For the Ngan family of Palos Verdes, giving and volunteering at Torrance Memorial Medical Center is not just a part of their to-do list; it's a central activity on their weekly calendar. From making lemon squares and brownies for a bake sale to sewing blankets and cough pillows for maternity patients, serving the hospital is right up there with homework, piano lessons and art class for John, Serena and their three children: Isabel, 17, Eric, 15, and Brian, 12.
"It's a priority for our kids to understand the importance of volunteering," Serena Ngan says. "It's also a lot of fun and a great opportunity for them to make new friends outside of school."
Raymond Lee, MD, the Ngans' family physician, approached Serena nearly a decade ago, suggesting she join the Health Care Foundation as a way to get more integrated into the community. "At that time, the Asian community was growing rapidly in the South Bay but was not represented on the board," Serena says. "Through my involvement, I've worked to educate our local community about the importance of having a strong, local healthcare system and getting involved."
Serena and John moved to the South Bay two decades ago when John decided to expand his family's Hong Kong-based headwear business into the United States. Operating its North American headquarters in Carson, KC Caps has grown to be an industry leader, selling to and manufacturing for major brands such as American Eagle Outfitters and Ralph Lauren, as well as equipping Major League Baseball and NASCAR athletes with its cap designs.
John, who is originally from China, and Serena, who is originally from Taiwan, met at the University of Washington while he completed his bachelor of science degree in business and she studied to receive her masters of science degree in electrical engineering. Looking for a sunnier place to live after they were married, the couple moved to Gardena to start their family and eventually settled in their current Palos Verdes home. Serena worked in information systems for the city of Beverly Hills until the birth of their second child, Eric.
While living in Gardena, John's less-than-positive experience at another Los Angeles medical facility during an emergency appendectomy highlighted the importance of quality post-operative care. So although time spent volunteering is time spent away from home, John is "101%" supportive of his family's involvement. "You don't realize the importance of good medical care until there's an emergency," John says.
For the Ngans, changing deep-rooted paradigms within the Asian community is one of their greatest challenges. "In Asian culture, education is the top priority, but we try to communicate that taking care of ourselves and our children is of equal importance," Serena says. The couple encourages their friends to take advantage of the hospital's diverse offering of health education programs.
In addition to Serena's service on the Health Care Foundation board, she is active as a Luminarie, a group of parent volunteers whose high school children also support the medical center. The Ngans continue to be inspired by the donations of others to make contributions of their own, including a gift toward the new Main Tower at last year's holiday festival.
"With so many hospitals cutting back, it's great to see that through the generosity of other donors like the Lundquists, the hospital has been able to expand in many ways," Serena says. "A hospital always needs more beds."
The Ngans have also persuaded close Peninsula friends Jackson and Julie Yang and Sam and Monica Sim to make similar contributions. "Through the births of our three children at the hospital, we've seen first-hand the steady improvements over time and exactly where our money goes," John says.
Serena continues, "We're so thankful our physician approached us and opened our eyes and our minds to do something we feel really great about. You don't have to go far to help out. It's right down the street."