Mayor declares May Community Action Month praises MEO work

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May 4, 2023

Saying that “Community” and “Action” are two of his favorite words, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen declared May Community Action Month in Maui County and recognized the county’s Community Action Agency, Maui Economic Opportunity.

“I truly believe our strength as a county comes from our community and our future of our possibilities that are made better by the compassion, the dedication and the aloha . . . residents give each and every day and the hard work of all of our nonprofit organizations,” said the mayor in a ceremony Wednesday at MEO in Wailuku. “Organizations, such as Maui Economic Opportunity, have played such a critical role in the wellbeing of our islands and our people.”

Bissen read the proclamation before more than 30 MEO staff and board members. May also is Community Action Month across the nation.

President Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960s led the War on Poverty and the creation of his Great Society by marshalling the support of Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The Act led to the creation of the Community Action Network of a thousand locally-focused organizations to uplift the lives of those in poverty and to generate financial sustainability.

MEO started in 1965 with one major program, Head Start preschool, and has grown to more than 40 today, said CEO Debbie Cabebe. Those programs, which change according to the county’s needs, assisted more than 19,000 individuals and families in 2022.

“Community Action Month casts a light on the work we do, often without the awareness of the general public who do not or have not needed our services,” said Cabebe. “But we are here, should a pandemic shutdown the economy or life take a negative turn, as a safety net to help sustain and nurture.”

Board President Carol Reimann noted that “community action serves as an affirmation that what we do works . . . and truly matters,” adding that MEO touched the lives of 47,000 Maui County residents in fiscal year 2022.

As one of the larger nonprofit organizations in the County, MEO has a $22 million budget with funds spent wisely, she said. Ninety cents of every dollar of funding goes to programming, much higher than national norms for nonprofits.

Bissen also applauded the efforts of MEO Hana, which last week helped transport East Maui residents from Kaupo to Keanae to and from community talk story and administration walk-in events at the Coconut Grove last week.

For more information about MEO services, go to the website or call (808) 249-2990.

Mayor Richard Bissen declared May Community Action Month in Maui County on Wednesday in a ceremony at Maui Economic Opportunity, the county’s Community Action Agency. He is shown with CEO Debbie Cabebe (from left) and Board President Carol Reimann.

Mayor Richard Bissen addressed about 30 MEO staff and board members before reading a proclamation declaring May Community Action Month.

CEO Debbie Cabebe receives the Community Action Month Proclamation from Mayor Richard Bissen.

Janeth Cerizo of MEO spoke with Mayor Richard Bissen after a ceremony declaring May Community Action Month. The mayor took the time to chat with MEO staff and board members and take photos with them.

Mayor Richard Bissen posed with the National Farmworker Jobs Program team of Suzette Bacarro, Ui Ah Chan and Cassi Yamashita.

Board Member Ned Davis joined the event.

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