DR. DIEGO-MALIT’S FAMILY FOSTERS VOLUNTEER SPIRIT AT TORRANCE MEMORIAL
Those who work regularly in service or as volunteers will tell you that
the happiest people on earth are those who give back. Just ask Judy Sipes,
founder of Torrance Memorial Medical Center’s
Novas volunteer programs that support the hospital and its patients.
The Luminaries began in 1990 with a small group of women from the Palos
Verdes Peninsula wanting to support Torrance Memorial with their time
and fundraising efforts, as well as foster the volunteer spirit in youth
through the Novas program. Twenty-five years later, thousands of dollars
have been raised and vital projects have been launched, helping deliver
more resources and comfort for patients.
In addition to providing service within the hospital and at special events,
Luminaries support the
Woman to Woman Image Enhancement Center. Women who are experiencing hair loss due to cancer treatments or other
medical illnesses may receive a private image consultation and receive
free products through this program, which helps build confidence and self-esteem
in women recovering from illness.
“I am just so proud that this organization is still going after all
these years and has just gotten stronger and stronger,” says Sipes.
“It is amazing to me. We hoped it would be a success, but how do
Children of active Luminaries can join Novas, a volunteer program for high
school students age 13 to 18 years old. Joining Novas allows teenagers
to gain valuable experience through volunteering as patient escorts in
the hospital, as well as helping outside the hospital at special events—making
hospitality kits and blankets for patients, decorating the pediatrics
ward and other activities.
“It’s a great way to teach children to have empathy for others
and to live a life of service and gratitude,” explains
Alice Diego-Malit, MD, president of the Luminaries and a pediatrician with a private clinic
practice in Carson.
In fact, the ability to “create learning moments for children while
spending quality time together” is what drew Dr. Diego-Malit into
the Luminaries program in the first place. “I wanted my children
to be able to be Novas. It’s a wonderful program of service,” she says.
A mother of four, Dr. Diego-Malit knows the importance of volunteering
at an early age. Her mother, Iluminada Diego, MD, a pediatrician in Carson
for 30 years, fostered the importance of living a life of service and
encouraged the entire family to volunteer from an early age in a variety
of ways. In fact, Dr. Diego-Malit was a candy striper in San Pedro as
The Luminaries and Novas programs provide the right conduit to pass on
that tradition to her children. Her youngest son, Dylan, 13, is now joining
the Novas, while her daughter Christina, 16, is in her second year. Her
oldest, Benjamin, 18, just graduated high school and served in Novas for
three years, while also volunteering each summer at the Cabrillo Marine
Aquarium in San Pedro. Francesca, 12, will enter the program in two years,
where she will participate in ways like her siblings have: making hospitality
kits and blankets, baking cookies for events and working the annual holiday festival.
“It’s helped us be more appreciative and grateful for what
we have and more cognizant of those who need extra assistance,”
says Dr. Diego-Malit.
Besides volunteering as a Luminary, Dr. Diego-Malit has also taught Sunday
school for 10 years and volunteers in soup kitchens in Long Beach. Her
husband, Earl Malit, has become a familiar and comforting face for many
at Torrance Memorial, where he volunteers as a Eucharistic minister. Malit
also serves as a Eucharistic minister in San Pedro, where he often assists
While this much volunteering certainly takes up time and energy, Dr. Diego-Malit
says that she and her husband wouldn’t have it any other way. “Children
grow up very quickly. It’s important to spend time together, and
when you volunteer it provides teachable moments while you’re giving
back. It’s time well spent. We all count our blessings every day,” she says.
So how do Dr. Diego-Malit and her husband find balance between work, volunteering
and parenting? It seems running is the key.
In their spare time, the Malits, who owned a running store in Orange County
for years, run marathons and half-marathons together.
While their lives can get hectic with so much juggling, the feeling of
helping others has become a reward in and of itself. “You’re
happy when you help others. To make a difference in other people’s
lives not only benefits them—but you.”