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GNC surpasses fundraising goal

Teresa Laraby Teresa Lara
USC's Fit Families program provides pro bono preventive and wellness physical therapy services to underserved elementary school-aged children. (Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)
Photo: USC's Fit Families program provides pro bono preventive and wellness physical therapy services to underserved elementary school-aged children. (Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

For the 18th year in a row, the USC Good Neighbors Campaign (GNC) has surpassed its goal, raising more than $1.6 million to help strengthen local communities.

More than 5,565 Trojan faculty and staff contributed to the campaign, funding partnership programs throughout Los Angeles.

“I’m not surprised that USC’s faculty and staff exceeded this year’s goal, given the Trojan Family’s tremendous support of our community work,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “In partnering with our local neighborhoods, we build outstanding programs that benefit everyone while bringing new talent, creativity and passion to our campuses.”

Félix Gutiérrez, one of many Trojans who have been touched by the GNC since its inception in 1994, grew up in Lincoln Heights and remembers the USC medical school’s 1952 move into his neighborhood like it was yesterday.

Gutiérrez was 9 years old when his father, a teacher studying for a master’s degree at USC, hit a roadblock as he planned to take a youth group to Big Bear Lake for a camping trip. At the time, health exams were required for all students.

Remembering that the medical school had just moved across the street from General Hospital, Gutiérrez’s father contacted officials and asked if the school could perform the required medical exams — a representative said “yes” and at that moment, Gutiérrez realized the importance of helping others.

“For some kids, it was the first time they were ever seen by a doctor,” Gutiérrez said. “A few were diagnosed with medical problems they didn’t know they had. And all [still] got to go camping for a week.”

Fast forward 60 years: Gutiérrez, now a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, is among the Trojans who donate 1 percent or more of their monthly salary to support the GNC, which is overseen by USC Civic Engagement.

“I know what it is like to grow up in Lincoln Heights and dream what your future might me,” Gutiérrez said. “I give to the Good Neighbors Campaign because USC is not just a funder but a neighborhood partner to make a better community. I want to build on that legacy.”

Using funds raised by the campaign, University Neighborhood Outreach (UNO) grants are awarded to programs serving the residents of South Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.

UNO grants have funded more than 500 community programs that benefit health, music, economic development, job creation, early childhood education, college access, theater and the arts.

Community Services Unlimited Inc., one of the programs funded last year, recently released a Healthy Food Map of South Los Angeles. Developed in partnership with USC Annenberg, the map highlights socially responsible food options in the area to improve community health and encourage healthy living in Los Angeles. The map also promotes bike rides and gardening, among other activities.

“The programs funded by this campaign stand as an enduring testimony to the power of mutually beneficial partnerships that shape community,” said Thomas S. Sayles, senior vice president of University Relations, who emphasized the importance of sustainable collaborations.

For more information on making year-round contributions to the campaign, visit communities.usc.edu

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