It always has been in Katheren Gomez’s heart to give back to those less fortunate. A self-proclaimed military brat, Gomez (then Katheren Zayas) grew up in Germany and recalls seeing a number of homeless people on the streets.
“My mom would allow me to go take some change, and it stuck with me,” she says. “It stuck with me.”
She explains that her faith has grown and taken roots, which led her to be more aware of what needs to be done around her as far as helping people in need.
“I know how hard it is to struggle and have basic needs not be met,” Gomez continues. Now that she has the time and the luxury to be able to provide, she has made it her mission to help Hawaii’s homeless.
The Army moved Gomez to beautiful Hawaii in 2012 and since she’s been here she’s been giving back to the homeless and their families.
“It was more the back of my truck,” she humbly explains. “I would always have extra items and essentials, and when I saw someone on the side of the street I would pull over.”
She would always carry toiletries in little baggies to hand out, but she explains that the care packages didn’t really kick off until earlier this year.
“I realized that what I’m doing is great, but I could do so much more,” she says. One day, while driving in the Kakaako area, she saw the many homeless families who call the area home.
“It hit me like a rock when I saw the children playing around,” she adds. “I know the cost of living here is high, and minimum wage is really low. I know a lot of families struggle, and not every family chooses to be homeless.”
It was that realization that sparked her really diving into her donation packages. She began by asking friends and family on Facebook to donate clothes and toiletries. The response was overwhelming. Gomez realizes that her dream could never come true without the help of those in the community who willingly donate clothes, toiletries and other goods. Gomez went out into the community Jan. 11 along with friends and recalls that every single bag of items and clothing was gone within 10 seconds.
“I didn’t have a chance to distribute in an orderly way,” she says. “I think people are just so desperate, but they were distributing the clothes. They worked together in trying to provide for each others’ needs.
“Once you meet people that you help or encounter, it just doesn’t leave you. It leaves an impression and you want to come back.”
For more information or to follow Gomez’s journey, visit facebook.com/flaming-halo.