Imua head tapped for national board

Nonprofit celebrating 70 years of serving Maui County children

Imua Family Services Executive Director Dean Wong celebrates the grand opening of the organization’s Early Childhood Development Center in Kahului in 2015.   JEANNE MCMAHON photo

Imua Family Services Executive Director Dean Wong celebrates the grand opening of the organization’s Early Childhood Development Center in Kahului in 2015. JEANNE MCMAHON photo

Of all his accomplishments over the years, Imua Family Services Executive Director Dean Wong says seeing a child’s smile is what he’s most proud of.

“If you spend any time at Imua, you’ll see there’s a never-ending supply of magical little faces,” he said. “That’s the best part of my job.”

Wong was recently nominated and appointed to the 2017 board of governors of the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Executives, a Washington, D.C.-headquartered association of charitable organizations and executives who serve the human welfare, education, health care, faith-cause, environmental and arts sectors. “I’m eager to see what I can gain from this,” he said. “I’m excited to learn about what kinds of strides are being made on a national level for nonprofits.”

In March, Wong will be honored alongside fellow NANOE governors during the organization’s 2017 Capacity-Building Convention & Expo, which will be held in Columbia, S.C. There, he will participate in a review of new guidelines, key practices and capacity-building competencies designed to empower nonprofits in unprecedented ways.

Wong said that he plans to absorb as much as he can at the convention.

“I look forward to the opportunity to network with peers who are progressive in their nonprofit work,” he said. “These are leaders who have catapulted their organizations by thinking outside of the box . . . it’s an exciting opportunity.”

Six years ago, Wong became the executive director of Imua Family Services, the largest single provider of early childhood intervention and development programs in the state. “It’s a big year for us,” he said. “It’s our 70th anniversary. We’ve come a long way in 70 years . . . and we’re still moving forward.”

In 1947, a group of concerned parents and community members created Imua Family Services to help children with polio and cerebral palsy. The nonprofit organization now serves 2,500 children and their families on Maui, Molokai and Lanai and offers family-centered, therapeutic services for infants, toddlers and preschool children, from birth to age 6.

Services include an infant child development program, early childhood development program, autism services, newborn hearing screening, an inclusion preschool, Dream Imua (formerly “A Keiki’s Dream”) and Camp Imua, an overnight recreational camp for school-age children with special needs. Imua Family Services has seen no shortage of success stories over the years.

“We have the largest team of early childhood professionals working under one roof,” Wong said. “That gives us magnitude of force.”

Since he took the helm of the organization, Wong has overseen the construction of Imua’s Early Childhood Development Center in Kahului, the addition of a satellite center on Molokai at the Molokai Community Health Center and a new West Maui facility, which will open its doors later this month.

The West Maui facility will be housed in the Peter Longhi building, the former site of the Kaiser Permanente Lahaina Clinic. “The space worked out beautifully; it was already set up for the types of services Imua provides,” Wong said. “We just needed to wave the childhood wand around a bit.”

The new location will enable the agency to serve its West Maui and Lanai clients more efficiently by providing more timely and accessible services, as well as offering special programs designed to support families with unique needs, Wong said. There will be a blessing and open house Feb. 15.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past few years,” he said. “It’s been a team effort.”

Wong said he is poised to take the 70-year-old organization to even greater heights in the years to come.

“My goal from day one has been to see Imua Family Services become the No. 1 early childhood development center in the United States. With our level of capacity and the experience of our staff, I believe we can be a mecca for other early childhood development centers, as well as a training center and best model facility,” he said. “I know it can happen. We’ve really just started to make our mark.”

Imua Family Services will celebrate its 70th anniversary with a “Platinum Jubilee” fundraiser April 8 at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali. To learn more about Imua Family Services, visit www.imuafamilyservices.org.

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