Mayor Michael Victorino proclaimed May Community Action Month in Maui County on Wednesday, May 4, with staff from Maui Economic Opportunity, the county’s community action agency, attending and transforming the boardroom of the mayor in a sea of pink polo shirts.
MEO, whose logo is the pink plumeria, is a member of a national network of non-profit organizations, created by President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, to fight poverty and give back to low-income individuals and families the skills and knowledge needed to achieve economic stability.
With its broad mandate, the 57-year-old agency runs a range of more than 40 programs from Head Start preschool to microcredit programs for businesses unable to obtain conventional loans in Maui, Moloka’i and Lāna’i.
Agency programs supported more than 19,000 individuals and families and touched nearly 40,000 lives during the past fiscal year. Other programs include the Maui Bus paratransit service for people with disabilities; kupuna support; prevention of bullying, suicide and substance abuse among young people; helping recently released inmates and more.
“MEO has stepped up. . . and been a beacon of hope for so many years,” Victorino said at the proclamation ceremony.
The mayor also praised the staff at MEO, “who care for the people of Maui County.”
“It’s not just a job; it’s a passion” for MEO’s team of more than 200 people, he said.
Board Vice Chair Carol Reimann noted that MEO has been “the boots on the ground” during emergencies, “mobilizing and blending” government and private funding to address critical needs.
CEO Debbie Cabebe said MEO’s work may be unfamiliar to many in the community, who have not experienced poverty, disability or homelessness.
“But take comfort in knowing that MEO is there as a safety net should life get any worse,” she said, noting that thousands of people got to know MEO when the pandemic hit and the Maui’s economy has come to a standstill.