Dave and Karrie Stewart moved with their four children to Burbank in August of 2013 from Arizona to plant a South Hills Church campus in the city, but what they started was a community movement that would touch the entire San Fernando Valley. Now over 7 years later, the Stewart family is ready to move back to their home state of Ohio and saying goodbye at their last service on Sunday, February 28th.
In the fall of 2013, the Stewarts worked vigorously to meet people, joined the YMCA, and got involved in their children’s schools, putting their full trust in the community before finally launching the church in April of 2014. “We knew this would be a challenge and an uphill battle for us but we were willing to do whatever it would take to do so. Fast forward almost 7 years, I feel like we have achieved that,” said Pastor Dave Stewart.
The church quickly grew, and welcomed people with a sign out front that read “No Perfect People Allowed.” It’s modern aesthetic and feel good music brought in people from all over the valley and soon Pastor Dave and the staff at South Hills were performing weddings, child dedications, water baptisms, and helping families in moments of loss and grief. “These are the moments that someone needs to know that they are loved and cared for by their local faith community,” said Pastor Dave. But it was their Love the 818 project that really touched the communities in Burbank.
“Love The 818 was birthed out of our desire to be a church that was involved in it’s community,” said Pastor Dave. Three times a year the church partners with local nonprofits and organizations to help them continue in their support of the community. The Love the 818 team organizes service projects and events and hundreds of South Hills members volunteer to do good in the neighborhoods of Burbank. Just to name a few of the outreach projects the team has done, Love the 818 has remodeled about 15 teacher lounges, cleaned city parks, hosted family fun zones for events like Magnolia Park’s annual Holiday in the Park, collected items and served local non profits like BTAC, served at Burbank on Parade, provided labor for a wildlife center, hosted blood drives, served the homeless and at risk kids, partnered with Hope of the Valley, and organized events to help show appreciation to our local heroes.
“When COVID changed the landscape of ‘church’ for us, we tried to pivot and ask, ‘what is now possible’ for us. We started to do more through Love The 818 than we had done before. We fulfilled all of our previous agreements to help schools, finalize remodel projects and partner with the city for huge food distribution events.” said Pastor Dave. “We also helped with Adopt a Senior programs to care for our local high school seniors and give them free graduation photos, along with a lot of free coffee as we partnered with The Ugly Mug Coffeehouse to help our first responders and local heroes.”
The Stewart family announced on their social media platforms and website in early February that they would be moving back to Ohio after months of prayer and talking with mentors. “We knew that God called us to come to Burbank, absolutely certain. We are privileged to have helped start this church,” said Pastor Dave. The family who has lived in California and Arizona in the past 12 years are excited to get back to Ohio and be around family again while raising their children around their aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. “We are excited about the pace of life we will be able to enjoy and actually excited about the changing of seasons again,” adds Pastor Dave.
The members and community have showed an outpouring of love and support for the Stewart family and expressed gratitude for all they have done in the City of Burbank. “From the day I stepped into South Hills Burbank Church almost 5 years ago, Dave and Karrie Stewart have inspired me to live my life to love others by serving my community,” said Love the 818 team member and volunteer, Amy Sparks Berger. “I have never in my life felt more closer to my community and the people who live in the community until I started attending South Hills Burbank. Dave and Karrie have an undeniable way of caring and inspiring people with their love for others, love for the 818 and love for South Hills Burbank Church. Burbank is forever changed because of these two inspirational people. They will be missed.”
Their last service at the South Hills campus will be on Sunday, February 28th and they hope people will come out to say goodbye. Online services are available live at 9:00am on YouTube and 11:00am on Facebook, but an in person service is available at 10:00am at the Burbank campus located at 222 S Victory Blvd, and RSVPs are required through their website at www.southhills.org/burbank. Pastor Dave leaves the Burbank community with this message: “We truly love this community. We have seen so many amazing things while living here and hope that this community will continue to be generous and help those who can’t help themselves. Thank you for accepting our family, loving us well and allowing us to create a wonderful church in this city.”