Pepperdine students step up to help Malibu’s unhoused

Recent Pepperdine graduate Dacia Hamell is shown with other Malibu CART (Community Assistance and Resource Team) preparing meals for the local homeless population at Serra Retreat. Contributed Photo

Meaningful community engagement happens through service opportunities  

A group of community service-minded Pepperdine students have found a calling connecting to and feeding the local homeless population by partnering with Malibu

CART (Community Assistance and Resource Team). Malibu CART supports Homeless Connect Day, mobile eye clinics, vaccinations, shelter transport, hygiene kits, transitioning to a permanent home, and ongoing dinner and lunch programs.

Dacia Hannel just graduated from the university and spent four purposeful months in her second semester of senior year volunteering with CART. As a student employee with Pepperdine’s Hub for Spiritual Life, Hannel volunteered Tuesday mornings at Serra Retreat preparing meals with other CART volunteers for those experiencing homelessness in Malibu. The team would then distribute the meals behind Malibu Urgent Care on Malibu Road. 

Even with a busy senior schedule, Hannel found three to four hours a week to volunteer, a meaningful part of her week. “It was a great way to take myself outside of school to help serve the community,” she said.

Volunteering is important to Hannel, who’s been involved with helping her community for years. 

“I’m a Christian and it’s my belief that in order to get to really experience every aspect of God’s zeal you have to be able to give of yourself,” she said. “I wanted to serve because it gave me the opportunity to work with those who are experiencing homelessness who have a much different financial and family background than I do. Some of the community people I talked to have so many stories and so many things that are worth sharing. I chose to spend my time with them and the people of Malibu CART. The team is made up of mostly retired people. They give up their time to serve their community in every aspect possible. They’re fascinating to work with. They’re full of stories and full of life.

“It was great to volunteer with service-minded people. It was nice to work with Pepperdine students and share that experience with those who have a heart for things beyond themselves. They choose to put themselves in situations that are maybe out of their comfort zone.” 

Last semester, about 25 Pepperdine students chose to volunteer with CART.

Christin Shatzer Román, the director of community engagement and service at Pepperdine, helps connect members of the Pepperdine community with service opportunities in Malibu and the greater Los Angeles/Ventura County area. 

“Our goal is to provide multiple pathways through which the community can get connected to meaningful volunteer opportunities,” she said. “We work with many of Malibu’s longstanding nonprofits, including the Malibu Labor Exchange, Hand in Hand, the Malibu Foundation, and CART. We work to provide regularly occurring service projects so that students and other members of the university community can connect to something that isn’t just a one-off service experience so they can incorporate service into some kind of a regular rhythm of life.”

Román also connects volunteers to The People Concern, which Malibu has contracted with for homeless outreach. Pepperdine volunteers collect toiletry items and assemble hygiene kits for The People Concern to distribute to Westsiders in need. Over the years, Pepperdine students have also organized clothing drives for donation to the needy. And in a clever move by some residential university students, they buy nonperishable food with unused dining dollar points on their meal plans to purchase food for donation. That food is donated to both Malibu CART and The People Concern.

“Our hope is that as partners to these dynamic community organizations that we’re responsive to what they tell us will be most helpful based on current need,” Román mentioned. 

Now that it’s summer, some students who have remained local are still volunteering with CART, but Hannel, who just graduated urged the next class to volunteer. 

“I would highly recommend getting involved with Malibu CART,” she said. “Even those outside of Pepperdine; they always need volunteers. They’re some of the sweetest people you’d meet. I know it’s often a sacrifice at times, but it is one worth giving.”

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