At the Palisades Optimist Club meeting on November 7, the two featured speakers were YMCA Executive Director Jim Kirtley and Teen Program Director Jaylen Lacy.
Kirtley spoke about the weekly food distribution at the Y, Lacy addressed his efforts with the Youth and Government program and other youth initiatives he is implementing at the Y.
Weekly on Thursdays, this YMCA offers bags of food to people who need those resources in front of the facility at 821 Via de la Paz. Volunteers and Y employees distribute about 100 bags a week.
“We’re looking for that number to rise around Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Kirtley said.
He explained that about 16 Y’s have implemented this program. Weekly a truck from Food Forward, a nonprofit, picks up perishables, such as fruit and vegetables from grocery stores, and delivers them to the Ys.
“For example, if stores have four flats of blueberries and don’t think they’ll be able to sell them by the expiration date, maybe they’ll give three flats to Food Forward, instead of throwing them away,” Kirtley said. The cost to the Y is $500 for the delivery truck, which also stops at the Collins & Katz and at the Culver YMCA’s.
Many of the staples the Y receives come from the Westside Food Bank. Once the food is delivered, volunteers bag staples and perishables, so people can drive or walk by and pick it up.
To qualify for the food, people fill out a four-page registration form. “We have about 500 people in our data base,” Kirtley said. “About 20 percent of the food is distributed here in the Palisades.
“To qualify a family of four must make less than $120,000,” Kirtley said and added “it’s pretty generous.” There are no requirements to prove one is a citizen. He also said that some residents pick up food for a housekeeper or gardener and give it to that person when they are in town.
He was asked if the unhoused pick-up food.
“They do,” he said. “They will take portions of what is available. If it needs to be cooked, like beets, they won’t take it. They won’t take rice because they can’t cook it.”
Kirtley said the brown paper bags that they have been filling are often donated by Trader Joes.
According to Food Forward’s website, “We’ve been on a mission to fight hunger and reduce food waste since 2009.
YOUTH AND GOVERNMENT:
Jaylen Lacy, who grew up in Fort Worth, and attended TCU at Fullerton, came to this Y after a successful stint at the Collins & Katz YMCA. There he ran an after-school program with University High, which grew to 400 students.
Here, “We have weekly meetings for Youth and Government,” Lacy said.
Youth in Government, which has been sponsored since 1948 by the YMCA, strives to educate students about the role government plays in people’s lives, as well as how the government works and gives students a chance to see what it would be like to be in the legislature.
The group of 76 meets at Palisades High School and is open to students from all schools. The kids discuss politics and bills they would like to see sponsored in the legislature.
Given the current political climate, Optimists wanted to know how Lacy navigated the discourse.
“I’m not politically inclined,” Lacy said, and noted that many youth come in and repeat what their parents say, but soon learn this a platform where everyone is allowed a voice, “a place to speak.”
He said at the beginning of the program, the teens make the rules and run the meetings. “They find their own voice and we do discuss the political climate.”
Lacy said the youth are taught how to ask questions that don’t lead to anger or incite, telling them “We want you to respect one another.”
Kids have to pay for the program, but there is financial assistance for those who need it.
Lacy was taking a delegation to Camp Roberts for training that upcoming weekend and reported back that a “11th -grade delegate, Eli Hamid, beat out eight other candidates from across California to become one of the two finalists running for 76th Model Legislature & Court Secretary of State.
“He is the first Palisades-Malibu delegate in years to emerge as a finalist for the esteemed position,” Lacy said. “The entire delegation will be rallying behind him to bolster his campaign in hopes he emerges victorious after elections conclude in Sacramento this February!”
Another Palisades High School junior Taylor Beljon-Regen was Appointed Chief Executive Officer of the National Affairs program. “Taylor spearheaded a spirited campaign and was notified of her victory right before we arrived at Camp Roberts Thursday night,” Lacy said.
Delegates will present bills on January 24 in Mercer Hall and residents are invited to hear the students before they go to the State Capital.
In addition to Y & G, Lacy also secured a free-learning program from IBM. “It’s hard to get the kids to sign up for it,” he said, but then hit upon a way to incentivize them. The first 10 who sign up and complete the program will be taken to a UCLA basketball game.
He has a teen lifting program underway, and once a month Lacy offers an incentive, such as pizza from 8 to 10 p.m. on a Friday night.
Lacy is working to engage the “CVS” kids to come to the Y after school. “They don’t really talk to anyone,” he said, and is hoping that he can start a teen talk club in January.
With his nonjudgmental attitude, calm demeanor and evenness, Lacy seems like the perfect person for the job.