The international pandemic has hit the communities surrounding USC’s campuses hard. Food and housing insecurity and the digital divide are among the issues affecting the university’s neighbors.
At the onset of the pandemic, USC’s Good Neighbors Campaign pivoted and allowed programs serving the local community to apply for much-needed COVID-19 relief through campaign-funded grants. It was an unprecedented action for an unprecedented time. Now, the campaign will distribute over $1.3 million in grants to local nonprofits and community programs helping in the fight against these issues.
In its 26th year, the faculty and staff-driven Good Neighbors Campaign will continue to pivot and take its fall campaign online. It will continue to support educational partnerships, economic development, health, public safety and now COVID-19 relief programs.
“Even before COVID, students were facing housing and food insecurity,” said Melissa Macedo, program manager for the student-run nonprofit Rise. The program has partnered with the university’s Department of Student Basic Needs and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work to provide resources to college students dealing with homelessness and housing insecurity. The grant they received from the campaign will allow them to hire five USC student navigators.
“Nearly 3 in 5 of the students we assist are experiencing basic needs insecurity, and 15% are experiencing homelessness due to COVID,” Macedo said.
The student navigators will serve as case managers and provide counseling and access to resources on an ongoing basis. The program will help students find much-needed resources, from food to laptops for college students in need.
Funds from the Good Neighbors Campaign will support others who’ve been hit hard by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants are providing relief to the 13 small businesses at Mercado La Paloma, located near USC’s University Park Campus. The grants are also helping local youth with internet access and mental health resources through the Boys & Girls Club of Ramona Gardens. The club has distributed Wi-Fi hot spots to children engaging in remote learning and offers counseling services for youth residents.
Their resources are also supporting the fight against food insecurity, as the Variety Boys & Girls Club has been distributing “grab and go” meals and activity kits throughout the summer and will continue to do so as the pandemic persists.
“Good Neighbors embodies USC’s commitment to supporting and strengthening our communities, especially at this critical moment,” said Samuel Garrison, interim senior vice president for university relations.
“Whether it’s supporting a child on their pathway to college, creating a network of urban growers to share their locally grown food with their neighbors, or providing yoga lessons to help young people overcome the stresses of distance learning, the dozens of programs funded by Good Neighbors are making a positive impact every single day.”
To donate to the Good Neighbors Campaign and support these and other community initiatives, visit the campaign website.