A community’s outlet to change lives

German Delgado saw the potential in a beautiful field.

When the local Providence Little Company of Mary Wellness and Activity Center officially opened its doors in Wilmington, California, Delgado saw an opportunity to serve his community. A lifelong soccer fan and former Division 1 athlete, Delgado decided to raise his hand and start volunteering at the center to coach kids' soccer.

Wilmington is a low-income neighborhood near the Los Angeles ports. Providence operates two nearby hospitals (Little Company of Mary Medical Centers, San Pedro and Torrance) and designed the community center to provide a high-needs area with free services.

“There’s a lot of potential in the community, but there’s no outlet. I wanted to build a program, coach, teach,” said Delgado.

In this low-income area, community needs abound. A study showed that access to health care, the management of chronic diseases, mental health, and other major needs were going unmet, so the community center was opened as a way of helping out. Classes were developed based on these issues and many others.

And community members — like Delgado — have stepped up to help as well.

“It’s been neat to see the center be used in that manner, knowing how the neighborhood is, and there’s not always safe places to play,” said Justin Joe, Director of Community Health at Providence Little Company of Mary. Delgado’s soccer teams “build a sense of community and provide ways for kids to stay healthy.”

The center is thriving and saw 10,000 visits last year. Part of the magic of the center is the variety of programs offered, like nutrition classes, guitar lessons, and even Aztec dancing.

The center also partners with community schools to bring its mission into the classroom. Working alongside teachers, instructors from the center show how to incorporate physical activity into kid’s days. The program, Create Opportunities for Physical Activity (COPA), worked alongside 240 teachers and served 6,480 students this past school year.

Delgado, a lifelong Wilmington resident, sees the need for these programs that get kids outside and moving. Bad diets and obesity are a problem, he said, and the majority of the people in the community are overweight.

While the center was started to address health issues, Providence has been able to create a place that addresses all aspects of wellness, in a way that reflects the social network of its community. The hard work has paid off: The center’s work was awarded Providence’s 2016 Mission Leadership award. “The award shows that in order to make long term impact, we have to address social issues as well,” said Joe.

At the end of the day, the work done is incredibly important, and difficult. “It’s a big burden, a big task, to build a healthier community,” said Joe. “That’s why it takes the teamwork of Providence, its community partners, and the neighborhood itself to create a successful program.”

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