Assemblymember Gregg Hart selected CALM as nonprofit of the year for its work on healing and preventing family trauma

Photo courtesy of Gregg Hart’s Office
SACRAMENTO CELEBRATION: CALM President and CEO Alana Walczak (left) traveled to Sacramento to receive the 2024 California nonprofit of the year award from Assemblymember Gregg Hart, right (D-Santa Barbara).

CALM President and CEO Alana Walczak traveled to Sacramento in May to receive the 2024 California Nonprofit of the Year award from Assemblymember Gregg Hart (D-Santa Barbara) in recognition of the organization’s work throughout Santa Barbara County. 

“It was a huge surprise for our CEO Alana Walczak to get the call from Hart that we were his choice [for] nonprofit of the year,” CALM Director of Development Ashlyn McCague told the Sun

Hart represents Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Buellton, Solvang, Lompoc, Guadalupe, Santa Maria, Orcutt, and Nipomo, and CALM was one out of nearly 200,000 nonprofits in the state recognized, she said. While in Sacramento, Walczak got to spend time with the Assembly member and learned about and from other nonprofits in the state. 

“Each Assembly member and senator chooses an organization in their district. Hart selected CALM, which felt so incredible—just an honor that he saw our work as foundational to the community and making a big impact,” she said. 

CALM is a community-based mental health agency that works to prevent childhood trauma, heal children and families, and build resilient communities throughout the county through two prongs: prevention and treatment, McCague said. 

According to a statement from Hart’s office, the organization serves about 2,500 clients annually. 

On the heels of Hart’s award, the nonprofit is looking forward to expanding its services in North County with nine new therapy rooms to see clients and additional staff office space, she said. 

“This is a big increase for us to be able to further serve the community. We’ll be having an open house in September, and we’ll get the word out a little later to invite the community to our expanded office,” McCague said. 

On the prevention side, CALM will screen families for signs of trauma and use referrals from hospitals or doctors to identify clients that could use more support, she said. The organization also identifies families that could use additional support and works with parents and caregivers before the child is born (or at a young age) to help them understand milestones in a child’s development and how to build a strong healthy bond with their child. 

“We know that you can break the cycle of trauma at any point, but it has to be identified. Trauma in your background leads to you repeating patterns unless you learn different skills—not parenting the way you were parented,” McCague said.

On the treatment side of the organization’s practice, CALM’s trained marriage and family therapists help kids ages 8 to 21 build coping skills and teach them to tell their story and relieve any shame or blame they feel with it, she said. Clinical social workers or mental health specialists without a master’s degree in therapy do more work with the parents and/or caregivers by connecting them to additional resources and walking them through milestones. 

“Treatment is for children, but you cannot serve a child in a vacuum. You have to think about their environment and those around them, so we work with the parents when possible, but the weekly therapy sessions are for children,” McCague said. “I think the age span makes CALM unique, I know organizations that do a subset of either of those things, but we focus on this large continuum of care and really meeting needs at every age.” 

Having a wide age span allows children to have consistency and work with a familiar face for a longer time. Families are also welcome to come back if additional services are needed or if children need more treatment, and services are offered on a sliding scale.

Visit calm4kids.org for more information about its services. 

Highlights 

• The Santa Maria Valley Pioneer Association will be hosting its 100th annual picnic in Pioneer Park on July 13 at 1 p.m. The association honors the descendants of homesteaders in Santa Maria. Families can join the association for $20 if they’ve been in the community for more than 40 years or $30 if they’ve lived in Santa Maria for less time. The annual tradition started in 1924 with families celebrating 11 miles east of Santa Maria, now known as Twitchell Dam, and Union Oil Hill for decades after that. In the late 1990s, two association leaders spearheaded the Pioneer Park Project, where the celebration continues. Visit smvpioneerassociation.com for more information. 

• The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department and the People for Leisure and Youth (PLAY) Inc. announced Summer Concerts in the Park—a free, fun, family-friendly concert series held throughout the summer. Performances are from 1 to 3 p.m. on select Sunday afternoons at Pioneer Park (1150 W. Foster Road); Rotary Centennial Park (2628 South College Drive); and Acquistapace Park (1921 S. Western Ave.—adjacent to Jimenez Elementary School). At Pioneer Park, catch Mestizo on July 14; Centennial Park will host Ghost Monster on July 21, Unfinished Business on July 28, and The Brass Factory on Aug. 4. Acquistapace Park will have Way Out West performing on Aug. 11, Shop Rock on Aug. 18, and Mother Corn Shuckers on Aug. 25. For more information, call (805) 925-0951, Ext. 2260.

Reach Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor at [email protected].

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