Hundreds of community notables attended Burbank Temporary Aid Center’s annual fundraising gala last Friday, March 6, at the Castaway’s Verdugo Room. “Funds raised tonight will touch the lives of more than 10,000 members of our community,” states BTAC Board Chair Ronald Sorensen in his program letter. “And without this annual dinner, BTAC would not be able to serve as many people as need assistance.”
For the past 41 years, BTAC has been providing homeless adults and their children with groceries, sack lunches, toiletries and temporary lodgings. On a more limited basis, BTAC has also helped others avoid the descent into the streets by helping with the rent and utilities as they got back on their feet.
Master of Ceremonies Gary Olson, who also serves as President of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, reminded his audience that Los Angeles County is the “homeless capital of the nation.” Weather is a big factor, underscored by the evening’s warm Santa Ana breeze while much of the country continues to freeze. The Great Recession has been another factor, turning dual incomes into dual pink slips.
And for some who come to Burbank with dreams of Hollywood success, the hard reality is sitting on cold concrete as the indifferent stars wheel overhead.
Long ago, the Burbank community decided to see the awful face of homelessness rather than avert its eyes. Individual volunteers and businesses stepped forward to help, inspiring BTAC to combine fundraising with recognition: the Burbank Top Award for Citizenship.
This year the award went to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center for their selfless medical services to the homeless, including free flu shots (which also makes it easier for BTAC staff to stay healthy) and medical advice. “For some BTAC clients, it’s the first quality time they’ve had with a medical professional ever,” remarked BTAC Chief Executive Officer Barbara Howell. Sr. Sheila Browne, RSM, Director of Mission Leadership, accepted the award on behalf of Saint Joseph.
As evidenced by rousing cheers from the audience another piece of heartwarming news is the return of Terry Walker to Saint Joseph’s senior staff.
The program also spotlighted Edward Stapleton, who serves the critical post of BTAC’s Pantry and Facility Manager. Edward explains that he works to “secure the freshest fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk and other supplies. On a daily basis, our team of volunteers sorts through canned goods and fresh food to make sure they are in good condition and meet expiration date requirements.” Edward has been with BTAC for 15 years, in large part because co-workers and volunteers alike “are very dedicated to serving those in need. This is what makes working at BTAC so enjoyable.”