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Inspiring messages from our sponsors

Client Stories

Kauwela Kaia, Hawai’i Emergency Laulima Partners recipient:
“I wanted to thank MEO and the HELP program that helped keep the lights on for me and my Ohana. I’m a single mother of 3 kids and I was recovering from surgery after my appendix ruptured all the while being 15 weeks pregnant when COVID-19 hit. I, along with all my colleagues, were laid off. Timing could not have been worse. I did not receive my unemployment benefits for months and was so scared for my family. My older children could not return back to school, and I gave birth 2 weeks early. To add on to it all, I gave birth by C-section (again major surgery) and my newborn was flown to Oahu where he stayed in the NICU for a week. We had to return to Oahu multiple times during this pandemic and during one of our visits my newborn had to undergo his first major surgery to correct a birth defect. I share this story with you all because with everything going on it was such a blessing to know that at least I had HELP, 3 rounds of it. Mahalo once more. ”
Photo courtesy of Kauwela Kaia

Melissa V. Rizzolo, Hawai’i Emergency Laulima Partners recipient:

Dear Debbie Cabebe, CEO,

I am writing with sincere gratitude for the assistance I have received in the form of food Vouchers and Rental Assistance MEO has provided to me because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. I was notified during the height of the pandemic that I needed to move after 2 years of residence. . . . Needless to say, I was not prepared to move, especially being on a Furlough from work due to COVID-19.

I know there are many applicants and I greatly appreciate the timely assistance MEO has provided me. I couldn’t have done it without MEO’s help, guidance and support, especially from Nicandor Saladino and Cathy Jimenez. They both have made this stressful time much easier than I could have ever imagined. I love my new hale and look forward to a long, healthy, happy and prosperous residence.

With Aloha and Appreciation to Debbie Cabebe CEO, Nicandor Saladino and Cathy Jimenez and MEO Team for all you have done for me and continue to do for our Maui residents.

Mahalo Nui,
Melissa V. Rizzolo”

Victor Lopez, Rental assistance program recipient:

“I recently started training at two jobs: Lineage and Nalu’s South Shore Grill. Both are restaurants. I will be bartending at both. By the end of the month, I may be back to work 40 hours/week between the two.

My wife, Sarah, is building up a network of leads for freelance business development and photography/videography work. Our son had a setback at school but has been making up for lagging grades. Everyone continues to remain healthy.

We are continuing to knockdown our credit card debt and pay back family/friends we had to borrow money from. Both my wife and I will continue to look for non-tourism-related jobs that utilize our other skill sets.

The (rental assistance) program has been a huge help during a very stressful time. We honestly would not have made ends meet and very quickly began racking up credit card/loan debt early on in the pandemic when we lost our jobs.

Not only did this program and the rental assistance allow us to start paying down debt and keep from going into arrears, the counseling and talks we had with Shayna, our case manager, taught us to look at our spending habits. Since being on the assistance program, we’ve eliminated needless spending and have begun and will continue to stick to budgets for things like groceries and discretionary spending.

Thank you!”

Victor Lopez

Lolesio Setefano, BEST program client:

Lolesio Setefano was released from the federal correctional system after 10 years behind bars with hopes of restarting his life. He was referred to Maui Economic Opportunity’s BEST (Being Empowered and Safe Together) program in May.

He came to the BEST program seeking help in getting certified as a security guard. BEST helped Setefano take the security guard class in June, get fingerprinted and submit his Guard Employee Registration Application to the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional Licensing Division in August.

Lolesio came to BEST with a plan to restart his life, which began with securing employment. Having been apart from his family, Lolesio’s next goal was to secure a home to gather his family members again and live under one roof. He wanted to show to his family that he has the determination to pick up where he left off, reclaim his role as the head of the family, regain their respect and trust and demonstrate that he had the capability to become a productive member of the community.

Recently, he and his longtime girlfriend found an apartment and are in the process of signing the lease agreement and moving in.

Lolesio’s very optimistic about his future. His positive mental attitude is evident in the way he talks, thinks and shares about his plans for the family with BEST CARES Act Case Manager Jennifer Grancha. He is grateful for what MEO has done for him.

Isaac Roman, BEST program client:

Isaac Roman is getting his life together after being released from incarceration.

“Thank you guyz at MEO. Words cannot explain how happy I am for everyone’s help. Thank you,” he wrote to Maui Economic Opportunity on Monday, Aug. 9.

He was hired for a permanent position at Mahi Pono as an assistant mechanic after jumping from one temp job to another after he was released from jail.

Isaac also has moved into his own rental unit.