Family Service Agency Wants You to ‘Imagine a City’

( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

UPDATED Tuesday Sept.30, 2014

The Family Service Agency has been there for the Burbank community since 1953, and it’s the time of year the community can return the favor, by supporting its annual “Imagine a City” Dinner, Dance and Auction set for Saturday, Oct. 4, at Providence High School.

The agency’s purpose has been to promote mental wellness and keep families and individuals emotionally strong through “Counseling — Preventing — Educating — Advocating”.

( Photo by Ross A. Benson)
( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Family Service counselors work with families and individuals at the agency’s office on Burbank Boulevard as well as those living in the three residential treatment facilities in town. Counselors also work with students at all Burbank school campuses.

“Last year our school-based counseling program provided services to over 1,400 students on all 18 Burbank Unified School District campuses — over 12,000 hours of care,” said Executive Director Laurie Bleick.

These youngsters are suffering silently with such issues as suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, isolation and alienation, substance abuse, grief and loss, anger and family violence and child abuse.

The Burbank Police Department’s Mental Health Evaluation Team “highly recommends” the agency to those in need in the community, said Burbank Police Officer Kristiana Sanchez.

( Photo by Ross A. Benson)
( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“The agency has been instrumental in being an additional resource that we are able to provide to families and various clients within the community that we recommend they utilize as a resource in additional support in whatever they are going through,” she said.

Family Service Agency has also been extremely helpful in providing counseling services when major crises happen, such as the traffic accidents that killed three Burroughs graduates on Sept. 12 and the five area high school graduates who died one year ago this Sunday, Sanchez added.

“The agency counselors were available to students on site at the schools because not only was the community affected but a lot of the students went to school with those kids, and the agency was able to provide support for the students and for the families — for everyone who was affected by that as well as just recently where the three [young adults] passed earlier this month in that car accident [in Santa Clarita] on Sept. 12,” she said.

Not only has the agency been a huge support for different organizations within the community but specifically for the Police Department.

“We highly recommend them to students and families that need additional support and the agency has always come through and been extremely supportive and a great resource for those community members,” she said.

The agency was “wonderful” in providing counseling to high school students and teachers after three Burroughs graduates were killed in the traffic accident on Sept. 12, said Burbank schools Superintendent Jan Britz.

“Our students in our high schools don’t know how they are supposed to act in this kind of situation, so agency counselors are good about giving them coping skills, walking through the tragedy, bringing out some of their feelings and just helping them to deal with the way that they feel — and letting them know that it’s OK, that everybody is not going to respond in the same way.”

As those killed on Sept. 12 were recent graduates, many of the students and teachers knew them, Britz said, which made it especially difficult for them.

The objective now, she added, is to keep searching for what can be done to prevent these kinds of tragedies.

The agency counselors are on the high school campuses daily, but if a situation arises and a counselor is not already on site, the agency sends someone over, Britz said.

“The thing about grieving is sometimes it doesn’t always hit you right afterwards,” she said.

Another segment of the community receiving counseling at the agency is military veterans returning to civilian life.

Once a week, between five to eight veterans meet with a facilitator to talk about what’s happening in their lives now or what happened during their service.

“The topics vary. They are spontaneous,” said one Burbank veteran, who requested anonymity.

Participants are those who served from Desert Storm through Vietnam and younger veterans  who have just been discharged. They talk about family issues and relationships.

“It’s very uplifting!” the veteran added. “We are going on our third year. Family Service Agency was good enough to open their doors to us. It’s a wonderful program.”

Counselors also make visits to the Family Service Agency’s transitional homes serving youth in Burbank, said Executive Director Bleick.

“One of the homes supports survivors of domestic violence,” she said. “Another one serves homeless youth and young adults, and the other one is for homeless families.”

During the agency’s fundraiser, guests will enjoy dinner and have the opportunity to bid on silent and live auction items. In addition, agency officials will present the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award. The honor is named for one of Burbank’s top volunteers of all time who was a founding member of the Family Service Agency. This year, the award will be presented to three generations of the Clarke, Vargas Machuca and Vander Borght family.

It’s a great opportunity to congratulate the honorees as well as hear about the agency’s success stories and see how the programs have grown over the years. Last year, agency officials displayed beautiful drawings made by youth in the art therapy program. They were touching and poignant but filled with hope.

For reservations, contact the agency at (818) 845-7671.

If you or anybody in Burbank needs to talk to someone, or have thoughts of depression, anxiety, thoughts of hurting yourself or others or are a victim of domestic violence and abuse, call 818-845-7671


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