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A Village Brings Healthcare to Underserved Communities


Sentinel News Service

Community Builders Group, a Pasadena-based real estate developer, hosted a Healthcare Festival on April 29, at University Gardens, an apartment complex near the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Healing California brought their mobile vision and dental services to the University Healthcare Festival on Apr. 29. During the daylong event, 84 eye exams and 49 dental screenings were performed.

This is the second year that CBG has partnered with L.A. City Council District 8, USC and South L.A. nonprofits Community Build, Inc., Brotherhood Crusade to produce the day-long Festival. CBG, known for socially conscience community developments, purchased University Gardens over 23 years ago.

“To us, real estate development does not just mean building housing, it means building up community,” CBG Community Outreach Manager Dawn Velazquez said. “We’re always trying to find programs to help the residents.”

After offering a chess club, coding classes, and throwing annual holiday parties, a health festival seemed to be a natural progression for a complex where most of the residents are mid-to-low income and uninsured or underinsured when it comes to healthcare.

Over 50 vendors lined the large community space in front and around the cul-de-sac outside of the 113-unit complex. Festival vendors included a mobile mammogram service, mobile dental,vision coaches, food distributors, CORE, the Red Cross teaching CPR and home safety classes, Kedren Community Health Center nutritionists, National University, City of Los Angeles, and social services and more.

Community Builders Group partnered with USC to bring pharmaceutical information, yoga and meditation sessions and other resources to the health festival. L – R: CBG Community Outreach Manager Dawn Velazquez, USC Village Ombudsman Steve Wesson, USC Vice President of Civic Engagement Effie Turnbull Sanders, CBG co-founders and principals Christian Hart and Joe Seager.

Community Build Inc.’s CURE LA program, a network of health and wellness partners that set-up free monthly pop-up clinics in underserved communities, provided organizational support, as well as resources and vendors for the festival.

CURE LA was developed by Community Build, Inc. President Robert Sausedo in response to the breakdown of the healthcare system in the wake of Coronavirus pandemic. The program was a pre-emptive strike to counter the reduction in county health programs.

“Today, people in the hospital and emergency rooms are the folks that didn’t get the care they needed during the pandemic,” Sausedo said.

“Whether it was diabetes, heart disease, or whatever, they weren’t going to the doctor and now they’re dying. You don’t hear about this in the news. We consider CURE LA a 21st century healthcare revolution-evolution.”

One of the vendors CURE LA recruited for the health festival was The Pink Journey Foundation, a mobile mammogram screening service.

Since March 2022, The Pink Journey Foundation has provided free mammogram screenings to hundreds of women inside “Maddy,” the mobile mammogram coach thanks to operator RadNet and a grant from medical technology company Hologic.

TPJF Executive Director Melanie Lewis said the grant is specifically for mammograms screenings – not diagnostic ultrasound screenings – for women over 40 with no current breast cancer issues. The free TPJF program targets underserved communities for women who are underinsured or uninsured. In addition to the mammogram screening, TPJF also offers breast care for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and education on breast health.

The 40-foot coach, parked at the end of the cul-de-sac outside of University Gardens to protect the highly sensitive mammography machine from movement, screened over 25 women for breast cancer. The mammogram unit inside the mobile coach is the same advanced 3-D machine found in hospitals and clinics. Artificial intelligence enables the machine to detect cancers two to three years earlier than a standard mammogram.

“The hope is that if we can catch it when it’s small and when it’s early and it’s less invasive, then it will be less costly, less emotion, and hopefully, less treatment,” Lewis said. “That’s the whole point of having the artificial intelligence. It has better detection than the human eye.”

For the 2nd University Gardens Healthcare Festival Community Build, Inc. Director Earnest Williams (R) secured The Pink Journey Foundation Executive Director Melanie Lewis (2nd from R) to provide free mammogram screenings. The state-of-the-art mammogram unit uses artificial intelligence to detect breast cancer 2 – 3 years earlier than a standard mammogram.

Festival partner Brotherhood Crusade provided logistical and promotional support. “They provided so much guidance, helped us get permits, distributed their care packages, as well as bringing of vendors like Servicon Cares,” said Velazquez.

Pasadena-based real estate developer Community Builders Group partnered with Brotherhood Crusade and Community Build, Inc. among others for their 2nd University Gardens Healthcare Festival. Brotherhood Crusade Executive Vice President Stacy Hill-Williams (center) and team members.

USC also partnered with CBG to provide Spanish translators, pharmacy information, and yoga and meditation sessions.

During the Community Garden Health Festival, over 400 meals and 150 coronavirus test kits were distributed; 76 health screenings, 49 dental screenings and 84 eye exams were performed. In total, over $100,000 in services and resources were distributed and performed during the six-hour event according to CURE LA Director Earnest Williams.

“You know that saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child?’ I think we’re just a village that came together to support this community,” Velazquez said.

Access to quality healthcare shouldn’t just be just for those who can afford it. It should be for everybody.