Building a strong, healthier community

Lutheran Social Services has a simple goal – to build a stronger and healthier community, and improve the lives of Londoners. Through ongoing support of research at Robarts Research Institute, the Foundation is helping those people locally living with severe asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease.

“We try to invest in people, organizations and projects where we know our donation will make a difference and help to fulfill goals they want to achieve,” said Frank Mantz, Chairman of the Foundation Board.

At Robarts, that has meant investing in lung imaging research with Grace Parraga, PhD. Approximately four years ago, Parraga was invited to make a presentation to the Foundation at one of their Meet & Greet events. She had 15 minutes to make her case and demonstrate just how important their support would be to her research program. They were convinced and have continued to support her work, donating a total of $30,000 to date.

Their gifts have specifically funded upgrades and repairs to a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) coil needed for asthma lung imaging research and upgrades, and a renewed laser polarization unit that produces the inhaled gas contrast agent used in functional MRI of the lung studies for people with asthma. It has also supported an upgraded computer workstation for the analysis of computed tomography and MR images with advanced graphic processing units and 3D image analysis.
 
While the complete funding for all this equipment costs about $1 million, the final pieces of the funding puzzle were provided by Lutheran Social Services.  

“It means a great deal to me and my lab to have direct community input and support because all the patients we evaluate and serve come from Southwestern Ontario,” said Parraga. “Our research addresses chronic lung disease in our community and having their support has made a huge difference to the speed with which we can advance, change course and make an impact on the health of patients.”
 
Having toured the Parraga Lab, Mantz feels good about the difference the funds have made and encourages others to take a look at all the outstanding research happening in the community.

“It seems like there are more and more people living with asthma, and we have to find a way to help them. Investing in research is how we’ve chosen to make a difference and we can see that it’s helping,” Mantz said.

The Foundation was established in 2007, following the sale of a nursing home owned by Trinity Lutheran Social Services. All proceeds from the sale were directed to the Foundation to support organizations in the community. Since then, the Foundation has provided more than $3 million to organizations including Hospice of London, the London Food Bank, the Salvation Army, Anova, the Kiwanis Music Festival, El Sistema and many others. In addition to annual funding, they also offer crisis support for organizations that may encounter unexpected funding challenges.