Giving a community a new heart

June 01, 2016
It was a heartwarming scene on a summer evening when more than 300 residents of Wilmington gathered at Providence’s new Community Wellness Center for an outdoor movie. Families came early to socialize as children played. The center, which provides fitness classes, counseling and other wellness services, was created in partnership with a low-cost family housing developer and has become the heart of this community.

From fear to joy

A lifelong resident of Wilmington, German Delgado, age 27, has watched the Dana Strand property transform from a violence-plagued into an affordable housing community with a hub of social activity – all thanks to the city’s rehabilitation. As a child, German escaped the neighborhood’s crime and gang activity by playing soccer. Today, he gives back to his community by running a free soccer program for young children on the large and safe grassy playing field at the Providence Community Wellness Center. “I volunteer at the Providence Center because it helps me teach kids and influence the kids in a way that I wasn’t influenced at that age,” he said. “I teach them hard work, dedication, discipline and teamwork.”

Making healthy living fun and safe

Wilmington welcomed the center in August 2014, and more than 6,500 people have used the center since it opened. For residents, it is a place where everyone has the chance to lead healthy lives. In addition to German’s soccer program, the center offers residents a wide array of services. There are exercise and music classes, social activities such as family movie nights, support groups on topics ranging from bereavement to parenting. Certified health insurance enrollment counseling is also available. All of the services are made possible by Providence’s investment of about $1.5 million a year, in partnership with local and federal agencies. “At the end of the day, it’s really all about the community – building a community and building it stronger,” said German.

Staying for the long haul

For Providence Little Company of Mary, the center provides a home to operate and expand its community benefit programs that have served the South Bay area for the past 20 years. According to Providence’s most recent community health needs assessments, Wilmington is the highest need community in the hospital’s service area. Providence has responded with important investments and partnerships over the years, including the Partners for Health Kids mobile health clinic, Get Out and Live diabetes self-management program for adults, Creating Opportunities For Physical Activity school-based physical education training for teachers, and the Welcome Baby home visit program for new and expecting mothers.

Building alongside partners

“The Providence Wellness and Activity Center really could not be successful without our partners,” said Jim Tehan, director of community partnerships at Providence Southern California. No single organization can meet all of a community’s needs. This spirit of collaboration has been a part of Providence’s Mission since the Sisters of Providence began their charitable work 160 years ago.

Saying yes to wellness is easy now

“All these people are coming forth and asking to use the facility for wellness-related activities and things that help people learn and grow and succeed in life,” said Jim.

If you asked anyone 10 years ago to join you for a game of soccer at the former Dana Strand Public Housing Village in Wilmington, one of the southernmost communities of Los Angeles bordered by oil refineries and the Port of L.A., you would have heard concerns about safety. Today, you’d likely get a “Yes!” without hesitation.