The Burbank Community YMCA held an on-site ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new Social Impact Center on Friday, June 11.
The location is the first LGBTQIA+ resource center in Burbank’s history. YMCA Directing of Marketing and Social Responsibility, Rob Rodriguez, led the development of the center, a process which has been nearly a year in the making. The YMCA room which now houses the Social Impact Center was converted from a gymnastics studio to create a welcoming environment for youth in Burbank to spend time with fellow visitors and be themselves unapologetically.
“It feels amazing,” Rodriguez said of witnessing the center’s opening. “It’s honestly overwhelming in the best way, being able to see it all come together to celebrate pride, celebrate the center and all the hard work that has gone into this.”
IKEA, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros. all donated furniture for the center’s renovation. Furthermore, books, notebooks, and toys were given to the YMCA by Barnes and Noble of Burbank, and original artwork by media artist Blake Rodriguez adorned the center’s newly decorated walls.
“We are so happy for all of our sponsors, funders, partners and to see them all here tonight cheering and celebrating,” Rodiguez added.
The Social Impact Center operates under a three-tier model, which involves LGBTQIA+ support, social justice work, and foster care advocacy. During their working hours, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., educational workshops, homework help, and referral services will be available for visitors. YMCA staff plan to expand the center as it grows, as it will also be a location for movie nights, meetings, and town hall gatherings to work collectively on addressing social justice issues.
Among those in attendance at the opening were Burbank City Council members Nick Schultz, Sharon Springer, Konstantine Anthony, Senator Anthony Portantino, County of Los Angeles Assessor Jeffrey Prang, Burbank Community YMCA CEO Mary Cutone, and YMCA COO Bryan Snodgrass. Numerous attendees made speeches to celebrate the grand opening, which coincides with Pride Month, and members of Burbank’s Conundrum Theatre Company performed a stirring duet during the ceremony.
Schultz spoke at the event and offered support for the LGBTQIA+ community following the City Council’s recognition of Pride Month on Tuesday, June 8. This was the first time ever that the City has formally declared June as Pride Month in Burbank.
“I hope that this center, more than anything, is a place for discussion and exploration,” Schultz said. “I think that safe place is going to be a springboard where we’re going to get that next generation of leadership that our community really needs.”
As one of just two LGBTQIA+ L.A. County elected officials, Prang spoke of his approval of the center’s assistance to local adolescents seeking out a comforting place to feel accepted and valued. He also recognized the momentous occasions as a symbol of progress in the City of Burbank.
“Even though these centers are not new in the country, the fact that we’re doing it in Burbank [is significant],” Prang said. “We’re doing it outside the traditional areas [and] we’re reaching people.”
With a total of 12 years at the Burbank Community YMCA and a history of roles in youth services in her professional experience, Mary Cutone has a passion for helping young people reach their full potential. She and Snodgrass initially approached Rodriguez with the idea of implementing helpful community resources, and together the three have collaborated to draft a plan for the center’s execution. Not only does the center stand alone in the originality of its beneficial programs for youth in Burbank, but it also fully encompasses the core values of the YMCA’s mission.
“The YMCA is for youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, and the Social Impact Center is about all of those things,” Cutone said. “[We’re] a safe and trusted place for people, so I think we’re in a unique position to do this.”
The center is set to officially begin serving YMCA visitors on Monday, June 14. It will function with the help of two intern staff members working under Rodriguez’s oversight. The center’s programming calendar for the month of June will include such services as books club meetings with LGBTQIA+ friendly reading, makeup classes, and resume building 101. For Rodriguez, the ultimate vision for the Social Impact Center is to contribute to a positive future by bringing more inclusivity and acceptance to the City of Burbank.
“It’s been a journey this far, but to be honest the journey has just begun,” Rodriguez said. “We cannot wait to get started and meet the youth coming in, the families, and to truly change this community, one child and family at the time.”