LOS ANGELES, Nov. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- At a Japanese "Daruma" ceremony in the heart of South Central Los Angeles, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nation's largest community development support organization, announced today that it has successfully invested $14 million in loans and lines of credit from Japan-based Fuji Bank to help community groups across the country rebuild their neighborhoods. Today's celebration was held at Vermont Slauson Shopping Center, a thriving shopping center in South Central Los Angeles that opened 17 years ago on the site of a former Sears department store that closed in 1977. The supermarket-anchored retail center, the only one in a three-mile radius, has been so successful that its nonprofit sponsor, Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (Vermont Slauson EDC), will soon build a 63,000 square foot expansion on land acquired with Fuji Bank funds channeled through LISC. The Vermont-Slauson expansion represents one among many community renewal achievements supported through the Fuji Bank /LISC collaboration. "Fuji Bank's $14 million investment, among the largest ever made by a foreign-owned bank to America's inner cities through LISC, has allowed neighborhood groups across the country to take enormous strides towards realizing their redevelopment objectives," said LISC President and CEO Michael Rubinger. "The donations and below-market rate loans LISC receives from sources such as Fuji Bank will allow us to continue reviving hundreds of American communities for years to come." In December 1996, at a ceremony in East Harlem in New York City, Fuji Bank challenged LISC to invest all of Fuji Bank's loan funds to LISC towards inner city neighborhood renewal in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Miami, San Francisco and Houston. This challenge was marked with a traditional Japanese ceremony in which one eye of a Daruma's dramatic face is colored-in when a goal is set, and the other eye is colored-in when the goal is achieved. "LISC has proven time and time again that funds invested wisely and with community involvement can radically transform once-devastated neighborhoods," said Kenichiro Tanaka, Fuji Bank's General Manager and President of The Fuji Bank and Trust Company, Fuji Bank's US. subsidiary. "We celebrate and support LISC's work as part of Fuji Bank's interest in enhancing lives and communities in the United States." In addition to initiating the Vermont-Slauson expansion, LISC has used Fuji Bank's loan money in seven US. cities to build or renovate 500 homes and apartments for low-income families, develop 310,000 feet of space for retail complexes, youth centers and community facilities, supply bridge loans to community development corporations, and support the renovation of more than 3,500 additional homes through financing LISC working capital. "I am delighted that Fuji Bank and other members of the Japanese corporate community in Los Angeles have come to our neighborhood to see firsthand what Fuji Bank's money is accomplishing through LISC," said Marva Smith Battle-Bey, Executive Director of Vermont Slauson EDC. "You just need to look around you at this bustling retail center to see the extraordinary capacity of this community to support commercial development. We don't want to travel for miles to get decent food and services. Fuji Bank's loans through LISC will help us expand this retail center, generate more economic activity, and continue to grow our community." "In 1996, borrowing a theme from LISC's annual report, we asked LISC in Harlem to 'Make Change Happen' using Fuji Bank's loan money," said Mr. Tanaka. "Today, we borrow another recent LISC annual report theme - 'Promises Kept.' This theme reflects how LISC met Fuji Bank's investment challenge, and more importantly, how LISC restores promise in many American communities." Fuji Bank has supported LISC since 1991, with $5.2 million in loans and grants in addition to the $14 million in funds noted in today's ceremony. Officers from Fuji Bank serve on LISC's Local Advisory Committees in New York and Los Angeles. The Fuji Bank, Limited, headquartered in Tokyo, is one of the world's largest banks, and has been engaging in commercial finance in the United States since 1956, when the bank opened its New York office. In addition to New York, Fuji Bank maintains US. offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. Fuji Bank's wholly-owned US. banking subsidiary, The Fuji Bank and Trust Company, established a Community Reinvestment Department in 1990 to focus on serving local community needs, and has maintained "Outstanding" Community Reinvestment Act ratings from federal and New York State banking regulators since 1993. LISC helps local organizations rebuild their communities through acting as a conduit for public and private funds. The nation's largest community development support organization, LISC has provided some $3 billion and technical know-how to grassroots nonprofit community development corporations, or CDs, to help them build housing, spur commercial reinvestment, create jobs and pursue other strategies to rebuild urban and rural communities long thought beyond hope. Founded in 1979, LISC has helped approximately 1500 CDs build 100,000 affordable homes and apartments and 11.3 million square feet of commercial, industrial and retail space, through 41 program offices throughout the United States. LISC has raised some $3 billion from 1,800 corporations, foundations, and individuals, which has been leveraged by CDs for another $3.5 billion in total development activity. Former US. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubbing recently joined LISC as Chairman of the Board, a further endorsement of LISC's leadership role in supporting community-based development.