The annual Burbank Holiday Baskets program, organized by the Burbank Coordinating Council, is in full swing as December nears. Businesses, service groups, local PTAs, area schools, city departments and individuals throughout Burbank work together to provide 550 needy families with food, presents and the trappings of the Holiday season.
The Burbank Coordinating Council (BCC) kicked off the season’s efforts with the Spirit of Giving Luncheon on November 4, honoring Burbank Councilmember Emily Gabel-Luddy and the Burbank Fire Department. Lifelong Burbank resident Marsha Ramos emceed the event.
“The selfless efforts and generosity of the honorees give us an outstanding example of the spirit of generosity that has built America- and that thrives in Burbank today,” said Ramos. “Each and all have invested their time, talents and treasure in the bettering of our community, families and children.”
A 25-year resident of Burbank, Gabel-Luddy has served for six years on the Burbank City Council, after serving on the City’s Planning Board. She is retired from her professional career as City Planner for Los Angeles.
“She continues to be a strong advocate for environmental sustainability, social equity and a well-balanced city,” said Ramos. “Emily has dedicated her life to serving the public good and she strives for excellence in her personal and public life. She has steadfastly supported many of the charitable organizations here in Burbank. She truly understands the importance of social services.”
“The Fire Department, in partnership with Firefighters Local 778, have been involved with our community in so many ways!” said Ramos. “Every year, for as long as anyone can remember, the Department is involved in the Holiday Basket program – they collect goods, make calls, assemble and deliver baskets. But they do even more.”
They have Passed the Boot for Muscular Dystrophy, participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, partnered with the community and local vendors in Spark of Love Toy Drive and raised funds for Burbank Burroughs Memorial Field, Quest Burn Survivors, prostate cancer and dressed in pink for Breast Cancer awareness, continued Ramos. She noted Burbank firefighters read at local schools and attend Back to School Nights, offer Sidewalk CPR, Fire Prevention Week and also host Fire Services Day.
Since 1933, the BCC has served the City of Burbank with the annual Burbank Holiday Baskets program, matching donors with local needy families.
“We were created to combine the efforts of service organizations, schools, churches, city departments, businesses and individuals to better our city,” said Janet Diel, who co-chairs the Burbank Holiday Baskets program with Barbara Salamon and Dave Golonski.
“Historically, we have started many programs through the years… among them, Safety Sallies [which became school crossing guards through the police department], town hall meetings, senior board, youth board (all administered under the city council jurisdiction now), BTAC (we needed a year round food pantry, so we started this too) and many more.”
Burbank Coordinating Council has kept two programs under its auspices: Camperships and Holiday Baskets.
In summer, BCC sends more than 100 local children to a week of either day camp or resident camp.
The Burbank Holiday Baskets program has has grown from providing a holiday meal to nearly a week of food and gifts for each family, who are identified through the Burbank Unified School District free and reduced price lunch program.
“The Holiday Basket program has been around for as long as I can remember; it was and continues to be one of the most worthy community projects in Burbank,” commented Ramos. “We are gathered at this luncheon to support and celebrate the good works of this longstanding organization and to welcome the Season of Giving.”
“It takes more than a few people to make this happen,” said Diel. “It takes hundreds and even thousands [of people] – from those who donate a can of tuna at the food drives, to those who adopt a family and prepare the whole basket.”
“We try to protect confidences, verify needs and avoid duplications,” explained Diel. “Thanks to the generous support of people, we were able to serve over 550 families including more than 2400 people last year.”
“When my children were very young, we delivered a basket at the end of the delivery day. It was small, but only for two children and one parent,” Diel shared. “Hank had on his santa hat (he wears it every year) and when we arrived, it was a small house, with no drapes and a man in a wheelchair inside… with no legs.”
“Two boys running around in the front yard saw us and went into the house yelling: ‘Daddy Daddy, you’re right, there is a Santa Claus… because he is here!'”
“We all cried and then told them we probably had something else back at the delivery station,” Diel continued. “Went home and cleaned out the pantry. The kids found things they liked and included them in the boxes to take back to the family.”
“On our way, we stopped at what was then Zodys and spent the money we had targeted for gifts to and from one another, to use for gifts for that family,” she told Spirit of Giving Luncheon attendees. “It was the best holiday we ever had and we never forgot it.”
“It is only one of many stories. Drivers come back with tears in their eyes, knowing how important their delivery was to families in dire need.”
Upcoming events for which the Burbank Coordinating Council needs donations and volunteer help are:
Saturday, December 10 – Collect Food Donations at Local Grocery Stores (10am – 6pm)
Wednesday, December 15 – Sort Food, Fill Bags at Little White Chapel (3pm – 8pm)
Friday, December 16 – Move Bags, Build Baskets at McKinley Elementary (3pm – 8pm)
Saturday, December 17 – Burbank Holiday Basket Delivery from McKinley (7am – 4pm)
“We need help with all of these,” added Diel. “Nothing makes the holidays feel better than helping brighten them for others… join us!”
Burbank Coordinating Council offers community service learning hours for students who wish to help. Those who may be able to volunteer for just a few hours are welcome, she said.
For those individuals or organizations who would like to participate and haven’t signed up yet with the Burbank Coordinating Council, Diel asks for interested donors and volunteers to contact the BCC via email at ccholidaybaskets.org or by visiting the service group’s website here.
Burbank Coordinating Council staff are also available to answer questions about the program via phone by calling (818) 238-7647 or (818) 216-9377.