Improving Economic Opportunity Through Volunteerism and Workforce Training

Jan 05, 2011

Boyle Heights is an emerging community in East Los Angeles, which has long been a gateway for immigrants to the United States. Today, it is home to a large population of young, working class Latinos. Many residents lack education and health insurance. Their connection to White Memorial Medical Center, an anchor of the Boyle Heights neighborhood for 97 years, develops in times of severe need.

Other residents have a much stronger relationship with White Memorial, which is the largest private employer in East Los Angeles. The hospital has 1,800 employees and 400 volunteers, most of whom live in and around Boyle Heights. The recruitment of local students and adults to the volunteer program was initiated in 2006 as part of a $1 million gift from Bank of America. In addition to bringing people into the health care industry, that funding has improved the facilities at White Memorial.

“Neighborhood excellence is really the aspiration we need to have,” said Garrett Gin, SVP for Global Corporate Social Responsibility at Bank of America. “Neighborhoods need to be vibrant. They need to be strong. The only way to make that happen is to partner with key institutions."

Jennifer Limón started as a volunteer at White Memorial. The single mom from Boyle Heights was uncertain about working in health care, but she soon developed a passion for the job and the institution. Now Jennifer is employed as a clerk across several departments, which she considers family. And she is proud to report that her 10-year-old daughter aspires to be a nurse and give back to her community.

“The volunteer program is critical, because it gives young people an opportunity to look at the benefits the health care industry provides and find out if they want to continue their education or do an entry-level position and work their way up,” said Eileen Lange, manager of recruitment and retention at White Memorial. She is committed to hiring, training and promoting people from within the community.

The gift from Bank of America also supports continuing education for current hospital staff. White Memorial University, for example, has a monthly class for promising young talent.

No matter their connection to White Memorial, the people of Boyle Heights consider the hospital a safe and respectful place. Its volunteer and workforce development programs are helping to solidify that reputation for the future.


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