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Maui United Way a nonpartisan organization

Maui United Way’s (MUW) mission is to empower our community through caring partnerships that enrich people’s lives. Over the last few days, I’ve reflected often on this mission as our organization has been under unfair scrutiny. I humbly take this opportunity to address the seemingly widespread confusion brought about by an article published last Sunday here in The Maui News.

An advocacy group known as “Maui United” began their marketing campaign last Friday in support of the ballot measure “Voter Initiative: Genetically Engineered Organisms”. Consequently, within the first few hours of their ads running, MUW received numerous inquiries from both sides of this controversial issue, including those wanting to give to this initiative, as well as people wishing to withdraw their support for MUW because of our perceived affiliation.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we have a responsibility to our community to remain non-partisan, with NO affiliation to or with any political issue, movement or party. We realize and appreciate the support for Maui United Way comes from people of all different walks of life, all political stripes, and sometimes, on opposing sides of myriad issues.

Recognizing the confusion in our community and the potential harm to our Maui United Way brand, we sought pro bono legal counsel. As a result of this counsel, we first reached out to the advocacy group via phone. Unfortunately, Maui United was not initially favorable in changing their name. As a next step, our legal counsel recommended we send Ms. Autumn Ness of Maui United a “cease and desist letter.” Several media outlets were also copied on this communication to assist in alleviating confusion.

Consequently, The Maui News published an article about the cease and desist letter, which I was not asked to comment on. While the intent of the article was to simply share the facts, the article resulted in even more confusion and ignited further speculation regarding Maui United Way.

I have also been questioned as to why MUW does not take issue with other organizations that utilize the word “United” within their name. The simple answer is that other organizations aren’t politically advocating a controversial issue via a media campaign that is causing confusion to our name and organization.

Maui United’s advocacy campaign has no affiliation to Maui United Way. Most distressing, the situation has the potential to affect our contributions, which indirectly may impact our ability to support those in need.

Further, a check presentation photo of Monsanto’s charitable contribution to MUW has been shared rabidly via social media, implying that MUW has been politically motivated by a charitable contribution. This is patently false. Said photo was part of a press release in 2011 in recognition of Monsanto’s contribution. Such photos are standard protocol for MUW’s acknowledgment of all charitable gifts.

In addition, all contributions to Maui United Way are referenced in public documents, such as our Annual Report and our 990 tax forms. We take pride in being completely transparent in the work we do. Additionally, we do not discriminate amongst our donors, nor do we fund any organization that practices discrimination.

Maui United Way has been serving Maui County for more than 50 years, with the support of over 500 volunteers annually. We are an independent organization that works tirelessly to raise funds to support Maui programs targeting education, income sustainability and health. We are proud that 98% of every dollar stays on Maui, helping our local community.

Recently, MUW and Maui United have resolved our concerns. Maui United agreed to add the words “ballot committee” to their name to avoid further confusion. Ms. Ness, director of Maui United stated, “I respect Maui United Way and what they do for our community, so we were happy to find a solution that worked in the best interest of both organizations.”

Last year alone, MUW provided 73,744 services to those in need. Doing good for others has always been the driving force behind our efforts. Our work, and organization, are a part of the fabric of Maui, and it is a role we relish. Mahalo to everyone who chooses to LIVE UNITED for a better tomorrow…we could not do what we do without you and thank you for your continued support.

About the author

Laksmi Abraham is the President & Chief Professional Officer of the Maui United Way. The MUW mission is to empower our community through caring partnerships that enrich peoples lives.

The MAUIWatch Community Network invites readers to express their views in the Community Viewpoint. Community Viewpoint columns should be on or around 800 words. Community Viewpoint submissions are subject to editing. All submissions must include the writer’s full name, which will be printed. We do not print letters announcing events to come, extensive quotations from other material, open letters or form letters. Send to contact (at) mauiwatch (dot) com

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