With classes, extra-curricular activities, and final exams, third-year law student Frank Gatto and second-year Al Sturgeon have plenty to keep them busy. But the two make time on the first two Saturdays of each month to organize and assemble sack lunches for workers at the Malibu Community Labor Exchange (MCLE). The lunches are a valuable service for the laborers, who are often provided lunch by their employers and are less likely to be hired on Saturdays then they are during the week.
Together with 17 to 25 volunteers, Gatto and Sturgeon make approximately 50 sack lunches and 100 sandwiches before a smaller group delivers them. The completely student-run initiative, which began in May 2007, is funded by the School of Law and the campus church. Gatto and Sturgeon took over after Ricky Steelman (JD '09), the original organizer, graduated.
"It provides a sense of community, and people are so appreciative of the help," explains Gatto. "It's a reminder that there are all sorts of walls that separate us," adds Sturgeon, who is a former pastor. It's also a good way to get to know new people, both the workers at the MCLE and the volunteers who keep things light when putting the lunches together, he says.
"You meet people that you wouldn't meet otherwise. Everyone down there is so amazing," says Gatto, who went on to explain that most of the available workers at the MCLE are working hard, but don't have regular employment.
Director of the MCLE, Oscar Mondragon, says the help is "always welcome" and that the student's donation of time and energy has a "direct impact" on the non-profit organization and the workers who come from Malibu, Santa Monica, and other surrounding Los Angeles areas.