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“… because we can: 50 years of making a difference”

Published Jan. 21, 2014
The Corps' Los Angeles District contributed $37,900 to the 2013 Combined Federal Campaign, exceeding 75 percent of its goal.

The Corps' Los Angeles District contributed $37,900 to the 2013 Combined Federal Campaign, exceeding 75 percent of its goal.

LOS ANGELES – Contributions to the Combined Federal Campaign make a huge difference to local charities, said representatives from Union Rescue Mission, Shriners Hospital for Children and City of Hope at a Jan. 9 event at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District Headquarters.

"Any contribution you make, no matter the size, can have an immediate impact on people in the local community," said Dan Sulzer, the District’s deputy chief of Planning Division, who coordinated the 2013 CFC campaign.

Before introducing the guest speakers, CFC regional coordinator Cynthia Vargas told attendees that the Army Corps of Engineers has been extremely supportive of the Combined Federal Campaign.

“Your interest and motivation is one of the driving forces that make CFC successful,” Vargas said. “Year after year, the donations federal employees give really do make a difference.”

Ken Taylor is a development officer for Union Rescue Mission, located about a dozen blocks from the Corps in an area of downtown Los Angeles known as Skid Row. Its mission since its founding in 1891 has been “providing safe beds, hot meals and more to people experiencing homelessness.”

“I want to tell you a little about the impact of your gifts on our learning center,” Taylor said. He described the Mission’s Life Transformation Program that focuses on “helping men overcome the addictions and other issues that have devastated their lives.”

“Our participants experience things that bring them to homelessness,” he said. “This program helps get them back on their feet.”

Taylor showed a short film, Stories from Skid Row, that features a young man who “came out here (to Los Angeles) to be done with everything.” He, like many others at the Mission’s Adult Education Center, did not have job skills, reading skills or an education. He didn’t know how to turn on a computer or use Google. Through the Life Transformation Program he received tutoring in math, literacy, job training, how to prepare a resume, and preparation and practice tests for a GED.

“The program showed me not to be afraid,” the young man said. “It prepared me perfectly. This is my GED. It’s one of the proudest things I’ve ever done. I’m sending it to my dad.”

“He’s doing really well, and those are the stories we can share,” Taylor said. “We have services that can help them, and that’s a great thing.”

Of the Mission’s ability to continue to help the homeless and needy, Taylor said, “We are fortunate to be working. Everything you do helps us accomplish that.”

Tawny Valencia is a development assistant for Shriners Hospitals for Children. Established in 1922, with the LA hospital opening in 1952, the Shriners now have 22 facilities nationwide. The hospitals specialize in treating orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate for newborns and children up to 18 years of age.

Among the hospitals’ programs, Valencia spoke of the Shriners’ Child Amputee Prosthetics Project, or CAPP. Begun at UCLA, the Shriners took over CAPP in the 1980s. Helping children with amputations or limb deficiencies, the project currently provides 70% of all prosthetics for children in Southern California.

A short film shown during the ceremony showed the progress the children made during the frequent re-fittings that are necessary to ensure the prosthetics grow with them during their early years. Despite their difficulties, “You can’t set limits on these kids, because they’ll always prove you wrong,” the narration said.

Valencia said the impact on the children and their families cannot be underestimated. “Tiny miracles happen every day,” she said.

Mary Koenig is the senior director of development at City of Hope Medical Center, located in Duarte. It is one of the world’s leading medical research centers, pioneering bone marrow transplants, conducting genetic modifications to create cancer-fighting cells, and studying links between cancer and diabetes. City of Hope developed the hemoglobin A1c test, one of today’s most commonly used tests for diabetes diagnosis.

Koenig said the charitable donations are essential to City of Hope’s ability to continue as leader in the field of medical research. “Your support allows these programs to continue,” she said.

Koenig also said that charitable giving is a year-round process and does not necessarily involve contributing money.

“We can always use monetary donations,” she said, “but people can contribute in many ways.”

Koenig spoke of pillows and necklaces that are treasured by patients undergoing a variety of treatments and said one of the most valuable donations anyone can provide is time.

As a note of interest, retired Col. Richard Thompson, a former Los Angeles District commander, serves as vice president for facilities for City of Hope.

Begun in 1958, the CFC’s first participating charitable organizations included The American Red Cross, United Funds, national health agencies (nine health-related voluntary organizations, now known as community health charities), and international voluntary agencies (primarily overseas assistance programs). Today, more than 20,000 nonprofit charitable organizations participate worldwide, from nascent community groups to large, well-known charities.

Over the past decade, federal employees have donated nearly $271 million annually to the Combined Federal Campaign.

“Despite difficulties among a federal workforce facing shutdowns, furloughs and tighter contribution restrictions, the regional CFC campaign has reached $2.4 million so far,” said Demetrius Stevenson, the CFC coordinator for United Way LA.

Sulzer stressed that it is not the amount of the donation is not important, but that Corps employees have an awareness of others’ needs and consistently demonstrate the willingness to help.

"For more than 50 years, Americans have helped people less fortunate than we are,” Sulzer said, “and we are confident that spirit will continue."