Residents who want to help Malibu youth and love chili can come with an appetite for the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu’s (BGCM) 38th Annual Chili Cook-Off Challenge, starting Friday, August 30 through Monday, September 2.

This is the second year BGCM will be hosting the event. Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase samples or a bowl during the event and taste about 15 to 18 different homemade vegan or meat chili recipes. “Best in Show” prizes will be rewarded to the tastiest recipes.

According to Kasey Earnest, BGCM executive director of 15 years, last year, each chili participant made about 65 gallons of chili and sold out. The focus of the chili cook-off and carnival is on nonprofit organizations serving Malibu youth.

“All proceeds go back to the chosen youth charities because they tend to be the most underrepresented,” says Earnest. “We love that we can highlight them for four days.” Earnest says more than $75,000 was raised from last year’s chili cook-off and carnival for the charity partners. 

New features at the event will include a new carnival company, Helms & Sons, food vendors, a beer and wine lounge, chili cook-off merchandise with hoodies, t-shirts and hats, tote bags, live DJ performances, a Kid’s Corner where children can make jewelry from beads and other arts and crafts, a 24-foot rock climbing wall, and the Johnny Strange Legacy Skateboard competition. The Malibu Village mini-ramp will also be available for public skate and practice sessions.

“(Skateboarding) participants of all ages can sign up to compete and a prize will be rewarded,” says Earnest. “We want attendees to take full advantage of the event.”

This is the second year volunteering for the chili cook-off and carnival for Amalia Alvarez, resident of Oxnard. Her son has been participating in BGCM’s programs over the past four years. Alvarez will help with selling tickets at this year’s event.

“I like it because I am helping my son and other children,” says Alvarez. “It’s fun to contribute to the community.”

Youth First

BGCM has been a staple in the Malibu community since 2000. Some 10,000 kids have participated in BGCM’s programs, which focus on the creative arts and sciences, academic support, leadership development skills and health and wellness through cooking, healthy snacks, sports, relationships and sobriety.

“(BGCM) really helps the families and children,” says Earnest. “Our programs allow children to have extra special opportunities to be involved with high level, professionally run programming through character and leadership. For the kids, it’s about forming relationships with an adult mentor to navigate their decision-making and learning.”

BGCM’s biggest program is its Wellness Center, which began in 2017 and provides individual counseling for social or emotional concerns, groups focusing on self-esteem, problem-solving, communication, chemical dependency and friendships, parenting workshops, and family counseling with licensed clinical staff for 1,700 students attending Malibu Public Schools.

“I started (the Wellness Center) for that very reason; there are no therapists or psychologists that can meet with students in crisis within Malibu,” says Earnest. “This was a way for us to address mental health on the grounds.”

Last year, BCGM served about 300 students during the school year and met with about 75 families and individuals for emergency crisis counseling after the Woolsey Fire.

“Being able to have these resources for the community and having such a fluid team was one of the most valuable things that we could provide,” says Earnest.

BGCM also stepped in as the leading organization during the Woolsey Fire, where the nonprofit facilitated the Malibu Emergency Relief Fund and raised $1.6 million for affected families.

“Having to go through Woolsey has opened up more partnerships,” says Earnest. “We are currently working with the United Way on a workforce development program, providing day labors and residents impacted by the fires with temporary job opportunities. 

Earnest wants the public to understand that having a Boys and Girls Club makes the community stronger. She also sees the Wellness Center expanding its services.

“It’s a direct investment in kids and that’s the most important thing,” says Earnest. “With the Wellness Center, I see increasing the capacity, serving more kids and destigmatizing mental health. I call the center ‘access without barriers,’ meaning it’s free and nothing can stop a child from getting the help that they need.”

The BGCM 38th Annual Chili Cook-Off Challenge and Carnival will be held at 23575 Civic Center Way in Malibu. For more information, times and tickets, visit BGCMalibuChiliCookoff.org.