MEO announces volunteer and benefactor of the year

Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. named its Volunteer and Benefactor of the Year at a recent recognition luncheon.

The Volunteer of the Year is Bard Peterson, First Hawaiian Bank’s vice president and business banking team leader. A volunteer for many years, Peterson serves on the MEO Business Development Center’s External Loan Review and Business Development committees, which meet monthly. He also advises graduating students from the Core Four Business Plan training course.

In nominating Peterson, MEO Business Development Center Director Craig Swift said: “There are many unique challenges to operating a micro-enterprise program, the least of which is incorporating sound business practices with a program that offers financial education and credit and skill building to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs. Mr. Peterson is able to offer his unique experience with MEO’s micro-loan program to help ensure a sound financial program while maintaining the mission statement of the organization. Bard has always been available to provide help and guidance, whenever it was needed, both at the board/committee level and the BDC staff level throughout his years of volunteer service.”

The Benefactor of the Year is the Agape Foundation. Since early 2010, when the Agape Foundation Charitable Trust, with the help of Lanaians for Sensible Growth, was first introduced to MEO, the MEO Business Development Center has been able to make a difference on Lanai by helping people and changing lives.

The Agape Foundation’s grant has been used to support Lanaians to start and expand entrepreneurial small businesses. This support has come in the form of micro-loans, business education programs, including Core Four business planning classes and technical assistance.

Agape Foundation’s financial support has enabled seven Lanai businesses to receive more than $180,000 in commercial loans, which have created and retained permanent jobs on the island.

MEO Chief Executive Officer Lyn McNeff said: “Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. is proud to call Agape Foundation its Benefactor of the Year because it has truly been a part of the mission of MEO, which is to strengthen the community while helping people in need restore their hope, reach their potential and enrich their lives.”