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North Hawaii community welcome ACCESS Capabilities, Inc. to new Waimea office

<p>Mayor Billy Kenoi speaks at the blessing of the new Access Capabilities Waimea office on Friday, July 19. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Mayor Billy Kenoi speaks at the blessing of the new Access Capabilities Waimea office on Friday, July 19. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Abigail Au reads a proclamation from Governor Neil Abercrombie, proclaiming July 19 as “Access Capabilities Day” during the blessing of the new Waimea office. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Abigail Au reads a proclamation from Governor Neil Abercrombie, proclaiming July 19 as “Access Capabilities Day” during the blessing of the new Waimea office. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

<p>Keala Drummondo dips ti leaf in water as he prepares to bless the new Access Capabilities Waimea office on Friday, July 19. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Keala Drummondo dips ti leaf in water as he prepares to bless the new Access Capabilities Waimea office on Friday, July 19. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

The new Access Capabilities office in Waimea held a blessing on Friday, July 19, attended by a small group of staff and involved community members. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
The new Access Capabilities office in Waimea held a blessing on Friday, July 19, attended by a small group of staff and involved community members. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)
<p>Mayor Billy Kenoi and Representative Cindy Evans were in attendance at the new Access Capabilities office blessing in Waimea on July 19. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)</p>

Mayor Billy Kenoi and Representative Cindy Evans were in attendance at the new Access Capabilities office blessing in Waimea on July 19. (PHOTO BY ANNA PACHECO| SPECIAL TO NHN)

Sprinkling water from a ti leaf, Keala Drummondo and a team from Mana Christian Ohana walked through the new Waimea offices of ACCESS Capabilities, Inc. and blessed the doorframes, walls and even the outside of the building. He said he is grateful to have the company in North Hawaii to help the individuals and families that need them.

“For us, it is a big thing,” Drummondo said at the July 19 blessing ceremony. “It is an organization like this that straightens a community out.”

ACCESS, which stands for Assessments, Counseling, Consultation and Education Services, offers help for individuals and families affected by substance abuse and interpersonal violence, according to their website. Serving the Kona community since 1995, the for-profit company also has an office in Pahoa.

About a dozen people helped welcome the organization into their new Waimea offices at the Malama Pono building on Mamalahoa Highway, including Mayor Billy Kenoi and state Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona, Kohala.

Abigail Au from Governor Neil Abercrombie’s office read from an official document proclaiming July 19 as ACCESS Capabilities, Inc., Day.

During the ceremony, Kenoi said it is an honor to have ACCESS Capabilities Inc. in Waimea “committed to keeping our community a safe place.”

“ … To watch people walk the walk of recovery – it is an amazing process to see,” Kenoi said at the blessing ceremony. “It gives me chicken skin to be here.”

Kenoi said that every place to open like ACCESS Capabilities is a pu’uhonua – a place of refuge.

“Without you guys, the community wouldn’t be the place that we can call home,” Kenoi said.

Evans said that it is important for communities to help welcome back people who are transitioning after dealing with substance abuse and mental illness.

“We all need to work together – we are all a community,” Evans said.

She said that the state could play an integral part in helping people make connections.

During the blessing, Christopher Au, CEO of ACCESS Capabilities, said their goal is to provide “excellent care to the people of the Big Island,” especially the kanaka ‘oiwi, or native Hawaiians, who have always been a part of the land.

Au said that when Kamehameha the Great needed warriors, he looked to 1,200 young Waimea warriors, called Kipuupuu, named for the icy Waimea rain. He said that those warriors were known to fight with the “ferocity of the striking rain of Waimea.”

“It takes strength and conviction to fight substance abuse – strength and conviction of an entire community,” he said. “Everyone here today, from our representatives of government, to the members of the judiciary, to the concerned citizens who are here to support us, have all been called to a struggle of higher purpose to fight for our brothers and sisters who have been ravaged by drug and alcohol use.

“We must remember that Waimea is a home of legendary warriors, fighters of great prowess who stood with a conquering king to unify a nation,” Au said.

He said that as a community, we must stand together to fight to make stronger and healthier places to live and raise families.

Au said that Candace Kauahi, a counselor at the new Waimea office, was a primary motivator for opening the location.

“A lot of people approached me, but she was the most persistent,” Au said. “I thought she would make the best employee.”

Au said he had been looking at opening a Waimea location for several years.

“North Hawaii is one of the communities that often doesn’t get services,” Au said. “When the Big Island Substance Abuse Council announced they were closing down (in Waimea), I took it from the back burner to the front burner.”

Au said that some of the services offered would include youth services, substance abuse counseling, anger management programs, counseling for individuals, children and families affected by domestic violence, and possibly women’s health programs.

“We look forward to being able to give North Hawaii not only a place to go, but options as well,” Au said.

For more information on ACCESS Capabilities Hawaii, Inc., call the Waimea office at 885-8889, the Kona office at 334-0979, or visit their website at www.accesscapabilitiesinc.com.