For nearly four decades, Malibuites have celebrated the close of summer with an annual town bash—a carnival complete with corn dogs, thrill rides and, of course, the famous Malibu Chili Cook-Off competition. For 36 years, the Kiwanis Club organized the event. Then, three years ago, in a surprise turn, the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) took over and rebranded, calling it a “country fair.” It was a smashing success those first two years with thousands raised for charity. With the local summer ritual now on hiatus due to the novel coronavirus, BGCM is left with a huge funding deficit impeding the many social services it provides to Malibu. The Chili Cook-Off is BGCM’s largest fundraiser of the year.
“It’s a way to help fuel the programs that are going on right now,” Kasey Earnest, BGCM executive director, told The Malibu Times. Under Earnest’s direction, BGCM has transformed from an after school student support system to a multi faceted social service provider for the entire Malibu community. This includes the Wellness Center focusing on mental health, currently serving 75 clients through telehealth, and a COVID relief pantry serving 150 vulnerable families weekly, right here in Malibu.
“Losing revenue from the event is significant. With one-third of its operating budget gone, the club is looking to strategically prioritize what is the greatest level of need for our kids and community right now,” Earnest described.
In 2019, BGCM earned $350,000 from the four-day event, distributing $60,000 to its charity partners.
“It’s a huge loss to a lot of people. We gave Malibu public schools $25,000. The Emily Shane Foundation was a recipient as well as disaster communications services. It affects everyone,” Earnest detailed.
A virtual fundraiser has been discussed, but Earnest said “because we’re so involved in our food pantry services we didn’t want to take away time and energy from delivering on that. In the fall, when the club determines the level of care needed, then we will strategize different fundraising efforts.”
The food pantry sprang up in March immediately when the pandemic hit.
“Early on, some really incredible people stepped up with large donations,” Earnest described.
“With groceries paid for BGCM staff, [we] were able to set up deliveries to needy families. What people don’t understand when we receive these donations—it’s not for the Boys & Girls Club,” she continued. “Like the fire relief—we didn’t make any money from that. We poured money into it. We just facilitated the donations that went right back out to people.” It is a common misperception, Earnest added.
“We don’t take anything,” she said. “We just use our team to figure out how to best get it back to the people who need it the most.”
One of the club’s most pressing needs now is to feed those in need. Victoria Principal, a longtime Malibu resident who made an initial grant, just committed another $10,000 to keep the pantry going and is hoping for a community match.
“We are serving seniors and low-income Malibu residents and vulnerable community members,” according to the executive director.
This summer, BGCM has been running a five-week camp for 65 kids.
“It’s been stressful keeping our kids, teens and staff safe,” Earnest acknowledged. “My team has been incredible adhering to all CDC guidelines.” Although she said the camp has been a positive experience for the families, she admitted it is costly. “Under the new guidelines, it costs 25 percent more to provide services to one-fourth of the student population. But we’re glad we ran this, this summer as one of the few entities providing kid options, because now we know what it looks like moving forward.”
BGCM is speaking with education officials about how to “provide care for the kids who are in the greatest level of need for care and academic support.”
“I hope people remember there is so much need even in our small town,” Earnest said. “Donations allow us to strategically prioritize.”
To make a donation, visit bgcmalibu.org or call 310.457.1400.