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Nonprofit also aims to raise ‘unrestricted’ funds for initiatives not covered by government contracts

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Courtesy The Guidance Center
During last year’s Sunset Sip event, Amber, a former client of The Guidance Center, shares how the organization’s services have helped her build a brighter future for her family. (To protect clients’ privacy, the organization does not release last names of individuals it has served.)

When attendees at the 7th annual Sunset Sip— the annual fundraiser for The Guidance Center— partake in the event’s festivities this year, they’ll be asked to nurture their “inner child.”

That idea is the theme of the fundraiser, and organizers are hoping it will help the community gain a better understanding of what it takes to foster the mental health of children and their families.

In a phone interview with the Signal Tribune this week, Patricia Costales, LCSW, chief executive officer for The Guidance Center, explained how the Sunset Sip event helps the nonprofit financially but also in terms of fostering awareness.

“One of our core objectives is to erase stigma around mental health and mental illness and get people talking about it more,” Costales said. “So, we think to have this event every year where we really, truly are highlighting mental-health and survival stories, and every year we have a client come and speak about their experiences and to normalize asking for mental-health care and really promote that we believe in hope and recovery and survivorhood, [that] is the message that we want out there. So, one reason for the event is that— to promote the notion of mental health as healing.”

Costales said the second purpose of the event is to raise “unrestricted” dollars through silent and live auctions, as well as other fun activities. She explained that “unrestricted” means that the organization may use the funds as it sees fit, as opposed to funding that comes from sources such as the Department of Mental Health or foundations’ grants, which must be spent according to particular guidelines based on contracts.

“So, it is also a fundraiser for us to bring unrestricted support that lets us have a little more flexibility in terms of the kinds of things we’re able to do,” she said.

Costales elaborated on the difference between the unrestricted funding provided by the Sunset Sip event and contracted funds.

“Most of the funding that we get is highly restrictive in terms of how you’re allowed to use it, and that’s fine, because that’s our core support,” she said. “Speaking to our contract with the Department of Mental Health, for example, that is who we are. That is core to what we do. It allows us to provide very intensive mental-health services to families who really need it, who are really struggling. But it’s very prescriptive in terms of how we can use it. So, if we have other initiatives that we want to do, that also support our mission, that we think are very important to mental health, those [restricted] dollars wouldn’t support those.”

As an example, Costales cited The Guidance Center’s It’s About T.I.M.E. (Trauma-Informed Movement in Education), a training program on the trauma-informed approach based on ChildTrauma Academy’s Neurosequential Model in Education. The program builds on the foundation created by established support systems within Long Beach Unified School District schools and brings the trauma-informed approach to educators through formal training at the beginning of the school year and onsite support throughout the year. The approach studies how children’s behavior, brain development and functioning, and traumatic experiences are all connected, to provide educators with a different lens in which to see and respond to challenging behaviors in ways that promote healing. Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, clinical therapist at The Guidance Center, developed the program.

Costales said another program for which The Guidance Center has to find additional funding is the therapists who are stationed at Miller Children’s Hospital.

“Again, that’s not covered by our government contracts, so we have to seek funding for that,” she said. “So, it lets us be more nimble and available in the community and do other sorts of services that we wouldn’t be able to do if we were only dependent on the Department of Mental Health.”

This year’s theme, “Nurture your inner child,” invites guests to explore the healing power of play through interactive play therapy experiences during the event. Costales explained how that theme connects to the community’s needs.

“As an organization, we really have— particularly the last couple of years— been focusing on trauma and recovery and trauma-informed neighborhoods and trauma-informed schools. We did the documentary about trauma and how we can all nurture each other— really along the lines of [how] we all have some ownership in the kinds of communities and neighborhoods we create. I think part of that is you have to take care of yourself as well. So, a lot of the tools we might use in therapy to help someone feel calmer or more emotionally regulated are the play-therapy tools we use with our clients. You can use it yourself as well— you don’t need to be a therapist. They’re actually very meditative and nurturing.”

Costales added that The Guidance Center’s staff also uses such self-care tools, as they are exposed to various traumatic situations in their work.

Those interested in getting some first-hand experience with those tools, as well as helping the nonprofit fund its various programs, can do so at the 7th annual Sunset Sip on Saturday, Nov. 11 from 6:30pm to 10pm at Hotel Maya, 700 Queensway Dr. The evening will feature wine tasting, heavy appetizers from Hotel Maya chefs, guest speakers, and a silent and live auction. Special guests will include Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, a former Guidance Center client and Swaringen. Tickets start at $100. Sponsorships are available, starting at $500. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call (562) 485-2551.

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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
Nonprofit also aims to raise ‘unrestricted’ funds for initiatives not covered by government contracts