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USC GOOD NEIGHBORS CAMPAIGN TAKES SHAPE

by Carol Tucker

Citing its commitment to improving the community, the university
this fall is launching a new independent giving campaign that
will ask staff and faculty to invest directly in efforts to help
the neighborhoods surrounding USC’s two campuses.

The new drive, dubbed the USC Good Neighbors Campaign, begins
Nov. 7 and concludes Nov. 22.

“USC is committed to improving the quality of life in our region,
and, particularly, in the neighborhoods surrounding our two
campuses,” said president Steven B. Sample. A better neighborhood
is critical to the welfare of local children and families, he
added, as well as to students who seek to get the most out of
their university experience and to the university’s long-term
stability.

“Regardless of where we live, every person who works at USC has a
tremendous stake in the surrounding community – financially and
morally,” Sample said.

Through the Good Neighbors Campaign, faculty and staff are
encouraged to pledge to USC Neighborhood Outreach, a nonprofit
corporation established last year to receive funds for USC
assistance programs through the United Way. This year,
Neighborhood Outreach will support projects and programs that are
vital to the success of the university’s neighborhood
initiatives, and it will be administered by the university, not
United Way, said Jane Pisano, director of Neighborhood Outreach
and chair of the campaign.

While United Way will still be an option on the pledge card,
giving to USC Neighborhood Outreach will mean that 100 percent of
an employee’s donation will go to enhancing the quality of life
in neighborhoods surrounding the University Park and the Health
Sciences campuses, said Pisano, who is vice president for
external relations.

“Change is coming. We can no longer depend on corporate
philanthropy or government to ‘fix’ our neighborhoods,” Pisano
said. “The volunteers of the USC Good Neighbors Campaign ask that
you demonstrate your commitment to improving the areas
surrounding our campuses by earmarking your pledge for USC
Neighborhood Outreach.”

Gifts to Neighborhood Outreach will support neighborhood schools,
services to families in need, community policing and public
safety and economic development in the community.

Through the program, the university hopes to raise funds to
support its initiatives in improving its neighborhoods. These
initiatives include:

* providing special educational, cultural and developmental
opportunities for children;

* working with neighbors, city and county officials and the Los
Angeles Police Department to provide safer streets;

* encouraging more USC employees to own and occupy housing in
the vicinity;

* and encouraging more entrepreneurs, especially minorities, to
establish businesses in the immediate vicinity.

Since USC established Neighborhood Outreach a year ago, the
process of channeling donations to various university-sponsored
outreach programs has been further refined. Rather than
pre-selecting specific projects to receive the funds, the
university has established the Neighborhood Outreach Grants
Committee, which will decide how funds are to be allocated to one
or more community projects.

“This way, the donations raised will make the greatest impact,
rather than be spread thin among too many competing projects,”
Pisano said.

Numerous existing projects are potential grant recipients. They
include, but are not limited to:

* The Neighborhood Resource Center, a one-stop information and
referral center for social, educational and health services for
individuals, families and community organizations run by USC and
other agencies (see adjacent article);

* The Business Assistance Center, which provides technical
training to entrepreneurs who want to start or expand their
businesses;

* Habitat for Humanity, which works in partnership with USC to
build and rehabilitate homes in the neighborhood with the help of
future homeowners;

* Programs that strengthen area public and private schools and
educational opportunities, including the new LAUSD/USC Math,
Science and Technology Magnet High School, the Bravo Medical
Magnet School and the Neighborhood Academic Initiative; and

* Community policing initiatives, in which the LAPD and
neighborhood partners join to make the areas around both USC
campuses safe.

The grants committee will announce in January requests for
proposals for community projects or programs seeking funding. The
proposals will be due in mid-March. Pisano said grants will be
awarded based on the projects’ impact on the community, its
cost-effectiveness, level of volunteer involvement and support of
USC-community partnerships.

Last year’s USC-United Way Campaign raised $150,792 from 998
employees, a 27 percent increase – or about $25,000 – over the
best previous drive, officials said. Approximately 24 percent of
the employees designated recipients, with about $31,000 being
designated to Neighborhood Outreach.

In the Good Neighbors Campaign, university officials are urging
each department and school to set a 100 percent participation
goal.

“As the largest private employer in the city of Los Angeles, we
have an opportunity – through sheer number of donors – to make a
dramatic impact on the quality of life in this city,” Pisano
said.

On their pledge cards, faculty and staff will have several
options for giving: USC Neighborhood Outreach; United Way of
Greater Los Angeles; or any nonprofit 501 (c) (3) agency or
program of their choice. Employees are being asked to give a
minimum gift of $24 to designate. Gifts are tax-deductible.

The easiest way to give to the campaign is through payroll
deductions. Employees can pledge a percentage of their monthly or
biweekly salary or designate a specific dollar amount. Those who
pledge 1 percent or more of their monthly salary to the campaign
will become part of the President’s Leadership Circle – a
recognition club for faculty and staff who are committed to the
idea that USC can make a difference in Los Angeles.

[Photo:] USC Neighborhood Outreach director and campaign chair Jane Pisano.