Written by Melani Morose Edelstein | Photographed by Siri Berting
Health care organizations faced unprecedented challenges as the COVID-19 global pandemic ravaged society. Doctors, nurses and staff were overwhelmed. Amidst never-before-seen conditions, health care professionals embraced the moment, pivoted, set their personal needs aside, and provided around-the-clock care to sick and dying patients.
Thanks to Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s Foundation and its many generous donors, their sacrifices did not go unnoticed. As the pandemic persisted and widespread enthusiastic support for health care workers endured, the now infamous and always bountiful Foundation Snack Cart made its hospital debut. With hundreds of behind-the-scenes volunteers who steadfastly served welcomed snacks to weary health care workers, the snack cart thrived—bringing sweet treats and moments of joy to exhausted employees.
“We immediately stepped up to support the hospital and staff in other ways,” she explains. “The Foundation team organized and disbursed meal donations, PPE for staff, cards and posters, and of course we created the memorable and beloved snack cart.”
Now, as society and the hospital embrace a new normal living with the COVID-19 pandemic, the beloved Foundation Snack Cart will move into semiretirement.
“During the pandemic, the Foundation team became our caregivers’ caregivers,” says Mark Lurie, MD, medical director of the Lundquist Lurie Cardiovascular Institute and president of the Torrance Memorial Foundation Board. “During those memorable times of high stress and anxiety, the Foundation’s work reflects incredible moments of generosity, humility and grace.”
The Foundation was established in 1980 with the sole purpose of supporting Torrance Memorial Medical Center, with every single dollar raised going back to the hospital. And that is precisely what it has done. Schenasi took over the leadership of the Foundation in 2001. During her 21 years at the helm, Schenasi and her hardworking team increased fundraising from $750,000 annually to an average of more than $17 million in cash and pledges.
As a South Bay resident, Schenasi knows her community well. She attributes the Foundation’s vibrancy and success to her exceptional team, including Judith Gassner, senior director of development and principal gifts; Sandy VandenBerge, director of planned giving; Sophia Neveu, development officer; Lisa Takata, special events and Patrons program manager; and development liaisons, Karen Randazzo, Margaret Johnson Doran and Jill Golden. Schenasi practices a model of shared decision-making and believes in the expertise and brilliance of her staff and colleagues.
“If the hospital wasn’t well run and people didn’t receive the high-quality care they expect, the Foundation wouldn’t have the success it has realized,” Dr. Lurie points out. “Our employees and medical staff bend over backward to provide exceptional patient care, and people appreciate that. It’s the excellent patient experience that coexists with the unforgettable ways the hospital impacts their lives. People are generous in those circumstances.”
As a beloved cardiologist and hospital administrator, it is Dr. Lurie’s unique position to make the special relationship between the overall wellness of the hospital and the Foundation exceptionally positive and steeped in gratitude, cooperation and collaboration.
For the past five years, the Foundation has transferred $15 million annually to the hospital, including during the two years when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now more than ever, it’s time to focus on the future.
At a recent retreat, the Foundation board of directors voted to transfer $50 million to the hospital over the next three years, and the giving does not stop there. “In 2023, we will begin expansion and renovation of the emergency department, and in 2025 the hospital celebrates its 100th anniversary. So a lot is going on,” Schenasi shares.
Schenasi says the Foundation is looking ahead and focusing on what they do best: design, create, build relationships and host community events to raise funds for Torrance Memorial. “I am a cheerleader for the hospital,” Schenasi says.
The Foundation’s programs make up the team Schenasi encourages.
The Ambassadors are committed to supporting Torrance Memorial’s mission, vision and values. Contributions provided by Ambassadors fund cardiovascular, cancer, neuroscience and orthopedic programs and services.
The Employee Ambassador program allows employees to sign up for automatic payroll deductions so a donation to the hospital is directly withdrawn from their paychecks.
Planned Giving programs make a lasting difference through estate planning. For anyone looking to supplement income during retirement, reduce taxes, eliminate capital gains tax or pass assets to family members at a reduced cost, planned giving provides many benefits. Future gifts help people receive expert care and treatment for years to come.
YPPA, or Young Physicians and Professionals Alliance, brings professionals and physicians together to have fun and support the hospital.
The Foundation’s famous Holiday Festival—featuring the big white tent with all the gorgeous trees, the fashion show and gala, along with the annual golf tournament—continue to be the cornerstone events for the Foundation. Still, it is private giving that makes the most significant impact. From the generosity of major donors whose names grace our buildings, institutes and conference rooms to the young philanthropist who donated her earnings from making slime in the colors of the rainbow … every donation counts!
“Fundraising is systemic,” Schenasi points out. “You need people to attend the events, lectures and amazing offerings we do for stewardship and fundraising. Still, we find sitting down with donors and connecting in one-on-one meetings and sharing how their donations will affect the hospital is where relationships are built. Those are the best.”
The Foundation team members are experts at cultivating relationships resulting in the strongest long-term arrangements for the hospital, and they foster alliances with generous donors who are happy to give because they care deeply about Torrance Memorial. When looking at the incredible progress the hospital has made over the last two decades, it is clear the Foundation is helping this world-class institution’s growth and development toward its centennial celebration. •
Foundation Board Transfers $15M to Medical Center
On May 6 at the annual meeting, the Foundation board at Torrance Memorial allocated more than $15 million to the medical center. The funds support the many programs and innovative treatments that offer exceptional care to the South Bay community. Thank you to the many donors who made this possible by generously giving throughout the year.