The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) has stepped up its ever-expanding social services. It is now feeding 250 vulnerable Malibu families that have become food-insecure while the novel coronavirus pandemic rages. Senior citizens make up 198 of these households.
When schools closed on March 13, BGCM identified the need for feeding area families right away. It set up a food pantry in less than a week.
While making a donation on behalf of the Rotary Club of Malibu, Margo Neal discovered the nearly 200 seniors struggling to put food on the table and found it “unbelievable that there were that many.”
Kasey Earnest, BGCM executive director, said, “There’s a lot of need out there and we’re trying to respond to it.”
But it isn’t always as simple as asking families and individuals to reach out.
“We found out some are ashamed to ask for food,” BGCM Director of Community Outreach and Program Impact Siugen Constanza revealed. “They feel guilty taking any food. We tell them we have big support from the community. They’re very grateful.”
With an emergency relief fund established after the Woolsey Fire, the BGCM was able to quickly mobilize into a pantry and grocery service. With Waveside Church as a partner, BGCM team members grocery shop, organize and communicate with vulnerable families that live in Malibu or just outside.
“They [these families] have a direct connection to our community because their children either attend school here or they are service providers within our community,” Earnest explained.
Constanza developed a partnership with the Trader Joe’s grocery store in Camarillo to bulk order “pallets and pallets of food” that help minimize customized shopping otherwise done by staff members.
“It’s more efficient for us and keeps our staff safer,” according to Earnest. Grocery lists are organized and deliveries are made every week or two depending on need. Donations from the Victoria Principal Foundation, Patty’s Pizza and fresh eggs from Kaliko Farms are supplementing supplies.
“Once we organize the grocery lists, church volunteers come to pick up food for delivery to Malibu seniors,” Earnest added. “Zuma Canyon Orchids is also donating flowers. Every senior gets a delivery with a beautiful orchid to help people feel like they’re cared for and that they’re getting some personal touches along with their groceries.”
Constanza was able to shop with some families at Latino markets for custom cultural foods.
“Let me tell you, it was the most emotional thing because they said, ‘It feels like Christmas.’ They bought vegetables and fruit—everything they need. They were so thankful—very grateful,” and, Constanza emphasized, “We do have a direct connection to these families.” She added that welfare checks are made on all the families, using physical distancing, of course.
BGCM is still operating virtually. Its wellness center is also taking on clients.
“Our clinicians are seeing a rise in need for support from folks who are fire victims now struggling during the pandemic,” Earnest said. “We’re triaging resources, including access to academic support. We have a whole population of students kind of left behind. It’s tragic to watch. You can’t just give a kid a device and say, ‘Go learn.’ We’re trying to troubleshoot that. There’s an increase in domestic violence. We’re trying to give people support—resources to make it through this pandemic.”