Gathering to Give Back

Malibu High School (MHS) junior Trevor Simonian started a club, with help from his brother Trent, at MHS that delivers care packages to children in hospitals through the Reddy2Fight Foundation — one of the service clubs represented at this year’s Community Service Learning Fair.

Volunteerism was the theme at Malibu High School (MHS) during the fourth annual Community Service Learning Fair. Nearly one dozen local charities — including one club started by a MHS junior — set up booths at the school last Tuesday, March 1, to introduce themselves to students in an effort to get help for their causes and assist the high schoolers in fulfilling their 80-hour community service requirement.

Community Service Learning Coordinator Nena Lauerman sets up the fair each year so the students have an opportunity to find a service organization they are interested in.

“The fair is geared to hyper-local organizations so the kids don’t have to leave Malibu,” she explained. “It’s like a buffet line to find an organization they really like in hopes that they make a connection for years to come.”

A wide range of nonprofits pitched their causes, including the City of Malibu Parks and Recreation Department where students have the option to volunteer at one-time community events like the annual Easter Hoppening or serve on the Harry Barovsky Youth Commission.

One MHS student, Trevor Simonian, started his own club that was represented. The 11th grader, along with his brother Trent, friends and students, stuff care packages with toys for children in hospitals. Trevor explained that for kids suffering from cancer and other diseases, “it really brightens their day.” Trevor and his club have stuffed hundreds of bags that are distributed through the Reddy2Fight Foundation.

For animal lovers, Fauna Foundation is a local animal rescue offering work with horses, dogs, cats and birds. Students can do anything from mucking stalls to bathing and feeding the animals.

Melinda Gwyn, who represents the foundation, told The Malibu Times, “It’s an opportunity for the students to learn hands on about the joy and the difficulty of animal rescue and gives them an understanding of the hard work involved.” Students can also help with the adoption of the rescues.

Food Share is Ventura County’s food bank. Christina Forino on behalf of the charity said that food, money and time are needed to organize and distribute food to those in need. Students can help with food sorting or picking fruits and vegetables from private gardens.

“The person that donates gets a tax deduction and the hungry get free produce,” Forino said. “It’s not OK with us that anybody goes hungry.”

For students who are looking for a bit of adventure, Baja Build takes students and other volunteers to Mexico where they build houses for the poor. Twice per year, the local group — affiliated with Malibu Presbyterian — travels to Baja, Mexico and completes three houses during a two-day trip. With the foundations already poured, students help with framing, dry wall and painting.

Joel Dunn, who works with the project, said for the nominal fee of $60, students can go on the work trip, learn skills and help to change families’ lives. 

“Every student I’ve seen go on this trip has come back changed,” Dunn shared. “They come back going, ‘I want to change the world for the better.’”

Other organizations represented include the Malibu Community Emergency Response Team, where students can learn CPR and first aid, and the Hand in Hand Group, which serves special needs teenagers and young adults by sharing activities with local teenage and adult volunteers. The group meets on Thursdays after school at the Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue.

The Malibu Boys & Girls Club encouraged students to volunteer with leadership training at the club. They also partner with local businesses to give students summer internships that pay a small stipend.

Also represented was A Peace Project — a nonprofit that gathers teens from different religious and cultural backgrounds to work together on various social action projects.

 “They say that people who do volunteerism early in life continue to do it throughout life,” Lauerman said. “So these are the seeds that we try and plant. They may just do it for their high school experience, and they may come back to it later in life. If you do something early in life, it sticks with you.”