rural parish, St. Rita, is a small parish known for its Hiki No (Can Do) spirit and one that “walks its talk “ and Debbie was an outstanding example of this. St. Rita’s parish mission states:
Debbie and her husband Bernard, along with their prayer group, established the ever popular Reverse Potluck at St. Rita Nanakuli . Once a month, members prepared a special dish and the staff would prepare the rice, salad and punch. It was called “reversed potluck” because parishioners brought and served all the food to the homeless. Whatever was left was always packed up and sent with the people. Before the homeless camps at Nanakuli Beach Park were cleared away, the prayer group served an average of 145 people. Reverse Pot Luck has since grown to the point where different ministries at the parish (Liturgy, Youth Ministry etc) take turns serving and rotating months.
“ In the spirit of Aloha, we respond to Christ’s mission of love and freedom with our care, concern and communal action. This is expressed in the stewardship of our treasure through tithing and in the gift of our time and talents through shared ministries. As a fast growing rural parish with a large Hawaiian population, we feel a special calling to stand together in truth and justice for the rights of the first people (kanaka maoli) of this land. As part of the universal Church, our outreach extends beyond our boundaries to the global community and we affirm the human dignity of all peoples. As a parish family, we enthusiastically participate in bringing about God’s reign of peace. ”
Debbie was from a very spiritual family that strives to live their faith, some serving as ministers in various denominations. One brother is known for pick-up and delivery of Safeway baked products 2-3 times a week, walking the beaches along the Waianae Coast sharing ono bread, cakes, cookies, etc. This family knew people by name, whether at the church pantry or tending their keiki along the shoreline. She and her family enabled OSM staff to participate in the Point-in-Time count because they were trusted by the people. She was constantly giving endless energy and an amazing ability to bring out the best in people. She was an example of unconditional care, of pu’uwai aloha—a loving heart.
Onelau’ena Shelter opened and OSM invited Debbie and her family to play music for the blessing ceremony. It was a great celebration of family-celebrating-family. At Thanksgiving, when the shelter needed help, Debbie was the first person to donate huge bags of food. St. Rita never said they could not respond to any request for help, they were always able to do—Hiki No!
Debbie became sick the week after OSM stopped by to pay her a visit on pantry day at St. Rita’s. Little did they know that would be the last time they’d be with her in the midst of her ministry of care. Today, sister in law, Carlin Kaeo, is shaping what Debbie’s love for others began and leading with renewed vision and passion. Me Ke Aloha Pau’ole, Anake Debbie.