We’re All in This Together
Written by Melissa Bean Sterzick
South Bay resident and Torrance Memorial Ambassador Laura McIntire has
a desire to serve her community that is both resolute and remarkable.
In addition to her support with annual giving to Torrance Memorial Ambassadors,
in 2015 she launched the Families Connected Project and South Bay Families
Connected (SBFC), an extensive resource for parents that includes education
events, online resources and school partnerships.
After many years focused primarily on raising her three children, McIntire
returned to full-time professional consulting work in 2013 by starting
her own company, LSM Communications. Her first client was the Thelma McMillen
Center, where she created content for web and print publications. That’s
where she gained deep insight into addiction, prevention and youth wellness
issues prevalent in the South Bay.
Insight led to a determination to help her community, so once her business
was on sure footing, McIntire started SBFC. “It was first piloted
at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, and its success was due
in large part to the support of parent advisors and administrators within
MBUSD,” she says.
SBFC is dedicated to helping parents navigate the tough issues that come
with raising their children and teens. At the website southbayfamiliesconnected.org,
parents can find resources for helping youth cope with issues such as
anxiety and depression, grief, social media use and bullying, as well
as preventing underage substance use.
Some of SBFC’s other offerings include workshops, speakers, a monthly
newsletter and specific initiatives to inform parents on trends like vaping
and opioid abuse.
McIntire says her research for the McMillen Center gave her serious concerns
about the health and safety of modern teens, but there was also encouragement.
Data showed widely used prevention programs like DARE, assemblies and
advertising campaigns were not very effective—especially considering
their costs. However, McIntire’s research also showed parents and
mentors have much more influence than previously reported.
If parents are the first and most successful line of defense, they need
education, support and connections. Anyone can visit SBFC’s website
or attend workshops, and SBFC has partnered with 90 schools within the
El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Palos Verdes
and Torrance school districts, as well as Rolling Hills Prep, Da Vinci
Schools, Chadwick and Martyrs.
“In my role with South Bay Families Connected, I have the privilege
of meeting with school administrators regularly, and I sit on many social-emotional
wellness committees,” she says. “It’s a privilege to
be able to support our schools in their efforts to improve student wellness.”
She continues, “If you read the national headlines, this is a hard
time to be a teen. Both national data and self-reporting surveys of students
at our South Bay schools confirm kids’ levels of anxiety and suicidal
ideation are on the rise, and vaping and some types of substance use are
McIntire says the feedback she gets from parents who have found the support
they need through SBFC is her reward and inspiration. “The website
served 40,000 visitors in 2018, and we hope to serve 50,000 in 2019. Those
visitors read our blogs from other parents, attend our education events,
read our monthly newsletter, view our videos and access resources that
empower them to help their kids navigate today’s unique challenges.
Many parents find resources because a counselor at one of our partner
schools connected them with the website or an event or support group at
a time when they were feeling overwhelmed or isolated.”
In 2017, SBFC became a non profit directed by a board of dedicated community
leaders who hope to expand SBFC’s program offerings to families
throughout the South Bay. There is a long list of projects to plan and
information to provide for families in the area.
“Our hope is to expand the reach of SBFC through more school partnerships
in the South Bay and to continue to connect parents with information that
empowers them, to reduce stigma about mental health and addiction, and
to spark conversations,” McIntire says.
During the early years of her career, McIntire was director of marketing
and public relations for Cedars-Sinai’s Cancer Center. That was
the first time she created an online forum for gathering and sharing information
when she built an online resource center for cancer patients. She is pleased
the affiliation between Torrance Memorial and Cedars-Sinai combines two
organizations she respects so deeply.
“My friends, family and I have benefited from the breadth and depth
of the free education events Torrance Memorial offers residents and professionals,”
she says. “I’m a big believer in empowering people with education
and the tools they need to thrive. I became an Ambassador in 2014 primarily
because of my admiration for Torrance Memorial’s long-term commitment
to doing just that.”
In her role as a Torrance Memorial Ambassador, McIntire is part of the
committee planning the Miracle of Living at the Beach community lecture
series at Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach. She is also looking forward
to the launch of the Hunt Cancer Center.
“The convenience of having a world-class, comprehensive cancer center
in the South Bay is remarkable. I love that Ambassadors also support the
Hunt Cancer Institute. I can’t wait to see Torrance Memorial’s
vision for this true center of excellence for cancer care in the South
Bay,” she says.
In the future, McIntire has plans to expand the Families Connected project—a
scalable model—beyond the South Bay. Several schools in Los Angeles
and in other states have contacted her to inquire about implementing the
project in their communities.
McIntire and her husband, Ron, have lived in Manhattan Beach for 30 years
and have long prioritized community service. The success of McIntire’s
work is helping make the South Bay—a large area with huge diversity
in ethnicity and income levels—a place of connection, not separation.
“We see it in the headlines all the time—issues related to
screen time, anxiety, college pressure, vaping are all trending among
teens. Helping our youth navigate all of that is a challenge for parents.
But through sharing authentic stories, expert advice, resources and support,
we can make a difference in helping our youth thrive.”