Our Islands, Our Future
Coffee With A Cop

Coffee With A Cop

In December, a Coffee with a Cop event was held at the Dairy Road Starbucks. Police officers in green Starbucks aprons surprised customers with free coffee and conversation. “Coffee with a Cop brings officers and the community members they serve together,” said Jun Hattori, Traffic Division officer. “Over coffee we get to discuss issues people may have and we’re able to learn more about each other.”

In 2016, the first Coffee with a Cop Day took place. The Hawthorne Police Department in Hawthorne, California initially launched the idea to seek new ways to interact with their community more successfully. As a result, Coffee with a Cop is currently nationwide.

On Maui, Coffee with a Cop hopes to break down barriers between police officers and citizens by allowing opportunities to ask questions and voice concerns. Taking time to meet at neutral island locations enables candid discussions about current concerns. “In a casual atmosphere, it is easier for people to share what’s on their mind,” said Sean Marzoeki, an upcountry community police officer. “Surprisingly, in a short time, citizens and police officers get to know each other and discover mutual goals for the communities they live in and serve.”

Helping to build trust and foster a sense of community, officers have embraced the event as a way to connect with residents they may never meet otherwise. “We are constantly told stories about positive connections and interactions at Coffee with a Cop events,” said Marzoeki. “It’s great to talk story and be asked questions we can answer. Most people don’t know how to approach an officer. Like today at Starbucks, we just put on the green apron, worked behind the counter, and even got to also talk story with the people in the drive thru.”

The Maui Police Department officers are looking forward to more meetings in the new year. Coffee with a Cop is sure to create a valuable connection in our communities. When officers hear their community’s needs from the people themselves, they’re better able to support them and to see officers as their ally in protecting families and neighbors.

There are a lot of things to talk about over coffee these days. I’m very happy about this effort to show what community policing looks like. Sean Marzoeki, Upcountry Community Police Officer

Bringing in the New Year

Bringing in the New Year

January’s namesake, Janus – Roman god of beginnings, had two faces that allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. With the New Year upon us, it is time to look back and reflect on a year dominated by heartache, tragedy and loss on Maui, and to look forward with optimism and hope to a brighter 2024 – looking forward to resolution with a different take on the typical new year’s resolution. 

Resolution, according to Merriam Webster, can mean something decided upon, or firmness of purpose. It can also mean the act of solving and the solution to a problem. Who is not looking towards resolution of the challenges and problems faced in 2023 – a return of normalcy and prosperity, especially for those who suffered loss and dislocation on the island’s West Side and Upcountry; and a resolution of the unrest and divide existing in the nation and the world today. We can hope and we can resolve to do our part to work together to a happy new year.

Happy New Year is commonly expressed throughout the world literally wishing the new year to be happy. This is translated to “Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou” in Hawaiian, makahiki meaning year. The Makahiki season (around October through February) was celebrated in Hawaii for centuries as a peaceful time to enjoy harvest, feasts, religious ceremonies, and relaxation. The Mahahiki season also defined the transitional time between harvest and new planting —the new (agricultural) year.

The New Year brings a time to plant new metaphorical seeds. The seeds we sow today and in the coming months will determine what we reap in the future. Our actions, our thoughts, our behaviors are our seeds, and the fruits of our actions might not occur overnight but need to be nurtured and encouraged.

From our ‘ohana to yours, Maui Economic Development Board wishes you “Hau’oli Makahiki Hou.”  May 2024 bring strength and renewal.

May 2024 bring strength and renewal. “Hau’oli Makahiki Hou.”

Maui Santa Brings Joy And Singing

Christmas, celebrated in numerous ways all over the world, is a joyful time. While many people on Maui have endured grief and suffering caused by the devastation of the August 7 wildfires, the Christmas season brings hope and faith for a better future. Maui resident Cameron Keys is a firm believer that Santa and music can spread joy during the holiday season. For the past 25-years, Keys has been a popular and beloved Santa on Maui. Also, 25 years ago, he founded and currently directs the Maui Madrigals, a costumed a-capella singing group that performs throughout the island at different venues.

A madrigal is a Renaissance-style vocal music setting of poetry. Each voice sings a different melody and reflects the emotions in the lyrics. Madrigals also focus on telling a story, providing an engaging performance that Renaissance musicians and audiences love. “The individual singers must blend their parts with the other singers’ parts to complete the whole fabric of the music,” Keys explained. “This one-on-one unaccompanied singing is both fun and challenging. It is also a very intimate kind of performing, requiring subtle communication among the singers to establish tempo, dynamics, starting and stopping, and creating an emotional sense in the music.”

“When I decided to form Maui Madrigals, I had no idea the group would become so popular,” Keys noted. “People love Renaissance music! We dress up and look like Christmas packages. What’s most fun is that entertainment and audience participation are a vital part of each concert. When everyone leaves with a smile on their face, we know our work was well done.” 

Likewise, Santa Keys loves Christmas. He has brought festive holiday cheer all through the years to both locals and visitors around the island. Plus, he has been Santa Paws at the Maui Humane Society. “Making people happy through music, or being Santa for people and pets, is what it’s all about,” he added. “There is nothing greater than seeing the children’s faces light up when they know they are talking to the real Santa.” (Is Keys the Real Santa? See him Saturday, December 23rd, at Maui Mall to find out!)

There is no better way to celebrate the holidays than giving joy. We can all make a difference! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Cameron Keys, Maui Madrigals founder & a Maui Santa

A Time To Heal

A Time To Heal

During a Day of Healing Workshop in Upcountry Maui, sponsored by The Rotary Club of Maui, Dr. Bridget Bongaard set out to help those who are experiencing grief and PTSD because of the Maui wildfires, or any kind of trauma. Bongaard, a board-certified internal medicine physician, as well as a hospice-certified medical director, has used her knowledge to set up numerous integrative medicine programs and retreats over the years. In addition, with the Pacific Cancer Foundation, Bongaard co-founded the first annual Maui Cancer Wellness retreat. 

“The goal of trauma healing is to give participants a feeling that they have control over their lives again,” Bongaard explained. “My approach to wellness is a three-dimensional process: physical, emotional and spiritual. We work step-by-step to achieve the different stages of understanding how our brains and bodies work when life’s events happen. Then, we discuss the emotional impact that we carry with the memory, and how to move beyond this and fill the gaps in our lives.”

Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Bongaard led the group to fully understand what their loss meant to them individually and how to move beyond it. A session on resilience despite all odds, taught the group how to create peace and purpose in an uncertain world and how to find new solutions for problems. To help overcome grief and trauma, Dr. Bongaard also discussed the five stages of the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle.

Bongaard added, “While learning through these different modalities, participants also had the opportunity to take time for themselves, interact with others, tell their stories, and enjoy nutritious food. Plus, it’s wonderful to make new friends and build community.”

Many people affected by wildfires or other traumatic events need time and space away from their normal duties and routines to be able to focus on themselves and gain insight. Workshop participant Katy Shroder, a clinical psychologist from Lahaina, who lost her home, possessions, and place of worship, shared, “Since the fires I have been helping others with their trauma and healing. This workshop was the first occasion I took time to heal myself. I truly appreciate the opportunity.”

Everyone has experienced pain or loss in his or her life at some time. Our healing workshop offers the courage to overcome trauma and fears and live a peaceful life.” For info about the next workshop call 808-866-6155, or email Dr. Bridget Bongaard, Founder, Maui Cancer Resource

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

As the holiday season begins, Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) would like to offer special thanks to all those in the Maui community, statewide, nationally and internationally, who volunteered their skills immediately after the devastating wildfires in August. Together, they are delivering resources and services to aid the affected communities.

“Non-profits, government agencies, other organizations, churches, charities, and individuals continue to address the immediate needs of the people,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO. “Here at MEDB, along with State Representative Jill Tokuda, we held one of the first events that included FEMA temporary housing support, passport and license recovery, financial assistance, counseling, and everyday essential needs, while also planning for long-term recovery efforts.”

As we celebrate the rich tapestry that makes up this relief effort, Dr. Warren Sparks comes to mind. Sparks commutes from his home on Kauai to Maui providing medical assistance, at no charge, to those most affected by the fires. He is a board-certified emergency medicine and family-practice physician based on Kauai’s south shore. During the Vietnam War, Sparks was a USAF flight surgeon working on international air ambulances and at Native American tribal clinics. He plays the ukulele and dances hula, but most importantly his heart is in serving those of the community who need medical assistance and cannot afford it.

“Since the fire, I knew I would be working on Maui, so I shipped my truck over, with pallets of supplies,” said Sparks. “I work with Maui Medics two times a week and A Cup of Cold Water (ACCW) community care van once a week to aid those with medical concerns. We see people all over the island and help where it is needed.”

Deb Lynch, former president of ACCW, added, “Dr. Sparks is unbelievably generous! Everyone loves him. He has full capabilities for splints and cuts and helps people with their co-pay to get antibiotics if needed. Taking his time with each person, Dr. Sparks lifts their spirits and gives them hope. Deep caring and lovingkindness are a wonderful service and people are so thankful for him.”

Thank you to everyone who has worked continually to help our community recover. We appreciate your consideration and continued support as we navigate through this challenging time together. Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President & CEO

A Pillar In The Community

A Pillar In The Community

Known by many as a pillar in the community, Brian Moto was born and raised on Maui. He attended Makawao School, Maui High School (Kahului campus), UH Manoa, the University of Michigan Law School, and Yale Divinity School. He is a member of both the Hawaii and New York bar associations. Presently, Moto is employed as the Special Assistant to the Chancellor of UHMC, where he addresses the range of UHMC educational initiatives related to institutional, county, state, federal, and private-sector interests. Formerly, for eight years, he served as the County of Maui’s chief legal advisor and legal representative, and also as a deputy corporation counsel.

Moto’s community service record is already outstanding; however, he continues to offer his time and skills for the benefit of others. His acts of kindness are an inspiration to all. When asked what moves him to service, he replied, “Short answer is that I often find that I gain a lot more from working with worthwhile causes than I actually contribute. Volunteerism is a net-positive investment. I’ve also learned that basic principles and practices of good governance, organization, and management apply universally, regardless of the particular sector or entity.”

A few of the nonprofits and community organizations that Moto actively supports include the Rotary Club of Maui, Aloha House (Maui Behavioral Health Resources), Maui High School Foundation, Catholic Charities Hawaii, Chaine des Rotisseurs, Ebb and Flow Arts, Paia Mantokuji Mission, Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans, and Maui Adult Day Care Centers, among others.

“Presently, my Rotary Club of Maui has received generous donations from Rotary clubs in the U.S. and from Australia, and from individuals for Maui fire relief,” Moto shared. “The Rotary Club of Maui has formed a committee to determine how best to distribute the funds to help those in need, and is working with other Rotary clubs on Maui in this endeavor.”

Service for community and country runs in the family. Moto’s late father, Kaoru, a member of the famous 442 Regimental Combat team, was a highly decorated World War II veteran. In 2000, the Medal of Honor award was presented to the Moto family.

Today, my dad’s Medal of Honor is displayed in the ‘Nisei Soldier Experience’ exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Army. Brian Moto, Special Assistant to the Chancellor of UHMC

Maui Hale Match

Maui Hale Match

Native Hawaiian and raised on Maui, Matt Jachowski, is a proud Maui High School graduate. When the August fires happened, he and his wife Veronica immediately knew they wanted to house fire survivors. However, finding a family proved more difficult than they expected. It was challenging for them to connect with a displaced family who wanted to live where the Jachowskis are located, near an elementary school.

“At the same time, my sister, Holly Badr-El-Din, was working with the Maui Rapid Response Housing Team, where they were pouring over spreadsheets and trying to manually connect displaced families and landlords,” Jachowski explained. “As a software developer, I knew there was a better way, so I started building a website to automatically connect landlords and homeowners to displaced families whose housing requests aligned with the homes being offered.”

He recalled, “Two months after the fire, I finally released the Maui Hale Match website,, with the support of Maui Rapid Response. Immediately, fire survivors started making housing requests. For example, on the Maui Hale Match website, displaced fire survivors input the type of housing they need, their situation, and what they can afford. Property owners and landlords input what type of housing they can offer and any other pertinent information. When there is a match, the person looking for the housing and person offering the housing are each notified about the other through email, hopefully resulting in a lease.” 

Maui has many empty second homes and short-term rentals, nearly 19,000 units in West Maui and South Maui combined. Jachowski says this is far more than enough to immediately house the 3,000+ displaced families. Most of the families requesting housing want to stay on Maui, but a small number are open to housing on other islands. Homeowners statewide are encouraged to sign up and see whether they can help.

Jachowski added, “I am asking the community to spread the word about those affected by the fires who still need long-term housing and stability. My hope is that more of our second-home and short-term rental owners will open up their hearts and homes.”

I hope to make it easier for displaced fire survivors to connect with homeowners and landlords that have available units they can afford. Matt Jachowski

O’o Farm: A Real Find!

O’o Farm: A Real Find!

For the past 30 years, Maui resident Louis Coulombe has built a reputation for Lahaina’s beachfront restaurant, Pacific’o on the Beach. While there are no words for the amount of loss and tragedy that continues to unfold in Lahaina, few people on island are aware of Coulombe’s crop-diversified, sustainable O’o Farm. Offering meals prepared on-site by the farm chef along with daily farm tours at 3,500 feet above sea level, O’o Farm’s 8.5 acres are situated on pristine Kula land, sustainably maintained and naturally cultivated with a no-till approach. In 2000, surfing buddies turned successful restaurateurs, Coulombe and Stephan Bel-Robert purchased the upcountry land that had only a citrus orchard and a few coffee trees. Today, O’o Farm includes Hawaiian coffee and fruit trees, rows of lettuce and garden vegetables, and green houses with flavorful tomatoes, herbs, flowers, a gift shop, and more.

“To grow locally on an island is one of the most sustainable things you can do,” said Coulombe. “If you operate a restaurant and can recycle food waste in the farm compost—even better. If you can follow crop diversification and organic methods—even better. If you can share what you do with the community and visitors, I think it contributes to the sustainable front.”

During the covid pandemic, and recently the Maui wildfires, community members picked up boxes of produce from the farm. O’o Farm supplies Maui Food Bank, and numerous restaurants and chefs around the island. O’o Farm Chef and Farm Manager Daniel Eskelsen said, “It’s my joy to be able to pass along the fruits of our labor. We like to share our farming methods with our guests and explain how we grow, harvest, and roast coffee at the highest elevation in the state. Our guests also learn about how our free-range farm chickens help us remove invasive grass and fertilize along drip lines in the trees.”

Mainland tour and lunch participants Grant and Pat Lucas from Texas shared their O’o Farm experience. “The amount of knowledge and our freshest seed-to-cup and farm-to-table meal was unmatched. With the bi-coastal views and quiet charm of farm life, this was a priceless experience. We’ll be back!”

Here at O’o Farm and Pacific’o, students may apply for internships receiving full college credits. Volunteers who want to learn about sustainable farming should also contact us. Daniel Eskelsen, O’o Farm Chef and Farm Manager

Maui Relief and Volunteer Center

The County of Maui Volunteer Center joins with over 100 nonprofits to mobilize volunteers for those affected by the Maui wildfires. Many people are searching for ways to assist the community right now. Below is a short list of some of the current opportunities within the Center’s partner agencies. Volunteer opportunities will continue to arise over the coming months as help, recovery and healing are all needed. 

  • Maui Strong Fund: Administered by the Hawaii Community Foundation, the fund  provides financial resources to support the immediate and long-term recovery needs for residents affected by the wildfires. See for information on how to donate or volunteer to assist. For additional information, call 808-270-7285.
  • Maui United Way: MUW plans to continue providing monetary grants to each resident with a home or business in the burn zones. Those who want to donate should go to or call 808-244-8787 to volunteer.
  • Maui Food Bank: The sign-up form is on the website: Scroll down and click ‘Emergency Volunteer Sign-Up’. Non-perishable food donations can be dropped off daily from 6:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. to the Maui Food Bank Store at 90 Amala Place, Kahului.
  • Hawaii Red Cross: Register online as a Hawaii Red Cross Volunteer or streamline the application by visiting their office at 95 Mahalani Street, Conference Room # 3, Building 5, Wailuku.
  • Na Hoaloha: Volunteers provide escorted transportation for seniors who need to go to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and more.  To volunteer, call 808-249-2545.
  • Our Kupuna: Join them in making a difference in the Our Kupuna Volunteer Program. For more information, go to .
  • Maui Humane Society: To volunteer or donate, go to or call 808-877-3680.
  • Maui Rescue Mission: Offering a mobile resource center for those struggling with homelessness. Recently, donors and volunteers delivered 100 fire relief bags to those displaced by the fire. Contact them at or call 808-727-9008

MEDB’s ‘ohana continues to hold all those affected by the Maui fires in our thoughts and prayers as we work collectively to serve our community’s recovery and renewal. Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President & CEO