MEO is part of a national network of Community Action Agencies


The Community Action Network is a robust force of 1,000 local Community Action Agencies, reaching children and families in 99 percent of all U.S. counties. Agencies connect families to approaches that help them succeed and promote communitywide solutions to seemingly stubborn challenges in cities, suburban, and rural communities. Community Action addresses a number of factors that contribute to poverty, and it does so at the local level.

All Community Action Agencies are locally led and build locally driven partnerships that engage private and public-sector leaders. Also, each agency engages local residents in a deliberate effort to understand the obstacles to prosperity unique to their specific community.

Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. is a Community Action Agency committed to ensuring that its programs serve the most salient community needs. MEO relies on assessments that lead to ongoing program improvements and connect back to MEO’s core mission of eliminating poverty. MEO is committed to making Maui County a better place to live, work, raise a family and run a business. We are proud of the tremendous impact Community Action makes every year, not only in Maui County but across the country.

MEO is the sole Maui County nonprofit dedicated to comprehensively serving those in poverty. Chartered in 1965, under President Johnson’s federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, MEO has been “helping people . . . changing lives” for more than half a century, particularly those whose voices are often not heard — elderly, disabled, immigrants, youths, offenders and the economically disadvantaged.

MEO dedicates itself to eliminating poverty by providing tools for living, earning, self-reliance and community involvement with programs designed under the major goal of self-sufficiency; each of these services responds to specific needs expressed by the community:

• The Business Development Center assists small-business entrepreneurs with business plan training, credit assessment, technical assistance support and microloans for startup and expansion.

• Community Services provides a wide array of services, including rental subsidy, employment training and job placement, acculturation, weatherization and energy assistance, senior club coordination, prisoner reintegration and more.

• Early Childhood Services provides quality infant care and early childhood education, offering a Head Start toward a better education and life.

• Transportation provides rides to and from medical appointments, work, school, adult day care, necessary shopping and other needs — with standard and wheelchair lift-equipped vehicles.

• Youth Services provides evidence-based education programs and activities for middle and high school aged youths, including substance and alcohol abuse and teen suicide prevention, cyberbullying, life and career skills training, and gender specific programming. Youths also participate in out-of-school service learning and leadership activities and community involvement, acculturation development and cultural awareness projects.

In the past fiscal year MEO assisted:

• 193 individuals obtain and maintain employment, increase income, create 65 jobs and earn a living wage.

• 554 entrepreneurs with small-business startup and development counseling.

• 1,166 children and youths achieve academic, social and other school success skills.

• More than 150 parents/caregivers improve their home environments.

• More than 130 individuals improve their ability to meet their basic needs and overall financial well-being.

• 166 individuals secure and maintain safe and affordable housing.

• More than 1,600 individuals reduce their energy burden.

• 1,077 seniors access fresh fruits and vegetables.

• 517 individuals demonstrate improved mental health and well-being.

• 926 seniors and 1,267 individuals with disabilities maintain an independent living situation.

• 44 individuals with no recidivism.

• 2,173 individuals increase knowledge, skills and abilities to enable them to improve conditions in their community and enhance their ability to engage.

• 7,921 individuals with specialized transportation, providing more than 407,000 rides throughout Maui County.

This year marks the 55th year since the Community Action Network was established to help American families and communities overcome obstacles to poverty. May is Community Action Month. It is a wonderful time to honor and celebrate the impact Community Action has in the lives of families and communities across the country.

MEO is committed to the National Community Action Theory of Change, ensuring our community is healthy and offers economic opportunity, low-income individuals and families are stable and achieve economic security, and people with low incomes are engaged and active in building opportunities in communities.

* Debbie Cabebe is MEO’s chief executive officer. She is a nationally certified Results Oriented and Management and Accountability trainer and a certified senior professional in human resource management with more than 25 years of management experience.