By Josh Grossberg

Although it is not even a year old, the Community Grants and Sponsorship Program of Keck Medical Center of USC is already making its presence felt.

In the fiscal year ending July 1, the department has given out $250,000 in grants and $25,000 in sponsorships, according to Sevanne Sarkis, administrative director of community benefit and outreach for the medical center.

“We’ve been really busy,” said Sarkis, who took the helm of the department in January after leading the Patient Experience department at the medical center for almost two years.

With a focus on neighborhoods around the Health Sciences Campus, the money not only helps organizations that are doing work in the community, but it also lets them know that the medical center is committed to their success.

“Part of my job is creating goodwill in the community,” Sarkis said. “It’s getting our name out there and connecting.”

To help decide the best way to allocate the money, the department created an advisory committee comprised of senior members of administration, the dean of the medical school, and key community stakeholders in East Los Angeles.

Sponsorships are presented in amounts up to $2,500 and focus on programs like health fairs and other community programs.

Among the sponsorships given were $1,500 to Missionaries for Christ Ministries in Los Angeles to help pay for holiday food baskets; $2,500 to iDream for Racial Health Equality to help finance a play about health disparities in the African-American community; and $5,000 to Bluewater Media, which is producing a documentary on the multicultural history of Boyle Heights.

Grants, which can be awarded in amounts up to $25,000, are given to more established groups and community needs, Sarkis said.

Among the grants given were $25,000 to the Los Angeles Community Garden Council for a community garden program in East Los Angeles; $15,000 to Legacy L.A. for its Dream Big Student Success Program; and $10,000 to Union de Vencinos for a program to paint, clean and improve alleys in Boyle Heights.

Sarkis said her department received grant requests totaling over $1 million this year and expects the amount to increase considerably as the department becomes more established in the community. It’s a lot, she says, but she knows she is helping many people who need it.

“You go in every direction and see what you can accomplish,” she said. “Maybe you can’t change the community, but you can help tap into things and get things done.”