The jubilant air that usually envelopes Family Service Agency’s annual gala had a tinge of sadness Saturday night in the Providence High School gym.
Several references were made to the car crash last weekend that took the lives of five youths and left one injured.
In his invocation, Pastor Ross Purdy asked the audience to remember the victims and families with a moment of silent prayer, adding that Family Service Agency’s purpose is to provide help to people in crisis.
But board officers, employees and supporters found there was much to celebrate with this being the agency’s 60th anniversary.
Four individuals and two businesses were presented with the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Awards. O’Connor, a tireless volunteer with numerous charitable organizations, often was referred to as Burbank’s Fairy Godmother because her likeness was the model for the character in the Disney animated feature “Cinderella.” O’Connor died in 2010 but her legacy included being a founding member of Family Service Agency when it began in 1953.
O’Connor was someone who made miracles happen, said past Vision Award recipient Mary Alvord, a former city manager. She and several other women knew that some people did not live happily ever after. And they created the agency, which provides help for victims of domestic violence as well as counseling for families, individuals and students on all levels in the school district and many other programs.
“As one of the original Women of Vision honored by her, I can only say how truly grateful I am that my life was touched, enriched and changed forever by the bibbidi-bobbidy-boo magic that she did so well and that she used to make miracles happen throughout this entire community,” Alvord said.
Those honored for their vision in support of the vital work of the agency were Burbank Police Captain Michael Albanese, Burbank School Board member Dave Kemp, Pastor Ross Purdy, Cartoon Network and Burbank Healthcare Foundation. A special surprise was the addition of mistress of ceremonies Anja Reinke receiving the Vision Award.
The agency needs corporations and every individual in the room to help it do its critical work every day, Executive Director Laurie Bleick said.
“Please know that we can’t do it without you,” she said.
Capt. Albanese was recognized for helping with the agency’s work with domestic violence and mental health services, Bleick said.
“Our domestic violence program has never worked more closely with the police department since (former) Chief David Newsham, who is extraordinary, than we are now, and much of that goes to this man’s vision and not just the vision but the action taken behind that and that takes courage, intelligence and that takes an undying passion every day,” she said.
Dave Kemp was honored for giving 48 years to students in the Burbank Unified School District. He has been a teacher, coach, athletic director at Burbank High School and is in his third term as a member of the Board of Education.
Kemp was humbled by the honor, and said his success was attributed to a great team around him.
“First of all I’d like to acknowledge my wife Judy,” Kemp said. “She has been a great support throughout the almost 50 years I have been with the school district. It’s been a grand journey for me. I am blessed to work with the people who serve on the board and we have so many wonderful teachers and staff who work with the children on a daily basis. This community is one of the most caring groups of people. When things go wrong, we have a lot of people step up and want to solve problems.”
Pastor Ross Purdy received the honor, Bleick said, for being available whenever she calls and for his spiritual leadership.
“No matter what your faith is, he reminds us everyday that we have a mission and we should not get distracted by the noise and there is a lot of noise in our lives,” she said. “And this is the man that I turn to and when I get in that noisy place, Ross is the man that gives me that clear picture to remind us who we are, what our work is and what we need to focus on.”
Representing Cartoon Network, Zita Lefebvre was recognized for being a constant support to Bleick and introducing new friends to the agency. Burbank Healthcare Foundation’s Geri Hernandez accepted her company’s honor. The foundation has lent its support to the agency for all its milestones, especially in securing a $50,000 grant to establish the domestic violence program years ago, Bleick said.
The surprise of the evening was Anja Reinke receiving a Vision Award.
Alvord presented the honor and thanked Reinke for her longtime support and especially for coming up with the Care Walk fundraiser.
The evening included a buffet-style dinner, silent and live auction and dancing. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and each table had a cake in honor of the agency’s 60th anniversary and Bleick’s birthday.