Originally posted by OC Register. View entire article here.
John Gutierrez is accustomed to what he calls “the storm” – the financial and emotional burden that often precedes a family member’s death.
As vice president of OC Hospice, a Tustin-based hospice provider, Gutierrez said he’s seen families break under the pressure of rising bills that accompany increased health care costs.
However, in the last two years he’s helped people weather this storm by starting the Life & Hope Foundation – a Tustin-based charity that gives financial support to those in need.
According to Gutierrez, his work gave him the ability to witness the financial burdens that people often face when they or elderly relatives become terminally ill.
“We’ve had patients who have said to us ‘It’s either me buying more medication or me buying food for my kids,’” Gutierrez said. “These are the kinds of things that are part of reality and are happening in our community.”
In 2012, Gutierrez created the Life & Hope Foundation to raise funds for those who could not afford medication, hospice care or even adult diapers for elderly patients.
Through various sponsors and with help from OC Hospice, Gutierrez said the foundation has managed to help more than 10 families in the last two years, totaling an estimated $150,000 in donated money, health care and funeral expenses.
Gitonga Kanampiu, a consultant for the Life & Hope Foundation, said that while the foundation has been in operation since 2012, it was just approved as a 501(c)3 public charity this spring and is now recognized as tax-exempt.
With the recent news of his public charity status, Gutierrez is already on track to start raising funds for the community on Aug. 20 through his organization’s first public fundraiser – a golf and dinner event at Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine.
Gutierrez said with more events and government grants, he intends on helping more families with health care coverage.
As a future goal, Gutierrez also aspires to build a bereavement center, similar to a Boys and Girls Club, that would become a benefit to the whole community.
“A lot of people raise money and that money goes to research, and you don’t know where that money goes to or who handles it,” Gutierrez said. “I believe in helping out my local community because you see the impact right away. It’s great to know the money you donated today goes back into your community tomorrow.”