Cliff Alakai named MEO Volunteer of the Year and Nuestro Futuro Foundation is Benefactor of the Year

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February 16, 2023

Maui Economic Opportunity Board Treasurer Cliff Alakai, a director for 17 years, was named Volunteer of the Year at MEO’s 37th Volunteer Celebration on Valentine’s Tuesday at MEO in Wailuku.

The Nuestro Futuro Foundation, whose grant supported MEO’s efforts to bring its Youth Services tobacco, alcohol, drugs, bullying and suicide prevention programs to Moloka‘i, was selected as Benefactor of the Year.

The naming of the two honorees highlighted the annual event attended by about a 100 volunteers who assisted MEO during the past fiscal year; government leaders, including Mayor Richard Bissen, Council Members Tom Cook, Nohe U‘u Hodgins, Gabe Johnson and Alice Lee; MEO staff and board members; and friends of the 58-year-old Community Action Partnership nonprofit.

In his remarks, Mayor Bissen thanked the volunteers for their compassion.

“We partner with a lot of nonprofit organizations, such as MEO, because we recognize we cannot do all the work in county government,” he said. “The work of nonprofit organizations, especially the volunteers, help our community in more ways than you know.

“The volunteers help to keep the foundation of our community strong.”

Alakai joins a long list that includes Lawrence Ing, the first Volunteer of the Year in 1989-90, May Fujiwara, 2013-14, and Henrietta Chong and Peter Horovitz last year. He currently is the Administrator of Maui Medical Group.

A Certified Public Accountant, Alakai offers valuable expertise and assistance on financial matters, which are critical to the integrity and operation of MEO.

“To give me an award, I kinda feel funny about it because . . . we are here to help . . . not to win awards,” he said, adding that he was accepting the award on behalf of all Volunteer of the Year nominees.

They included:

  • Jeff and Vesta Morris, who are deaf. The couple support MEO’s Maui Independent Living Center events and trainings and advocate for the deaf community. They visit their alma mater, the Hawaii School for the Deaf, during the holiday season as Mr. and Mrs. Deaf Santa.
  • Misty Boteilho-Dougherty, who taught Youth Services intermediate and high schoolers about ocean conservation during an excursion to Molokini and how to do yoga to relieve stress.
  • Maria Nachuo, a Head Start preschool parent. Parental involvement is a key component in Head Start, and she took on leadership roles at her Makawao program site and later as chairwoman of the Policy Council, which included representation on the MEO Board.
  • Dallin Tancayo, who assists MEO Moloka‘i, especially the Kāohi Youth Services program developed with funding from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation. He volunteers to chaperone youth, set up and breakdown activities and offer his expertise, such as teaching youth about vehicle maintenance.

The development of the Kāohi program arose out of a concern for the prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse and suicides on Moloka‘i. The Nuestro Futuro Foundation, which supports addiction recovery, education, animal welfare and community building, provided MEO with a $100,000 grant.

With the funds, MEO Youth Services was able to bring its Maui prevention programs for intermediate and high school youth to Moloka‘i. A coordinator was hired, the program began reaching into the schools in spring, and a summer program was established. A suicide prevention community town hall was organized, as well.

“The Foundation’s grant has made an impact for good in the Moloka‘i community,” said COO Gay Sibonga. “Hope is being restored. Lives are being changed, enriched and saved. The community is strengthened because of the generosity and commitment of the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.”

Abigail Perrin, executive director of the foundation, accepted the award.

Lowe’s also was nominated for Benefactor of the Year. The home improvement store was helpful to MEO and farmers, who received Maui County micro-agricultural grants. Staff helped facilitate quotes and shipments of goods for farmers and signed up MEO for a giveback program that led to the awarding of two additional grants.

“We truly appreciate all of you, our dedicated and compassionate volunteers and donors who have made a decision to give of yourselves in a most precious way, your time and treasury,” said CEO Debbie Cabebe. “We appreciate that you have joined us in this journey of Helping People. Changing Lives.”

Volunteer Celebration luncheons were held on Lana‘i on Monday and on Moloka‘i today to honor volunteers on those islands.


Cliff Alakai was named Maui Economic Opportunity’s Volunteer of the Year on Tuesday at MEO’s Volunteer celebration. He has served on the MEO Board of Directors for 17 years – the last six years as Treasurer.


Abigail Perrin, executive director of the Nuestro Futuro Foundation, accepted the MEO Benefactor of the Year award. The Foundation help fund the Kāohi alcohol, drug, bullying, suicide prevention program on Moloka‘i.


MEO Board Member Adele Rugg and former state Sen. Roz Baker have a conversation during the MEO Volunteer Celebration on Tuesday.


Vesta Morris, a nominee for the Volunteer of the Year Award with her husband, Jeff, addressed the MEO Volunteer Celebration in sign language.

Mayor Richard Bissen (in gray coat) leads the Volunteer Celebration attendees in the singing of “Hawai‘i Aloha.” Others in the photo include (from left) council Chairwoman Alice Lee, former state Sen. Roz Baker, radio/theater personality Kathy Collins, Bissen, MEO CEO Debbie Cabebe and Maui Jobs Corps Director Marshall Norman. Maui Jobs Corps prepared the meals for the event.

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