Wilmington nonprofit sends Phineas Banning HS seniors to prom

WILMINGTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Eduardo Gutierrez is a senior at Phineas Banning High School in Wilmington. The aspiring dental hygienist has a lot to look forward to, including graduation, a summer job and college in the fall.

However, there was one major milestone that he would have to miss: senior prom.

"Miss Rodriguez came up to me and asked if I was going to prom. I told her, 'no,' because I didn't have the money," said the 18-year-old.

Catherine Rodriguez, a Language Arts teacher at Phineas Banning, sees the hardships that her students experience on a daily basis.

"Los Angeles is going through a homeless epidemic and it's hard to see our students be a part of that," Rodriguez said.

That's why she and her boyfriend, Tony Fernandez, founded A Needy Wilmington. The nonprofit organization helps the tight-knit community of Wilmington by raising donations via social media. Funds raised go towards different projects in the community, such as the annual Thanksgiving Dinner and Operation Hope.

"I think Wilmington gets a bad rep sometimes because of the gang elements and refineries. But Wilmington is very, very giving and they don't forget where they came from," said Rodriguez, who has been teaching at Phineas Banning since 1995.

"Los Angeles has the City of Angels, but I always say Wilmington is the community of hearts," said co-founder Tony Fernandez. "We all have a big heart. Always giving more than what we have."

Fernandez was raised by a single mother in South Gate, similar to Eduardo Gutierrez.

"It''s really hard on my mom. She works, but sometimes she doesn't have enough so we live check to check," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez will attend prom at Hyatt Regency Long Beach. Thanks to A Needy Wilmington, he will have his $115 prom ticket, a fresh haircut, and tuxedo rental taken care of.

"I wanna say a big thank you," Gutierrez said. "Thank you guys."
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