Farm-based, family-centered organization promotes ‘ohana’ in the lives of families struggling with homelessness
Every year, more than 15 families facing homelessness, food insecurity, unstable living conditions and countless other challenges call The Maui Farm home.
A place of refuge, restoration and holistic recovery, The Maui Farm helps provide structure and empowerment to promote the aloha ʻāina — love of the land — and its people.
The gift of a lifetime
After Chick-fil-A announced its expansion to Maui in July 2021, Chick-fil-A® representatives visited the farm, where they learned about the organization’s mission. After seeing the impact the organization was making in the Maui community, Chick-fil-A selected The Maui Farm to be the recipient of a $300,000 True Inspiration Awards™ grant to help propel its mission. Through these annual grants, Chick-fil-A celebrates and supports nonprofit organizations working in the areas of education, hunger or homelessness.
“This was a life-changing surprise that will cover nearly half of our operating budget for the year and enhance our financial stability,” said Maria Leon, Programs Director, The Maui Farm. “During the pandemic, the cost of operating a nonprofit has significantly risen, and this support is incredibly valuable so we can continue providing services to our families.”
Cultivating new beginnings
The Maui Farm was founded in 1985 when community members gathered around a kitchen table to discuss the needs of youth in the foster care system. Their goal was ambitious: to create a program that would offer a stable environment and provide long-term care for youth who were unsuccessful in traditional foster care. The organization opened its doors in 1993 to deliver services in an ‘ohana’ — or family — model environment.
In 2005, The Maui Farm transitioned its programming to address the growing issue of homelessness on the island. Today, the organization provides farm-based, family-centered transitional housing and support services to at-risk women and their children. The campus includes a two-acre farm that serves as a space for families to heal.
“We’ve built a tight-knit community so that our families feel supported until they’re ready to build their bright futures,” said Maria. “Even amidst the challenges of the last few years, we’ve worked hard to offer our families a place of belonging and opportunity.”
Weathering the storm
At the onset of the pandemic, eight families resided at The Maui Farm — and the call to support these women and their children was more crucial than ever. Mothers lost their jobs, children could not go to school and many families suffered from severe financial setbacks that disrupted hard-earned progress. To help these women refocus their efforts and persevere, The Maui Farm offered a job training program for participants to earn an hourly wage on the farm.
“We also hired a part-time children’s program coordinator to help the kids with their schoolwork,” said Maria. “We purchased laptops and upgraded the internet so that everyone was able to work or do school from home.”
In addition to the surge of unemployment and financial strain, one of the larger impacts The Maui Farm witnessed during the pandemic was that residents needed to stay at the farm longer to reach the level of stability necessary to reenter the community.
“We also had an influx in applications,” said Maria. “We are passionate about what we do but we are limited on availability and have a staggering demand. It’s heartbreaking to see.”
A limitless future
Looking ahead, the staff at The Maui Farm share a collective vision for the organization: a future without limits. With four houses on campus, services are limited to eight families at a time. The team hopes to transition the current office building into another home and build a separate office for the administrative team.
“The goal is to open up at least one more house in the next three to five years,” said Maria. “The vision is to serve as many people as we can, and this True Inspiration Awards grant will help us achieve that goal.”
Visit our True Inspiration Awards winners page to learn more about our other 2022 grant recipients.