With in-person classes and activities canceled through the rest of the current school year, students—needless to say—have some free time.

Students in Malibu High School’s Operation Smile club decided to put their time to good use by delivering food and other support to healthcare workers.   

“Mrs. Ryan [MHS librarian] brought it up to me and one of my co-presidents,” Whitney Clarfield, an MHS senior and club co-president, said in a phone call with The Malibu Times. 

MHS Operation Smile

Operation Smile, a volunteer-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, safe surgeries to those born with cleft lip and cleft palate, boasts hundreds of student programs around the world. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit launched a new pilot program, Serving Smiles, in early April to provide “locally-prepared meals for staff members at hospitals in their hometowns.” Sarah Ryan said the MHS club is the “first West Coast club” to take part in the program, which first started in Hampton Roads, Va.

Katie Loftus, also a senior and club co-president, said some students questioned what the food deliveries had to do with the club. To that, she said, “It’s nice to appreciate those that are doing so much without you even realizing it.”

In the past, the club would ask for food donations from restaurants for fundraisers and other club events. This time around, Clarfield said they were seeking outside donations to buy the food, and in turn, support local businesses.

“Since everyone’s struggling, we’re raising money to pay costs,” she explained.

So far, the club has made three deliveries of pizzas and salads from Spruzzo’s Restaurant and Bar.

“Everyone knows about Spruzzo’s in Malibu,” Loftus said. “I personally have been going there my whole entire life ... We’re really appreciative of Ray [Gowhari, owner].”

“Hopefully we’re able to branch out to some other local restaurants as they’re slowly starting to open up,” she added.

Over the last two weekends, Ryan, Clarfield, Loftus, along with club leaders Juliette Larsen and Alina Rose Armstrong delivered the food to UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica and Cedars-Sinai. The latter was especially meaningful to Loftus.

“My dad worked at Cedars-Sinai hospital for 40 years,” she explained. “I definitely knew I wanted to give back to that hospital, specifically.”

“It’s really easy to feel helpless. Given the circumstances, we really have no control over anything that’s happening,” Clarfield explained, stressing that medical workers “are basically on the front lines.”

“It’s just heartwarming to see how appreciative the nurses were for this food,” Loftus reflected.

“They’re just being so selfless right now,” Clarfield said. In their experience, feeding an entire unit at one hospital amounts to approximately $250. 

The club is also looking into making a different sort of donation to Keck Hospital of USC. Since the hospital does not accept food donations, Clarfield said club members are decorating stickers with positive messages for the healthcare workers. 

When asked how long the club would continue its deliveries, Loftus said, “We’re more than happy to continue as long as we can” with the donations to do so.

Anyone interested in supporting the club via monetary donations can do so at gofundme.com/f/serving-smiles-operation-smile or on the Venmo app to @Sarah-Ryan-47. Local restaurants interested in supporting the club can reach out to Loftus at katieloftus00@gmail.com.

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