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Center for Healthy Neighborhoods Is a Lifeline During the Pandemic

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Carime Calixto, a hairdresser and mother of four, hasn’t had much business since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s been a little bit stressful,” she said.

But rather than let it get her down, the Fullerton resident has been volunteering her “free time” to help make face masks for the community. Her desire to pitch in was fueled by Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, which empowers local citizens to become community leaders.

“I like to help,” she said. “Whoever needs it, I’m there.”

Calixto and her daughters got involved with the center four years ago. The center offers art and fitness classes, health screenings, tutoring, counseling, career development services and more.

“The center means a lot to my life,” said Calixto, who now serves as a resident adviser. “It has given me confidence and a voice. It has empowered me in being a mom, a community leader and just as a human.”

Calixto’s eldest daughter, Mixtly Galarza, is a student at CSUF and her second, Litzly, plans to join her this fall.

“Not only that,” she continued, “I’m trying to teach my girls how important it is to be involved in our community: If there’s something that they don’t like, they actually can do something. They don’t need to be silent.”

A Community Hit Hard by the Pandemic

Last month, when panic buying was depleting store shelves and people were beginning to lose jobs, Fullerton resident Egleth Nuncci jumped into action.

A community liaison for the Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, Nuncci has been busy connecting residents to resources during the pandemic — from coordinating food deliveries and helping people get internet access, to fielding phone calls and encouraging people to practice mindfulness at home.

“I was working seven days a week until 11 or 11:30 at night because people were calling and calling,” Nuncci said. “They were so stressed out and crying.

“It’s just heartbreaking hearing so many stories. Families are not working. They don’t have money right now. I have moms who are absolutely depressed. They are fearful of what they are going to do when this pandemic is finished,” she continued.

With support from such organizations as Tarsadia Foundation and St. Jude Medical Center, the center has been able to offer academic and mental health support programs virtually, while working on plans to reduce hardships associated with financial loss, increase family resiliency and reduce risk for homelessness.

“The center is helping to alleviate the stress of so many families,” said Nuncci.

Student Tutors Pitch In

Cal State Fullerton students such as Justin Nguyen, who tutor at the Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, are equally concerned about the pandemic’s effect on the community.

“Something that worries me as a future educator is how students are going to be collectively coming up as a generation having this experience of suddenly having to learn virtually for several months during their school year,” said Nguyen, who is majoring in English, comparative literature and linguistics.

“They’re all going to be learning different methods, and when they do come back to the classroom, I think we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

Mychal Gabb, a child and adolescent development major, has been tutoring at the center for more than a year.

Focusing mainly on math and science, Gabb now connects with students via Zoom. While it’s not ideal, he says, the silver lining is that he is getting the opportunity to test out virtual instruction.

“If something like this were to occur again in the future — be it a pandemic or an earthquake or some kind of natural disaster — I’ll have a better understanding of what it’s like to teach online.”

Learn more about supporting the Center for Healthy Neighborhoods during the pandemic. 

Contact: Lynn Juliano,