The new Wellness Center at the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu was inspired by a collective concern over a lack of accessible and affordable services available to youth in Malibu.
“Malibu is a town of contrasting extremes,” says Kasey Earnest, the club’s executive director.
The area includes 21 miles of scenic beauty, an enclave for the super famous and a small town made up of predominately hard working families—as well as an underrepresented population of minority workers and their children who live and/or commute into Malibu to work and send their children to Malibu’s public schools.
“What makes our community challenging and special at the same time, is its smallness and its remote location,” Earnest says. “Because of this, it lacks the community resources that a town of Malibu’s economic status would otherwise have. There is no access to free or reduced counseling services in Malibu.”
The center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and is available to all Malibu public school children, kindergarten through 12th grade, and their families.
“The Wellness Center is focused on providing services that support all Malibu youth and their families socially and emotionally,” Earnest says.
To that end, the center offers no-cost individual and family counseling services and parent education, as well as drug and alcohol prevention and education programming through its weekly Brent’s Club Meetings, funded through a partnership with the Brent Shapiro Foundation.
“Additionally we offer target groups, gender/age specific, focusing on increasing communication, confidence and establishing positive and supportive friendships and overall increased social and emotional intelligence,” Earnest says. “Recently the Wellness Center offered a stress and anxiety workshop for the entire Malibu High ninth grade class and we are planning more opportunities similar to this.”
Long Road to Wellness
The journey to the establishment of the Wellness Center has been a 17-year-long endeavor.
“The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu was established in 1999 in direct response to the Columbine Tragedy,” Earnest explains. “Our club’s founders knew that Malibu’s teens needed a place just for them—a place to be social with friends in a safe environment, but also a place where they could turn to a trusting adult if they needed help.”
For almost two decades, the Youth Development Staff have been there for thousands of youth, mentoring them and helping them navigate the challenges that come with growing up.
“Although it’s been a long-term desire of our club to offer more formalized wellness services for our population, only five years ago were we given a window of support to actualize this need,” Earnest says.
Through one of the club’s funders, the Pacific Youth Foundation, “we were introduced to the Social and Emotional Wellness Initiative, which provided the BGCM with Master’s of Social Work Interns and their supervisors to provide support and counseling at the Clubhouse,” Earnest says.
Once the services became available, it was like opening up Pandora’s Box.
“Our kids were begging for more support and we knew we needed to do more,” she says. “Thus we began the process of seeking out the financial support to have a new building added to our current Teen Center footprint, as well as developing the plan for Wellness Center staff and interns.”
The recent reality of the Wellness Center was made possible through a grant from the Ludwick Family Foundation, which provided funds to purchase the modular building and construction; Taslimi Construction Inc., which managed the building project pro bono; the City of Malibu, who for the past three years has financially supported the Wellness Center programming; and most recently, the Brent Shapiro Foundation for Drug Prevention.
Today, the purpose of the Wellness Center is to equip youth with the coping skills to manage their personal challenges and trauma, and to build self-worth and confidence—now and in their future adult lives.
“We have too many youth who contemplate suicide, who don’t respect themselves, their bodies or their ability to make a positive impact on others or in life in general,” Earnest says. “We need to work together to support youth by increasing their social and emotional intelligence, letting them know we are here for them and that they are valued, loved and respected.”
The ultimate goal of the Wellness Center is the same as the goal of the Boys & Girls Club: save lives, she adds.
“We want our youth to do more than just thrive,” Earnest says. “We want to enable them to reach their full potential as caring, contributing, productive individuals.”