Meet Our Community Partner: Habilitat
Meet our community partner, Habilitat. Habilitat is a long term addiction treatment center based in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Established in 1971, the center provides treatment for substance abuse and other antisocial behaviors in the form of continued education, vocational training, seminars and fitness programs. We spoke with Jacob Young and Cory Eustaqio, both Acquisitions Representatives with the organization, on their personal goals for the organization and how their culture and upbringing shapes their eating and experiences.
*This interview has been edited for brevity*
Tell me about your individual roles within the organization.
Jacob: I’m an Acquisitions Representative. I work with companies such as Gwell and others in the community to help acquire different goods like food and toiletries to help the facility to cut costs since we’re not government funded at all. Everything we do is completely self-funded and supported by generous companies throughout the community.
Cory: I’m an Acquisitions Representative as well but I work more on the fundraising side so it’s my job to communicate with companies Habilitat’s mission and encourage them to support what we’re doing here through sponsorship opportunities and other donations.
What are three goals for Habilitat?
Jacob: Our three main goals are to reduce homelessness and incarceration in not only Hawaii but the country as a whole. We want to provide vocational training by teaching individuals skills that are profitable that they can return to the workforce with, which helps them make changes in their communities and cost taxpayers less. Lastly, we’re focusing on health & wellness. We want individuals to be in the best mental, physical and emotional health. We do this through mandatory aerobic classes three days a week, peer to peer mentoring daily and vocational training 5-6 days a week with a well rounded curriculum tailored to each individual.
Share one of your proudest moments of being involved with Habilitat
Jacob: I’ve been in the program for about 14 months. I traveled from St. Louis, Missouri to Hawaii to change my life and get a better future for myself. When I got to reconnect with my family after their first visit, that was definitely my proudest moment. Seeing the smiles on their faces and hugging my little sister. Every time I see the residents in the program get that first family visit, it’s a touching moment for sure.
Cory: We’re going through things here that allow us to speak better, work better and harder, and that allows our lives to start getting back on track. When I speak to my family, I don’t even know if I notice the difference in myself but as soon as I talk with them, they recognize something is different. After a year with Habilitat, my family isn’t worried about me. The biggest impact is that my family sees my growth.
In what ways do you believe your brand is helping people to live better?
Jacob: We just partnered with Meals on Wheels to provide meals to the elderly in our community. We also partnered with the US Veterans Association to get meals to our homeless veterans. We have a program where we reforest the natural forest here in Hawaii. We send a group of individuals to a remote ranch on the big island of Hawai`i to replant the native species and tap into their culture, so it’s good for the land and the individual as well. We restore our local community fish pond, help out at the homeless shelters, supply homeless with any overstocked clothes we may have, and pass out meals at shelters.
Cory: Many of the residents of Habilitat are here on scholarships so we raise funds through community events to provide scholarships to individuals in need. We receive a lot of help from the community as well. Because we’re given so much, we do our part to show our gratitude. We focus on island beautification, distribute hand sanitizer in the community, provide skills to repair property on school grounds, and host community events that benefit both the organization and the community.
How would you describe your organization to a kindergarten student?
Jacob: When individuals find themselves in a place in their life where they’re not really happy and they’re making mistakes, Habilitat is the answer. People can come here to regain skills they may have missed in the past and get a better chance at life.
Cory: How I would explain Habilitat to my niece or nephew would be “Uncle is in a great place, a place where he’ll be gone for a while but he’s getting schoolwork done and getting his education, working on a trade that he likes so that he can support his family when he returns, working on behavior to stay out of trouble, having fun and staying fit, working on how he communicates with others. He’s gonna come out of his training a very well-rounded person.”
How has your culture influenced the way you eat?
Jacob: Being from St. Louis and coming to Hawaii has allowed me to try a plethora of diverse foods that I’ve never experienced before. There are a lot of natural ingredients found here such as poi and taro leaves. The food is definitely a part of Hawaiian culture. It’s the centerpoint at meetings and luaus here.
Cory: Habilitat’s culinary arts department hooks up the greatest food for the campus. Because there are residents from different nationalities enrolled, the cuisine is a true reflection of the diversity throughout. You don’t know a culture, you don’t know a neighborhood, you don’t know a side of the country, unless you’ve tried their food. That’s how you bring people together.
What’s your favorite snack when you're feeling nostalgic and/or need comfort?
Jacob: A piece of Reese’s cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory preferably at Mother’s Beach in Los Angeles. It’s definitely a nostalgic moment. I love that place and the setting. And the cake is absolutely delicious!
Cory: When I’m having a down day, a nice gelato of any flavor but especially pistachio. Also, something that makes me happy when we would be on the road, I really have a thing for crepes. If I had to be on a diet, I wouldn’t be able to turn down a crepe. Actually, any pastry of any melting kind.
It was a pleasure speaking with Cory and Jacob about their work and time with Habilitat. To find out more about the organization, visit their website at https://www.habilitat.com/. Mahalo, Habilitat!