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Homeless outreach workers Tiffany Stewart, Scott Edens, Gabriel Graham

By Emily Sawicki / Managing Editor

For as long as it has been a city—and for many years before that—Malibu has been home for all sorts of people, from artists and visionaries to entrepreneurs and attorneys, plus homemakers, beach bums, athletes, moguls, the list goes on. Among those have been scores of unhoused people who have made their homes here, many of whom are in need of services, support and guidance to get them off the street and into homes they can call their own. 

Helping in that mission are three homeless outreach workers: Tiffany Stewart and Scott Edens of the nonprofit The People Concern and Gabriel Graham of the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments. 

Stewart, Edens and Graham “clearly understand the importance of connecting with people on the streets and seeing each one of them as having value, treating them with respect and beginning the long process of building trust,” according to their nomination. The three faced “rumors and fear” amid the pandemic, with frequent rule changes and ever-dizzying bureaucracy, personal protective equipment running short and cases spiking, but “through it all Tiffany, Scott and Gabriel persisted.”

Their work takes them deep into Malibu’s terrain to find the people sheltering there and help them connect to services. 

“They hiked up canyons, gave out masks and printed and verbal information about how to keep safe and register for housing assistance,” their nomination stated. “They gave out bottles of water, connected people with the medical team from Venice Family Clinic that serves Malibu’s homeless every week. They helped clients apply for COVID Relief Stimulus Funds, register for a permanent address through the local post office or their own People Concern. They brought into Malibu the LA County testing team for free on-the-street COVID testing every week.” They also helped facilitate COVID-19 vaccinations that occurred a few weeks ago.

 

Public Service Dolphins—Christi Hogin, Craig Sap, Rick Mullen, Jefferson ‘Zuma Jay’ Wagner

By Emily Sawicki / Managing Editor

Each year, the Malibu Dolphin Charitable Foundation recognizes those who work in and around the city, recognizing the work of public servants and elected officials upon exiting their offices. This year, former Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin, former California State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap and former City Council Member and Mayor Rick Mullen are recognized with Dolphin Awards. Former City Council Member and Mayor Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner will be recognized with a certificate, having earned an award in 2012.

 

Christi Hogin

Hogin’s lengthy career with the city included three decades as city attorney, along with a short stint as city manager. While reflecting on her experience in a Malibu Times interview in late 2020, Hogin said the early years for the city were very contentious, as Malibu fought to enact the ideals for which it was founded.

“I’ve had as many as 17 open land use cases at one time,” Hogin said. “I mean, there was a point in the late ’90s, early 2000s, where there were just a lot of challenges to find out whether or not the city was going to defend its land use decisions, and we did defend them successfully.” 

That success, she said, was part of why the number of cases is now so low. 

“We have kind of created a more credible reputation for dealing with the laws that we have to deal with, and I think that now, [state and regional] agencies—and certainly the courts—see Malibu in a much more mature light than in the very beginning when we kind of came on the scene as an angry upstart,” the attorney said. 

 

Craig Sap

The stewardship over Malibu’s mountains and beaches resides mostly within agencies outside the purview of the city itself, including the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks). Malibu Creek State Park, Point Dume State Beach, Malibu Lagoon and Adamson House, Malibu Pier, Leo Carrillo, El Matador—all these and more fall under the responsibility of the parks department, which for the past decade has been led locally by Sap. 

In his time as Angeles District superintendent, Sap advocated to receive state budget funds for plenty of projects in the Malibu area. He oversaw the Malibu Lagoon overhaul, which is considered a biological success for local species of birds and other wildlife. The rusted-out stairs leading down to Big Dume Beach are currently being replaced as part of a State Parks project and Malibu Pier’s piling replacement in 2018 was also completed under Sap’s watch. Care and upkeep of El Matador, including additional parking spaces and trash cans, was undertaken as well. 

“I have a special place in my heart for Malibu. My kid went to OLM and my post office box was there, and I was part of the community, as far as I was concerned,” he said, speaking to TMT upon his retirement in 2020. “I had to live in the community with people and still have good relations with them, and not take criticism personally.”

 

Rick Mullen

Serving as a city council member from 2016-20 was the latest in a lifetime of public service undertaken by Mullen, a former U.S. Marine and current LA County Fire captain who also sat on the board of the Ramirez Canyon Preservation Fund homeowner group while it was undergoing a legal battle with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA). The Ramirez Canyon homeowners were successful in their bid to have the MRCA cease holding weddings and other large events at the property in their neighborhood, and Mullen was successful a short time later in being elected to a seat on city council.

In his time on council, Mullen focused his energy on preserving Malibu, turning council’s attention time and again to the mission and vision statements of the city—to preserve its rural character. To that end, Mullen and other council members in those years secured the purchase of several large parcels of land for the city to preserve it from further development. Mullen, who publicly supported Measure R, helped to craft its replacement, restricting chain stores and large developments citywide. 

During the Woolsey Fire, Mullen worked with his crew from Fire Station 72 in Decker Canyon to save homes as well as help evacuate and protect Campus Kilpatrick. In the days and weeks following the fire, Mullen did countless interviews and provided updates to the public on behalf of the city. Since then, council has worked tirelessly to advocate for those rebuilding, including waiving fees and negotiating with the county to streamline the process for the hundreds of residents who lost homes.

 

Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner

Wagner, who earned a Dolphin Award for his work within the city in 2012, served four more years on council from 2016-20, for a total of eight years leading the city. In his second stint on council, he, like Mullen, helped to facilitate the purchase of land parcels for the city, among other accomplishments. Wagner will receive a certificate of appreciation for his continued work supporting the residents of Malibu.

 

Siugen Constanza 

By Judy Abel / Special to The Malibu Times 

For nearly a quarter of a century, Siugen (pronounced “See-you-when”) Constanza has been an invaluable part of Malibu High School and the entire community. Starting as the bilingual liaison at MHS, she was instrumental in establishing effective communication between home and school while improving community outreach and training opportunities for non-native English-speaking parents and families of students. Her work has helped improve academic performance of English language learners.

Over the years, Constanza has become so much more, often working behind the scenes personally keeping in touch with families and being on call 24/7 to anyone in need of assistance.

As director of community affairs & outreach for the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu, Constanza played a major role initiating the Woolsey Emergency Relief effort. She spent countless hours helping families in need by coordinating volunteers, donations of goods and services and counseling. During the pandemic,

 the tireless community worker stepped up again organizing a food pantry for seniors and at-risk families. But, beyond making executive decisions, Constanza is in the community hands-on, personally making food deliveries.

During her years of service, Constanza has worn many hats and served on many boards and committees at MHS including running AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) to help at-risk students prepare for college.

According to those who nominated her, “If anyone ever has embodied the spirit of the Dolphin Awards it is Siugen Constanza. She is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met and is a trusted and reliable community leader, collaborator, mentor and friend to all. She has had a profound impact on the Malibu community.”

 

Michael Smith

By Judy Abel / Special to The Malibu Times 

Michael Smith, principal at Our Lady of Malibu School, is described in a Dolphin nomination letter as the “Gem of our school.” Smith came to Our Lady of Malibu 10 years ago and invigorated the educational experience for hundreds of students and their families. With more than four decades of experience as a public educator, Smith gets involved “on all levels of education.”

In Dolphin nomination letters describing the educator’s excellence in building community, especially after The Woolsey Fire ripped through the area affecting so many families, one person wrote, “In his 10 years at OLM, Michael has built deep relationships within our community and developed a rigorous academic program for all grades (K-8) including a TK program which he introduced in 2019-2020.

“Michael is the beacon that guided us through the Woolsey Fire, opening up the school as quickly as possible and extending help to any family in need of comfort, faith and support,” the nomination continued. “With the determination, dedication and unwavering leadership of Mr. Smith through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Our Lady of Malibu has been able to resume in person classes since September 2020. Thanks to Michael, OLM has over 100 enrolled students and continues to thrive.”

 

Didier Beauvoir

By Judy Abel / Special to The Malibu Times 

“There are two types of teachers in the world: those who teach as their job and those who teach because that is just who they are. Being a teacher is not what Mr. Beauvoir does—it is who he is and he has been teaching our kids far more than mathematics, algebra and geometry. How about pride, self-confidence, responsibility, assertiveness, respect, teamwork, problem solving (not just the math kind), and citizenry? Yup to everyone.”  This is the glowing praise for Dolphin Award winner Didier Beauvoir provided in a nomination letter. 

Many know Beauvoir as a math teacher at Malibu Middle School. He’s been the math 8, algebra honors and geometry honors teacher there for years. Hundreds of Malibu youngsters have been under his tutelage.

During this past difficult year of distance learning, Beauvoir is engaging his students online with compassion to the kids’ stay-at-home plight and earning praise for his accomplishments of balancing the rigors of math with the stress of remote education.

Originally from Haiti, Beauvoir speaks fluent French. He recently answered a parent’s email compliment in French. Translated, the response said, “Thanks for the compliment. I wish to treat my students like my children.”

In a nomination letter the writer posed, “What parent could ask for more?” 

“Our kids are learning far more in his class this year than in all of their other classes,” the letter added.

And, although unrelated to math, Beauvoir also teaches kids about his benevolence to fauna. He fosters rescued rabbits and finds them new homes.

 

Jodi Plaia

By Jimy Tallal / Special to The Malibu Times

Jodi Plaia, theater arts director at Malibu High School (MHS) for nearly 20 years, has produced and directed more than 45 plays during that time. In the process, her nomination states that she “increased the self-confidence and teased out better-than-the-best performances from hundreds of students as actors, stagehands, musical backup, costume and wardrobe specialists, PR and advertising people, and more.” 

“Jodi’s bold stewardship of MHS productions has raised the social awareness, civic consciousness and personal values of the Malibu community,” the nomination also said. “She chooses theatrical plays with substantive messages—no matter how difficult or challenging—covering a significant range of content, themes and social issues: diversity, aging, politics, civil rights, discrimination, LBGTQ rights, high crimes and misdemeanors, and prejudice.” 

Jodi has done it all, the nomination detailed, “while leading a never-ending battle to sustain and grow Malibu’s Theater Arts Program while facing pervasive budget cuts, facility challenges, PCB remediation and local wildfires, in spite of the Malibu imprimatur as a very wealthy community of entertainment legends.”

This past December, Plaia made the switch to a virtual theater production, directing the unique play “She Kills Monsters.” 

“Life themes were stitched together into a virtual production that created an engaging presentation that challenged students, delighted their families, and ZOOMed a larger Malibu community into an enjoyable COVID respite,” the nomination stated. 

 

Harvey Baskin Business Award—Doug Burdge

By Jimy Tallal / Special to The Malibu Times

Well-known Malibu architect Doug Burdge (AIA and principal of Burdge & Associates Architects), earned this year’s Dolphin Award for businesses. His RE-BU initiatives as well as other initiatives and events after the Woolsey Fire helped the Malibu community recover.

The morning after the Woolsey Fire, along with local builders Nate Garnero and Justin Wixsom, Burdge rented a moving van, bought emergency supplies and all of the generators from three different Home Depots, picked up food from Walmart in Ventura and brought it all back to Malibu for those still fighting the fires. 

Burdge immediately launched the fire rebuild website RE-BU as a one-stop shop with important rebuild resources and related homeowner rebuilding information (insurance, housing, etc.).

The online platform morphed into the “RE-BU LIVE” event—a free home “rebuild fair” held at Trancas Country Market with a full slate of professional speakers on stage (architects, builders, engineers, building material vendors), dozens of vendor booths and hands-on tours of mobile homes for use as temporary or accessory dwelling units. All proceeds went to the nonprofit Malibu Foundation.

In addition, along with his wife Laura’s local home store Malibu Beach House, Burdge donated and planned a holiday donation pop-up at Trancas where vendors and local stores donated new home goods and clothing to fire victims.  

He and local architect Lester Tobias met with city officials for months after the fire to discuss detailed plans on how to expedite the rebuild process. As part of that process, Burdge researched other recent fire-stricken communities in California to find out how they successfully altered building codes and regulations for faster home rebuilds.

Burdge has continued to work with local architects, builders and community leaders to advance local zoning and building code/regulation changes with the goal of creating a textbook for future rebuilding efforts following disasters of all kinds.

 

Dr. Lisa Benya and Sean Penn

By Jimy Tallal / Special to The Malibu Times

Just over a year ago, when the pandemic first started, it was very difficult for anyone to obtain a COVID-19 test. Not even doctors or hospitals had good access. 

It was a real blessing when Malibu’s own actor/activist/philanthropist Sean Penn, founder of the global emergency nonprofit CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), used his contacts to get access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID testing. His organization began operating drive-through testing sites in various parts of LA County and he also wanted to offer the free testing  to his hometown: Malibu. 

“Penn has proven himself to be a selfless humanitarian as he organized the Haiti quake relief years ago.  Now, his mission has been right here at home and I could think of no person more worthy [than him to receive a Dolphin Award],” his nomination read. Penn was raised in Malibu, attended Malibu Park Junior High School and Samohi. 

A partnership was formed between CORE, the City of Malibu, Dr. Lisa Benya of the Malibu Medical Group and other medical personnel. Benya, with decades of experience serving the Malibu community, was lead doctor supervising the testing.  

Malibu coronavirus testing started with first responders and other at higher risk, then opened to the community at large. Testing was open to anyone, with or without symptoms. More than 5,000 Malibu residents took advantage of the free testing events held during April and May at City Hall, with 56 positive results.

“I witnessed [Dr. Benya] personally on two occasions, on her feet for hours, administering tests to endless lines of cars at City Hall,” the nomination form said. In addition, TMT reported that Benya “had not had a day off since the coronavirus crisis hit in March.”

Malibu drive-through testing stopped after tests became more widely available but resumed in early December, again with Benya, when COVID cases in California skyrocketed.

CORE administered 4.5 million tests nationwide and is continuing its pandemic efforts by working to ensure safe and equitable distribution of the vaccine.

 

Malibu Urgent Care doctors

By Samantha Bravo / Special to The Malibu Times

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Malibu Urgent Care Center has had its doors open to provide the proper care and treatment to the Malibu community. For more than a quarter-century, that center has been operated through the hard work of doctors David Frankle and Jill Furgurson. Last January, after decades with the center, Frankle hung up his stethoscope. Furgurson continues on with the center today.

From helping those in need during the Woolsey Fire in 2018 to assisting those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the nonprofit Friends of Malibu Urgent Care recognized the hard work Frankle and Furgruson and the Urgent Care team has provided their community as daily front-line workers, nominating them for awards this year.

“Their ability, as emergency room physicians, has enabled our community and visitors the opportunity to be treated for everything from finger amputations to the common cold,” Helene Eisenburg wrote in an email to The Malibu Times, nominating Dr. David Frankle and Dr. Jill Furgurson for this year’s Citizens of the Year Dolphin Awards.

For over 25 years, The Malibu Urgent Care center has continued to mend and heal the health of Malibu residents, Eisenburg added.

 

Youth Dolphins—Linda Morazan, Jaz Abbey, Drake Dejute-Erickson

By Samantha Bravo / Special to The Malibu Times

Each year, the Dolphin Charitable Foundation recognizes local young people who give back to the Malibu community. This year’s youth dolphins are Linda Morazan, Jaz Abbey and Drake Dejute-Erickson. All three were nominated through the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM).

 

Linda Morazan

Morazan dreams of becoming an immigration lawyer. She has already made strides towards that goal by volunteering alongside a local lawyer. Currently serving as the junior class BGCM president, Morazan holds the honor of being the BGCM Youth of the Year for both 2020 and 2021. 

Morazan has recently taken on a leadership role with the BGCM as an advocate for mental health and has accepted a paid internship mentoring younger peers this spring. Morazan participates and serves as a leader in Malibu’s teen programs such as Brent’s Club & Leaders in Training, and values living a healthy lifestyle and contributing to the community.

“Even throughout the pandemic, Linda continues to be a core leader,” BGCM Executive Director Kasey Earnest wrote in an email to The Malibu Times. “Linda is an exemplary student, model citizen, BGCM leader and role model for others.”

Even in a distance-learning environment, Morazan creates a memorable and fulfilling social and academic experience for her classmates, Earnest added.

 

Jaz Abbey

Whether she is volunteering to care for rescue animals or building a flower bed in Hawaii, Malibu High School junior Jaz Abbey isn’t afraid of stepping out of her comfort zone and getting down in the dirt. Abbey has spent dozens of hours volunteering with the BGCM, Big Heart Ranch Malibu and other local organizations.

Prior to the pandemic, Abbey traveled to Hawaii to help build a community garden at a Boys & Girls Club in Oahu. 

“Abbey is a shining example for children, her peers and adults alike,” Earnest wrote in an email to The Malibu Times. “She has a generous spirit and has spent much of her time helping young kids with their homework and being a positive role model for them.”

During the pandemic, Abbey organized an outdoors, socially distanced program for children to spend time with animals and work on art projects together at Big Heart Ranch. Abbey is also the leader of the tennis team and has continued to stay involved in service activities with the club.

Apart from her service, Abbey has written thank you letters to frontline workers and helped reduce environmental impact by campaigning for reduced water use and recycling, Earnest added.

 

Drake Dejute-Erickson

Current Malibu High School junior Drake Dejute-Erickson is known as one of the most influential BGCM members. Erickson has taken on a leadership role at BGCM and makes an effort to mentor his younger peers.

“Drake has been committed to serving his community through BGCM since 2018 and was selected as a Youth of the Year candidate for his outstanding leadership,” Earnest wrote.

Earnest said Erickson participates in programs such as Leaders in Training (LIT) and Brent’s Club as a mentor and was chosen to participate in a LIT service trip in Hawaii.

During his time in Hawaii, Erickson helped rebuild the local Boys & Girls Club’s backyard and community garden and formed strong relationships with his peers.

During the pandemic, Erickson has participated in teen advocacy initiatives with CA Senator Henry Stern. Erickson advocates for mental health resources, policies within education and has become a leader within the BGCM as well as his community.

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