Help for us all


    The year draws to an end, indeed the next millennium quickly approaches. Today, I pray for the future of the Malibu Community Labor Exchange (MCLE), a nonprofit project that I hold close to my heart. The MCLE sponsors a hiring site that serves both worker and hirer without charge. It is run by a volunteer board of directors and a salaried executive director, Oscar Mondragon, who served 20 years with Cesar Chavez to further social justice through nonviolence.

    Since opening in 1993, the center has registered over 3500 workers and helped facilitate over 30,000 jobs. The center averages about 30 work assignments each day. Six mornings per week, skilled and unskilled workers, both men and women, gather to help garden, move, clear brush and do housework. Over the phone or in person, Oscar or a volunteer can assist in selecting a worker and/or negotiating a first time job. The suggested rate for unskilled work starts at $7 per hour.

    In 1995 the Labor Exchange planted a 120-Rose Bush Garden in front of the City Hall and invited Malibu citizens to “Adopt a Bush” in the name of a loved one for a donation of $100. When I chose a rose bush to honor my father, Francisco Estevez, I looked for the smallest and least robust to symbolize the struggle my father and others like him faced as immigrants. Under the care of volunteer workers, that bush now produces glorious, healthy blossoms. And like that bush, people of all colors and ethnicities come to the center in need of sustenance.

    The Labor Exchange is aided by a Malibu City Community Development Block Grant to help the urban poor. Unfortunately these funds are limited. Therefore, our board is forced to raise approximately $40,000 each year from community donations and private grants. Even as the MCLE struggles with its own survival, it has expanded its services to include the Emergency Shelter Project — a small mobile facility open on rainy winter nights to serve a hot meal and provide shelter for those without. Even as the MCLE goes into debt to upgrade its trailer office, it partners with local churches and schools to build benches and offer a free sandwich for those who come to work hungry. Even as the men who work through the center sit in the rain because the MCLE has no funds to build its own rain shelter, the center stays open to meet our emergency needs.

    So, please join me in our own backyard to support this remarkable win-win project by sending a tax-deductible tribute during this season of giving or by participating in the “Two Fly First Class” raffle.

    For the reality is that this unique program cannot continue “Helping Others to Help Themselves” without spiritual and financial support. Once again, I invite you to join me.

    Faith, hope, love.

    Martin Sheen

    honorary board member

    Malibu Community Labor Exchange