As the battle against COVID-19 continues nationwide, the Burbank Family Service Agency is creating a space for hope in the community.
The FSA offers mental health counseling, including domestic violence intervention, individual counseling, and student care to locals, all while providing education and advocacy to the City of Burbank.
As they give assistance to Burbank clients for either little or no cost when clients can’t afford to make payments, there is always a need for the FSA to conduct fundraisers wherein the community can pay them back for their ongoing support.
An annual FSA event, entitled “Imagine A City Gala – Reimagined Creating a Field of HOPe” is to be conducted on October 24 at Olive Ball Fields. Attendees will remain in their cars to stay safe and maintain social distancing guidelines, and for a fee participants can purchase an event package. These include a personalized cutout placed in a ballpark field seat, a ballpark box dinner, an event baseball cap, and a “message of HOPe” from the FSA.
FSA Executive Director Laurie Bleick says through their fundraisers the agency strives to inform the public that they’re not alone in any emotional struggles they face. This message is especially pertinent for everyone looking for togetherness amidst isolating times.
“We want to build awareness. So that’s why the field of hope, we’re doing it responsibly and trying to keep everybody safe and healthy,” Bleick said. “And hopefully it’ll be a visual reminder that we are in this together and that there is hope and that despite the fact we can’t get 300, 400 people in a room like we typically do, our spirits are there right now.”
The fundraiser will honor this year’s recipients of the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Awards, Burbank City Manager Justin Hess, and California State Senator Anthony Portantino. The award is in the late O’Connor’s name in recognition of her contributions to the FSA, which include being a founding member of the agency’s board of directors.
“[O’Connor] honored us with allowing us to name this award in her name,” Bleick said. “And the spirit of the award really is being a visionary of your time…And now you’ve got to put that compassion into action. And she was an example of that for…80 years in this community.”
Along with maintaining the annual fundraiser, the FSA has continued to conduct sessions with clients remotely via Telehealth Services during the pandemic. Bleick says the lengthy period of social distancing has resulted in a surge of stress in the area, making the agency’s work more vital than ever.
“The severity of the cases, the severity of the traumas, and the experiences that young people are having with this isolation and various things that come from these kinds of circumstances get revealed,” Bleick said. “That’s another observation for us and that we’re concerned about and watching and experiencing every day.”
Before COVID-19 forced the FSA to shut down their in-person services, the organization conducted on-campus counseling with students at Burbank High School and John Burroughs High School, and participation at both locations revealed a strong student demand for mental health assistance. Bleick hopes the future will hold more opportunities to serve residents who may otherwise not have access to such aid.
“We had, prior to the pandemic, about 100 students coming through those two centers every day…We knew there was a need, but the need was enormous, is enormous, and it will be bigger in our return,” Bleick said. “So to try to create something like that in our community that allows for a broader definition of mental health, …creating those spaces, that would be a dream for me.”