Maui Economic Opportunity received a check for $2,500 from the Construction Industry of Maui on Wednesday, May 18, to support the agency’s programs to reintegrate, train and employ recently released inmates.
This is the second consecutive year that the construction trade group has made a donation to the 57-year-old nonprofit. At its annual meeting at The Mill House in Waikapu, the organization handed out college scholarships to high school seniors and the donation to MEO.
The Community Action Agency, whose mission is to help people in need in Maui County, was the first community nonprofit to receive a donation from the Construction Industry of Maui last year. MEO CEO Debbie Cabebe explained at the meeting that the funds helped the agency secure beds at Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers for inmates leaving jail and prison, as well as pay for tools, industry credentials and other supportive services.
MEO Community Services Director Cassi Yamashita offered a first-hand account of the work of MEO, whose Being Empowered and Safe Together (BEST) program focuses on reintegration of recently released inmates. MEO also offers employment services for low income individuals.
Eddie Rodriguez was set to be paroled in April 2021 and to return to his family and children in Florida, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed those plans. Forced to remain in Hawaii, he had no place of residence upon release.
MEO came to the rescue, securing a bed at Ka Hale A Ke Ola as well as other necessities including clothes, identification, a cellphone and a bus pass. With essential needs squared away, MEO staff turned to helping Rodriguez support himself. He was assisted in updating his resume and directed to employment opportunities – and secured a full-time job.
“They kept in touch with me on a weekly basis,” Rodriguez wrote in testimony to the County Council in support of MEO. “They were kind of like counselors. I was able to talk to them and even vent to them about issues back home.”
“They were there. They helped me stay focused.”
He even was able to save and send money to his children.
Rodriguez said it was not in his nature to accept help but “learned to be humble . . . take it while I can (because) it’s there for a reason.”
“I was given a head start through the help I was provided through MEO,” he said.
Cabebe thanked the Construction Industry of Maui for helping MEO help Eddie Rodriguez and many others “restore their hope, reach their potential and enrich their lives,” per the nonprofit’s mission.
The Construction Industry of Maui is a trade council of the Maui Chamber of Commerce and operates as an independent association under the Chamber.
For more information about MEO job training and BEST programs, call (808) 249-2970 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maui Economic Opportunity CEO Debbie Cabebe (left), Arthur “Bobo” Leal of Valley Isle Fencing and MEO Community Services Director Cassi Yamashita pose for a photo at the Construction Industry of Maui annual meeting on Wednesday, May 18, at The Mill House. Leal is an advisory board member of the construction trade group.