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Taking up the torch

Neighbors: Profiles of our community

Maui Adult Day Care Centers Board President Bill Kinaka welcomes Margie Dela Cruz as the nonprofit’s newly appointed executive director. Photos courtesy Maui Adult Day Care Centers

When Margie Dela Cruz landed a job at Maui Adult Day Care Centers 27 years ago, she never imagined she’d someday lead the organization as its executive director.

In 1994, Dela Cruz applied to work at the nonprofit, which provides affordable day care services to clients who are elderly, frail, disabled or have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Fresh out of college, she learned of the job opportunity from her grandma, who encouraged her to apply.

Dela Cruz followed her grandma’s advice and was hired as a program specialist at the nonprofit’s former Puunene location. There, she worked one-on-one with clients and developed a deep and enduring affection for each of them. In the years that followed, she stepped into new roles: administrative assistant, then executive assistant, and eventually, acting executive director. Late last month, Dela Cruz officially took the reins as executive director.

Everyone who knows her would agree it was a natural next step.

“We could not ask for a more qualified, experienced and knowledgeable person that knows all about the day care business than Ms. Dela Cruz,” said Bill Kinaka, president of the nonprofit’s board of directors. “She is ready, willing and able to take on the challenges and responsibilities of leading Maui Adult Day Care Centers in this post-COVID-19 period.”

Margie Dela Cruz (left) takes part in a round of bingo at Maui Adult Day Care Centers. The licensed, private 501(c)3 nonprofit organization provides affordable, high-quality adult day care services to clients in a safe, family-oriented environment.

Maui Adult Day Care Centers was founded in 1974 by a group of residents who were keenly aware of the emotional costs of caring for an aging or disabled loved one. Today, the nonprofit organization has locations in Kahului, Kihei, Lahaina and Hana and offers adult day care services, as well as family respite, caregiver support groups, workshops and counseling for caregivers. (Dela Cruz notes that the caregiver services are available to everyone — the care recipient does not need to be a Maui Adult Day Care Centers client.)

The nonprofit offers families and caregivers the peace of mind of knowing their loved ones are part of a program that provides care and companionship. As for the clients, their days are filled with daily physical exercise, live entertainment and socially engaging and mind-stimulating activities like card games, dancing and karaoke.

Dela Cruz now oversees all of the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit she’s come to know inside and out. She says she’s honored to work alongside Maui Adult Day Care Centers’ dedicated staff members, many of whom she has known for years. And on any given day, you’ll find Dela Cruz doing what she enjoys most: dancing, singing, exercising or talking story with the clients. (Sometimes all of the above.)

“When you work here, you fall in love with the clients,” she said. “Greeting them, talking to them and spending time with them . . . that’s why I love this job.”

Maui Adult Day Care Centers is currently accepting new clients, and scholarships are available. Health and safety is a top priority; protocols include face masks, temperature checks, social distancing, regular deep cleaning and proof of negative COVID-19 test results.

The organization’s annual fundraiser walk at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center has been canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, monetary or in-kind donations are more important than ever to help the nonprofit cover expenses and keep costs low. Donations can be designated for activities, scholarships or in memory of a loved one. Are you an entertainer? If so, you can volunteer to sing, dance, play an instrument or perform magic tricks at one of the centers.

Dela Cruz can tell you it will be the best audience ever.

To learn more about Maui Adult Day Care Centers, to inquire about volunteer entertainer opportunities or to make a donation, call 871-5804 or visit www.madcc.org.

* Sarah Ruppenthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at missruppenthal@gmail.com. Neighbors and “The State of Aloha,” written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.

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