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Love Thy Neighbor —

Three of the 55-gallon drums that will be used to collect nonperishable food items for the estimated 1,500 cannery workers who will be without paychecks for 5 weeks, when StarKist Samoa shuts down later this month.   [photo: BC]
Donate to the food drive and help feed a family

An estimated 1,500 StarKist Samoa workers will be without a paycheck for five weeks when the cannery shuts down later this month in order to install equipment and carry out other upgrades to their facilities.

No paychecks mean no money for electricity, and no food on the table for those affected — and their families. The shutdown is from Oct. 21st to Nov. 26th.

In response, former Tualauta faipule, Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr. is organizing a food drive that aims to provide 'care packages' for those he says "live paycheck to paycheck and depend heavily on their wages from the cannery."

Called the "Love Thy Neighbor" project, Tapumanaia told Samoa News yesterday that the goal is to "help everyone, and anyone, who is in need, because you never know when the roles will be reversed and it is us, who will be needing help from others."

A total of eighteen 55-gallon drums are being disbursed to major retail outlets and small stores in Tualauta County and areas in the western district. In the coming days, other drums will be set up in stores on the east side of the island.

A total of 30 drums are expected to be utilized for the food drive, which kicked off Oct. 2 and will end Oct. 28th.

"Depending on how much we collect, we may have to extend," Tapumanaia said yesterday, adding that those who want to donate are asked to drop off any canned goods and non-perishable food items - including rice, sugar, flour, and even saimin - in any one of the drums already labeled, and set up at certain business establishments.

A radiothon is tentatively set for Oct. 21st during which people will be invited to come out and donate whatever they can to the cause.

Tapumanaia has solicited the assistance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) whose stake centers (west, central, and east) will be used to store the food items until 'care packages' can be assembled and distributed.

"The drums are already set up in the stores but because everything is voluntary, we don't know how this is going to play out," Tapumanaia said. "We don't know whether people are going to donate or not."

He encourages everyone to look around their neighborhood and find out if there are any affected cannery workers in the area. "If you don't want to come out and donate, maybe you can stop by your neighbor's house and drop off a bag of rice or a case of saimin."

According to Tapumanaia, a list from StarKist Samoa, with the names of the cannery workers, who will be out of work during the 5-week shutdown, will be forwarded to him. Care packages will be handed out only to those who present a valid ID.

In addition to the LDS church, Tapumanaia is also soliciting the help of various schools, specifically high school JROTC and National Honor Society clubs who can use this project to fulfill their 'community service' requirement.

This isn't the first time Tapumanaia is spearheading efforts to help cannery workers. Last year, he and his family organized a toy drive for Samoa Tuna Processing (STP) workers who were laid off, right around Christmastime.

Thanks to his efforts, over 850 toys were collected. Every child had a toy and the excess was given to kids who were just hanging out near the distribution site last year.

"A lot of people are asking why I'm doing this, saying I'm wasting my time and I should just let StarKist take care of its own people," Tapumanaia shared. "These comments empower me more to do what I'm doing because everyone is quick to talk about Christianity but one of the biggest messages in the Christian faith is: 'Love thy neighbor as thyself'," he said.

"This is the first time I'm organizing a food drive like this and I'm just trying to help where I can," he added. "The goal is to be able to help everyone."

According to Tapumanaia, if the food drive nets a huge supply, two locations will be used as pick-up points — one somewhere near the town area and one on the west side.

If the response is not overwhelming, then only one centralized location will be selected and used as the distribution site.

"It all depends on how the community responds to this project," he said.