Malibu youth foundation seeks funds to continue serving community

The Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families has provided critical help and guidance to youth and their families for the past seven years, including the opening of the local teen center; however, it is in need of funding to keep running.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu resident Laure Stern, co-founder and guiding force behind the Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families, wants to clear up one misconception right away: “We are not here to serve ‘underprivileged’ kids. We are here to serve and inspire underserved kids.”

The distinction is important to the foundation, which works with the Boys & Girls Club of America to provide guidance, encouragement and practical direction to children in and around Malibu. Two new pilot programs were introduced this year to help with the foundation’s goals: bilingual counseling for the Latino population in Malibu and Angels at Risk, a program that offers help to families with substance abuse and addiction issues.

The foundation relies on donations to provide these programs, and to help keep the local teen center going.

The budget for the MFYF runs about $700,000 a year, Stern explained, “and we’ve received one large donation that has allowed us to continue operating at a deficit. But our short-term goals are just to expand our facilities, and that, like anything, takes money.”

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Accordingly, the foundation is planning a different type of fundraiser this year.

“We’re asking the kids to do a Phone-a-Thon, using the Boys & Girls Club database, on Dec. 9,” Stern said. “Coldwell Banker has donated their offices to make the calls and the kids have scripts that they will use themselves to try and raise donations.”

Established seven years ago, foundation members were determined to offer local children from all socio-economic backgrounds an opportunity to realize their full potential, no matter what their home circumstances may be.

“We desperately needed a teen center,” Stern said, “and Malibu is sort of an amorphous community. People don’t come here to unify, as such; they come here to be independent. So it was a challenge.”

In the quest for that maverick lifestyle, youth often fall through the cracks. The MFYF functions as a catchall for energetic teens who need that small nudge in the right direction.

“Malibu tends to have an image of rich, white artists with perfect families and kids,” Stern said. “Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

Recognizing that Malibu was crying out for a center to serve all the community, the foundation opened a teen center in September of 2000, operated by the national Boys & Girls Club of America.

“Our ‘space’ [located just above Malibu High School] is completely donated,” Stern explained in a tour of the facilities. “We had a couple of double-wide trailers given to us, and a board member, Mark Benjamin, who works for Morley Construction, helped put it all together.”

With membership increasing yearly to the point where the center now serves about 1,200 children a year, the Boys & Girls Club Malibu Teen Center is fairly bursting at the seams.

“But our staff, who are all professional youth development specialists, is just awesome,” Stern said.

Kasey Fritsch serves as director for the Boys & Girls Club Malibu Teen Center and has helped to introduce the two new pilot programs for local families. Bilingual counseling will be offered to the burgeoning Latino community in Malibu, children and parents alike.

“There are tons of Spanish speaking families in Malibu,” Stern said.

Although Angels at Risk is described as a program that offers support groups to families facing substance abuse and addiction issues, Fritsch said, “We offer crisis counseling as well. We had a girl at the high school commit suicide recently and we were able to help out a lot.”

Not all the Boys & Girls Club’s agenda is for children in crisis. There are enrichment activities as well, including art, sports and computer classes, as well as a welcome space at the club for teens just “to hang,” Stern said.

One successful program this year was “Career Launch,” hosted by the Malibu Chamber of Commerce, which guided students in resume building, career options and internships, and helped high school students determine the best educational directions to pursue their goals.

Director Fritsch also talked about the musical opportunities the club offers.

“We have a full studio on site, with a Pro Tools recording and editing program,” she said. “Berklee College of Music is working with us, partnered through the Boys & Girls Club of America.”

Also in the line-up is a program called “BlastBeat,” a social organization that aims to contribute to world achievement of UN Millennium Goals through music. Fritsch explained their method: “Part of their international marketing plan is to create a Battle of the Bands contest, in which participating teens can compete internationally for recognition, with the local competition to take place at Pepperdine University in February. We plan on having some kids there.”

“These are all exciting goals and plans,” Stern said, “but they require funding.”

Therefore, the idea of the Phone-a-Thon.

She noted that a donation of $100 provides a “healthful snack” for 100 students for a week. “And,” she reminded, “it is 100 percent tax deductible.”

Past fundraisers through direct mail did not yield the success they had hoped for, Stern said.

“We’re really, really good at what we do with the kids, but we are poor at marketing it,” she said laughing. “Maybe our Phone-a-Thon will work better.”

She urged all Malibu residents who receive calls from students on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club Malibu Teen Center to open their hearts and their wallets on Dec. 9.

More information on the Boys & Girls Club Malibu Teen Center can be obtained by contacting Kasey Fritsch at: kaseyfritsch@bgcmalibu.org or by calling 310.457.2582.

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