To learn about Lighthouse Counseling and Family Resource Center, their amazing community services and how they are faring during these turbulent times, we recently spoke with Gary McDonald, Executive Director.
LCF: Can you give us a little history about Lighthouse?
Gary: Our mission is to help individuals and families heal by providing counseling, educational classes and easy access to resources. We were founded in 1996 under the auspices of the Western Unified School District. We were founded to help kids with emotional and psychological issues. As Lincoln was getting larger, in 2005 we decided to break away and help folks outside the school district. So at that point we became a 501(c)(3) non-profit which allowed us to gradually expand our services to all of Placer County. We recently opened up an office in Roseville. Today we serve up to 3,000 people a year from all over Placer County.
We are very proud of our excellent reputation for providing quality services to individuals and families in need. In fact, for 8 out of the past 15 years, Lighthouse has been awarded Non Profit of the Year and we’ve received numerous other community awards.
LCF: What are your core services in a nutshell?
Gary: We’re pretty much a one-stop shop – if there’s something we don’t do, we will then refer folks to other agencies. Our many programs can be broken down into four distinct areas: Counseling, Therapeutic Group Classes, Educational Classes and our Family Resource Center.
We offer counseling to folks who have experienced trauma and include Anxiety & Depression, Trauma, Post-partum depression, Victims of Crime Counseling, Couples Counseling and Grief Counseling.
Folks can avail themselves of all types of therapeutic classes dealing with anxiety, depression and wellness such as Road to Wellness, Managing Your Emotions and Women’s Empowerment, which help pre-teens, teenagers and adults alike.
We have several classes for parents – Family Wellness, Parent Education and even Co-Parenting. Here, our counselors help parents better understand their teenagers or adolescents and we try to help them prepare to raise a family successfully.
When folks come in who do not have a job, our Employment Readiness classes help in all facets of the job search. We prep them for an interview, give mock interviews and help with resumes and cover letters. After folks finish our classes, we refer them to job services and we also keep an active list of companies we know are actively hiring like Gladding McBean, Rogers Family Coffee, Walmart, etc. We also refer them to the temporary placement companies, so if they can’t get a job right away, they can at least be working temporarily. Often times the company they’re working for will hire them permanently after a few months. So it works out very well.
We also offer a Financial Management class – generally folks start with us, then we partner with one of the banks for further instruction regarding setting up good financial habits. We know folks are struggling financially, so we help them with their budgeting, balancing the checkbook, then onto the bank for starting a savings account and more instruction.
We also have a Family Resource Center where we help people find all types of resources. If folks don’t have insurance, we’ll help them sign up for Medi-Cal, if they’re low income and don’t have enough food, we’ll sign them up with Cal Fresh. We are also part of the National Diaper Bank.
See our List of Services Website page for all of the excellent services we provide.
LCF: What don’t you do?
Gary: We do not do drug and alcohol rehabilitation. If folks need help in this area, we generally refer them to Granite Wellness and other partners. When folks are off the drugs/alcohol, then they can come back here and we can figure out how and why they got there in the first place.
We are not a domestic violence shelter. If there’s active domestic violence and somebody is in harm’s way, we refer them to Stand Up Placer. However, if it’s post domestic violence, and they’re suffering from the trauma of previous domestic violence, then we can help them here.
LCF: Tell us a little bit about your staff.
Gary: Our staff are all licensed counselors and associate counselors (have their degree from college and their Master’s degree, but don’t have their 3,000 certified hours before they get their license.) So what they do is graduate from college, then apply with us. They work under our clinical director’s supervision here while they obtain their Masters and get experience.
We’re very proud of our business model. Everybody who works here does multiple jobs and is back-trained in other areas. This redundancy helps our operations run smoothly as we cover employee vacations and personal days off.
LCF: How to you fundraise mainly?
Gary: Funding mechanisms that help us provide our services are our Medi-Cal certification for health care services and we also accept and can bill for most major insurances: Blue Shield, Aetna, Health-Net, and many others. We also accept EAP (Employee Assistance Program), Victims of Crime funding (for families who are suffering trauma because of a crime) – even the witnesses and other family members can get help through this funding.
We do have a lot of corporate sponsors. A lot of them donate to our Celebrity Waiter Luncheon – a fundraising event we usually host each year. The celebrities entertain the tables and folks play games with them while dining. Past celebrities have included Kevin Kiley, Ted & Beth Gaines, Ryan Ronco (Register of Elections), lots of important folks in Placer County come out and it’s a whole lot of fun!
Other sources of funding include First Five (Tobacco Tax) which is designated to help children from 0 to 5 years old; the Mental Health Services Act (the 1% tax on people who make over 1 Million dollars a year) that provides funds for the County mental healthcare fund which we apply for.
We try to get funding wherever we can. The listing on our Corporate Sponsors page shows businesses that have given us grants.
We are very proud of the fact that for every dollar we raise, 96 cents goes to our programs, 2 cents goes to administration and the other 2 cents goes to fundraising (the average non-profit is at 80-85 cents on the dollar for programs). So we’re the most efficient non-profit for our size in the United States!
LCF: Do folks need insurance to take advantage of your programs?
Gary: If folks live outside of Placer County, we can accept folks with Medi-Cal or insurance, so we’re not locked into Placer County. If they’re in Placer County, all of our services are free unless they have Medi-Cal or insurance in which there might be a small co-pay.
LCF: How have the Lincoln Community Foundation grants helped Lighthouse this year?
Gary: Your funding has helped Lighthouse service our community, especially now during Covid – families who have dealt with incredible loss have come to Lighthouse for grief counseling and for other resources. People have lost jobs, their sole source of income, even loss of home – there’s a huge wave of mental health needs right now and it’s getting worse unfortunately.
Families come to us and they may not have money for bus passes, food, diapers, etc. We can also provide free infant booster and car seats. With your patronage and other kind donations, we can help with gift cards for food & clothing and even sometimes with rent assistance.
We help new mothers with whatever they need to get started. What we don’t have directly, we’ll refer to our partners. When people come in and they’re desperate, we give them hope.