Tag Archives: Burbank Noon Rotary

Burbank Noon Rotarians Help Young Adults In Need

Burbank Noon wanted to continue its focus on charitable efforts for people who are often invisible to the general public in spite of needing special attention.   Earlier this year, Burbank Noon’s Executive Board decided to target emancipated and displaced youth, who all too often can be found swelling the ranks of the burgeoning homeless population. 

The club partnered with the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, which offers transitional housing (50 beds) for young adults (ages 18 to 24) without a support system. “Hope of the Valley has been an amazing partner in reaching them,” remarked Burbank Noon president Gregory Madore.

Using “happy dollars” collected at Burbank Noon luncheons throughout the year, member Renee Johnson purchased hats, scarves and gloves.  At their last meeting in 2019 (December 17), club members stayed after lunch and assembled gift bags of these items, along with handwritten cards bearing messages of encouragement and hope.  Members Sunny Singer and Charleen Gosling delivered the gift bags to HVR Mission staff later that day.

Immediate past President Albert Hernandez had come up with the gift bag idea, which had followed upon an earlier, LA Rotary District Grant-funded project that delivered hygiene kits and provided a Bingo luncheon.

Burbank Rotary Clubs Bring Santa’s Magic to BCR Clients

“Sorry, I’m late.  The freeway traffic was murder,” explained Santa Claus, making his merry way across the Emmanuel Church gymnasium.  But the BCR clients of BCR A Place To Grow didn’t mind in the least.  They’d been singing holiday carols with their beloved “Pia the elf”, while their bellies were happily digesting a helping or two of Handi Mart’s lasagna.

Sporting a top hat, Emcee Gregory Madore ushered Santa to his special chair by the Christmas tree.  His fellow Rotarians, who were now serving desserts and otherwise bussing the tables, smiled in anticipation. 

Santa called each BCR client by name to come to him.  One by one, they received their present (and goodie bag) and quickly proceeded to eagerly tear off the wrappings.  They proudly displayed their gifts to friends, family, and caregivers.  Somehow, Santa had known exactly what they had wished for! 

“Seeing their faces light up in sheer joy is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season,” said Rotarian Mary Gilbert, the long-time organizer of the annual dinner for BCR clients. 

The festive evening, occurring during the first week of December has also become a favorite holiday tradition of both the Burbank Sunrise and Burbank Noon Rotary clubs.  Club members served dinner to about 100 people this year.

The party concluded with Pia the elf singing more holiday favorites as her BCR fans sang and danced around her. 




Longtime Community Member and Pillar Peter McGrath Passes Away

Peter McGrath passed peacefully in his home surrounded lovingly by his children on October 17, 2019, in Burbank, CA following a brief struggle with cancer. He was 92.

Pete was born on February 2, 1927, in San Francisco, CA. He served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in Business in 1950. He married his sweetheart Lou Ann Lison also in 1950.

Pete worked in various industrial sweeper companies from 1948 onward, eventually forming the R.J. Lison Co. in 1954. He sold power sweepers for the first few years and eventually became the President and General Manager. He sold the business in 1987 and retired to an active life as a community volunteer in the City of Burbank.

When his son Bob was 6 years old, Pete and his son joined the YMCA Indians Guides, which started his meaningful service as a volunteer. Organizations Pete has served as a volunteer or as a leader were Burbank YMCA, First Congregational Church of Burbank, Burbank Police Commission, Burbank Board of Leadership, Burbank Noon Rotary Club, Burbank Rotary Foundation, Verdugo Mental Health, Wesley Homes, Burbank Housing Corporation, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Burbank Senior Board, Burbank RSVP, Burbank Supporters of Senior Service, Los Angeles County Commission for Older Americans, California Senior Legislature and the Burbank School Board.

Pete McGrath receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Albert Hernandez Noon Rotary President. (Photo Courtesy Burbank Noon Rotary)

Pete was honored in December by Burbank Noon Rotary with a Lifetime Achievement Award, he received several honors from Presidents of the United States to local Burbank City Council Members, recently Burbank Housing Authority named one of their new buildings “Pete’s Place” in honor of his service to the Burbank Housing Authority where he served as President for many years.

Pete is survived by his daughter Peggy Christ, son-in-law Jim Christ, son Bob McGrath, daughter-in-law Bettina Stammen, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Pete will be buried in a public ceremony at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills at Old North Church on Friday, October 25, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Pete’s life.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Burbank Noon Rotary Club or La Providencia Guild Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Burbank Noon Rotary Donates $15,000 to PSJ Foundation

This time of year Rotary service clubs across the world are roasting their outgoing club presidents while saluting their achievements over the past year.  Burbank Noon Rotary observed this time-honored tradition last Saturday at a cozy corner of Market City Caffe, ribbing outgoing club president Albert Hernandez with the help of some regrettable photos.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

But the club’s “demotion party” was also the occasion to celebrate an outstanding year of fundraising while having fun.  A highlight of the event was making another $5,000 donation to the Providence St. Joseph Foundation in support of its “Minutes Matters” campaign to add a new Emergency Department as well as an Urgent Care facility.

Check presented to Angela Khurdajian Development Officer of the St. Joesph Foundation from Karen Volpe, Albert Hernandez, Barry Gussow, Nat, and Alama Rubenfield. ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

Hernandez “had made health and wellness the focus of our giving this year,” explained Barry Gussow, who chairs the Burbank Noon Foundation and who made the club aware of PSJ’s goals.  “Our club committed to donating a total of $25,000 to PSJ over the next five years.”  With the club’s blessing, the better-than-expected fundraising allowed Hernandez to accelerate the schedule of giving, with last Saturday’s $5,000 donation bringing the total donated this past year to $15,000.

“We’re very excited by the results of our fundraising this year,” said PSJ Foundation Development Officer Angela Khurdajian, who received the additional $5,000.  According to Khurdajian, PSJ has so far raised about $58 million of the $78 million needed for the Emergency Department and Urgent Care facilities.  “It’s truly a testament to how strong this Burbank community is,”  she added.

Reflecting on Burbank Noon’s successful teamwork, Hernandez said, “I see you all like family.“

Burbank Noon Rotary Awards Scholarships to High School Seniors

At their June 4 meeting, the Burbank Noon Rotary club awarded two $1,000 Woodburn Engineering Scholarships to Burbank High School senior Erik Harutyunyan and Burroughs High School senior Anika Maskara.  As well, the club awarded a $1,000 Monterey Scholarship to Monterey High School senior Ashley Rios. 

Those applying for a Woodburn Engineering Scholarship must be college-bound engineering students who have above-average grades and demonstrate leadership and good citizenship.  The Monterey Scholarship award helps motivated students to overcome obstacles and continue their education, be it in college or in a vocational training program.

“It’s a testament to our school district that we have such fine students,” remarked Burbank Noon Scholarship Committee Chair Paul Herman.  Burbank Noon members Carole Collins and Cynthia Wagner also served on the Scholarship Committee, which oversaw the selection of the award recipients.  

Woodburn Engineering Scholarship Recipients Harutyunyan and Maskara

Scholar-athlete-entrepreneur Harutyunyan has earned a 4.34 GPA and is a finalist for the National Football Foundation Scholarship.  With a team of other engineering students, he designed and built from scratch a solar-powered racing boat.   

Harutyunyan is the founder and CEO of Something Different, LLC, an Amazon retail company that conducts research on trending products, and contacts foreign manufacturers to produce similar products under its own private label.  The products are then sold on Amazon’s marketplace.

He is also a CEO with a heart.  He volunteered on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Student of the Year Campaign, serving as the campaign manager for Team Burbank.  Under his leadership, Team Burbank raised over $40,000.

Harutyunyan will be attending UC Berkeley, where he plans to double major in engineering and business economics…and give the NFL a shot.

Burbank High Assistant Principal Steven Hubell was on hand to congratulate Harutyunyan.

Anika Maskara is 3rd in her graduating class with a 4.45 GPA.  She volunteered over 150 hours on behalf of the City’s libraries, having served as President of the Burbank Public Library Teen Advisory Board.  She also worked as a paid intern at Burbank Water and Power, working with employees in energy conservation, water services, and electrical services.

Anika will be attending Princeton, where she plans to major in engineering with an eye to having a career in aerospace.

Anika was in India at the time of the Rotary Noon scholarship award presentations.

Monterey Scholarship Recipient Rios

In spite of having dealt with many obstacles on the home front, Ashley Rios is on track to receiving her GED this October.  She intends to begin the Certified Nursing Assistant program at the Burbank Adult School next February.  She impresses everyone who meets her as “sincere and hardworking, someone who will carve out a bright future for herself.”  Assistant Monterey High principal David Guyer was on hand to congratulate Rios.

Burbank Noon’s Ongoing Commitment to Burbank Students

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matt Hill praised Burbank Noon’s “first-backpack-to-scholarship” support for students.  Burbank Noon’s traditional funding from scholarships comes from its long-established Burbank Foundation, which enables the club to give out Monterey Scholarship awards, as well as to support other community programs.  

More recently, the late Jim Woodburn, who had been a longtime Burbank Noon member and BWP’s Chief Engineer for two decades, had bequeathed to the Burbank Foundation a generous, additional endowment for scholarships intended to encourage careers in science and engineering. 

Burbank Noon Rotary Again Sings Its Way To Fundraising Success

A tomcat was on the prowl last Saturday evening, warily entering Nickelodeon’s cartoony courtyard.  He could’ve sworn he had heard a mating call caroming from one building to the next, mixing with the warm spring air heavy with the scent of jasmine.  But the mating call was starting to sound…different.

The frisky feline made his stealthy way past the four-star buffet and bar, under tables vibrating with cheerful chatter.  With cautious optimism he emerged from under a wine-stained tablecloth…

…and beheld a trio of boa-bedecked human females lustily belting out “Somebody Who Loves Me.”

They say the more you imbibe, the sweeter the karaoke singing becomes. 

Unfortunately for the tomcat, he was sober. 

By the time he cleared the outer wall, the terrified animal had left a sonic boom in his wake.  Less observant members of the feeling-no-pain audience thought that one of the trios must’ve banged her mike against something or someone.

Meanwhile, dogs howled in the distance, wishing they could jump the fence and join what surely must be some kind of canine celebration.  “Let them have their fond illusions,” the tomcat snarked to himself, still fleeing at supersonic speed.

A Greek professor unburdening himself on Mikonos, and who was admittedly woo-zo from all the ouzo, once averred that karaoke is punishment meted to the gods for chaining poor Prometheus to that rock.  But last Saturday the Olympians had a major consolation: Burbank Noon Rotary’s Second Annual Karaoke Fundraiser was for a great cause: helping Burbank Noon Rotary fulfill a very sizable pledge to, over the next five years, Providence Saint Joseph’s Foundation.

“It’s the single largest pledge Burbank Noon has ever made, “ stated Barry Gussow, who chairs the Burbank Noon Foundation. “And we had a very successful evening.”

Key PSJ goals are to add an expanded, state-of-the-art Emergency Room as well as a new Urgent Care facility.  And only supporting such worthy goals could stay the hands of the gods.  Otherwise, they’d have surely hurled lightning bolts at event impresario and Rotary Noon President Albert Hernandez, bobbing his cobra-headed cane like a majorette and prancing about in red-velvet-and-zebra bellbottoms.  You couldn’t unsee something like that, any more than you could unhear his ear-rending rendition of “Superfreak.”

Not to be outdone in harmony horror, a dozen or more Noon Rotarians attacked “Happy Together,” in a sonic version of gangs gleefully rampaging on Purge Night.

It fell to Burbank Sunrise Rotary to provide a respite from the melody mayhem.  When the Sunrisers sang, it brought tears of something to every eye. Even the stars in the sky gathered around them. (No, they weren’t meteors.)  You’d swear that all of them had been singing like angels from the crib.  Jessica Garcia, the night’s superstar with her seriously good “I Will Survive,” instantly became a member of Rotary Sunrise, whether she knew it or not.

Just about everyone made promiscuous use of props—feather boas, yachting caps, sombreros, and completely random accouterments.  And then there was a certain someone who, to spare his family, shall be referred to only as “J”.  As if the caterwauling weren’t enough, J would frequently flounce stage left and play the air bugle, and then the air piccolo, lurching into an interpretive dance for good measure.  At least he didn’t sing.

To be fair, the karaoke singers were the pawns of fate. Under Noon Rotary’s karaoke rules, you could nominate anyone to sing a song of your choice for only $25.  It’s even better if several of you each contribute $25, and better still if—how to put this in a kind way—singing is not your target’s wheelhouse.  The person nominated can avoid singing the song but only if they pay $40 to sing a different one or $50 to get out of singing altogether.

But more often than not, after a glass or two or three of liquid courage, there go your friends…

…Doing a duet of “It’s A Whole New World,” except that Aladdin is singing with the Genie…

…Singing “When Will I Be Loved?” and when she sings, “I’ve been knocked down,” a sign obligingly falls on her…

…Daring to attempt “Like A Virgin,” and sounding like demented castrati, which come to think of it, actually makes sense…

…Channeling Alexander Hamilton, although that turned out pretty well…

…Crooning romantic songs with their spouses…how sweet, even if any teenager in the hearing distance just wants to sink through the floor.

Your friends should’ve paid the $50.  But you knew that, terrible person.

Providing a recess from these horrors, Gussow introduced some of the leading organizers of the PSJ Foundation:

Dr. Angelique Campen, emergency department physician and a member of the PSJ Board of Governors

Renee Bianco, Executive Director of the PSJ Foundation

Angela Khurdajian, philanthropic gift advisor

Sarah Skolnik, administrative secretary for the PSJ Foundation

Always good to have a couple of angels in your corner.

Hernandez’ acknowledged event organizers Jessa Freemeyer, Barry Gussow, Renee Johnson, Greg Madore, Sunny Singer, Mike Thomas, Brian Volpei, and Natalie Worsham.  Noon Rotary gave special thanks to Vicky Fenton and Nickelodeon for donating the venue.

“We owe a huge debt to our amazing sponsors, which include many Burbank Noon members,” said Hernandez.  “We also want to thank our contributors.  Their generosity made for a great evening and allowed all the money raised to go toward our goal.”  Besides Nickelodeon, the contributors included: Backstage Café, California Eatery, Domino’s Pizza, Granada, Lincoln Beer Company, Porto’s Bakery and Café, Santoro’s, Tony’s Deli, Ugly Mug, and Zach’s Catering.

Rotary Noon is already gearing up for Karaoke III in 2020.  Tomcats, you’ve been warned.  Dogs—never mind, you can’t read.

Burbank Rotary Clubs’ Season Of Giving

In the spirit of the season, the Burbank Sunrise and Burbank Noon Rotary service clubs joined forces for a special week of holiday giving.

Greg Semay serves up a tray of dinners. ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

Giving joy.  Last Tuesday, December 4, the two clubs put on their annual holiday dinner for those cared for by BCR, together with their families.   The Emmanuel Church’s gymnasium echoed with happy chatter as the over 100 people enjoyed Handi Mart’s lasagna and eagerly awaited the arrival of Santa Claus. 

When Santa sat by the festive tree and called up each of the BCR clients by name to give them their present, their faces soon became bright with delight.  Somehow, Santa had known exactly what each person had wished for!  The evening concluded with Santa’s elf singing holiday favorites as her joyful BCR fans smiled, sang and danced. 

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Event organizer and Burbank Sunrise member Mary Gilbert let out her breath and sat down.  It all came together once more.

Giving recognition.  The following evening on Wednesday, December 5, Burbank Noon held their holiday party at the Castaway’s Valley View Room, as rain and mist blanketed the stars above and the streetlights below.  But the Rotarians’ spirits weren’t dampened, and the drinks were dry.  The Boy’s and Girl’s Club had just finished a charming holiday revue of singing and dancing, including green elves singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”   And there was much to celebrate.

President Albert Hernandez inducted Stephanie Bennett as the newest member of Burbank noon.  Burbank Noon member Barry Gussow had made Stephanie aware of Rotary during a recent poker tournament benefitting Kids Community Dental.  Bennett, a Burbank resident who is no stranger to volunteering, decided to visit Burbank Noon.  She liked what she saw.  “I look forward to new opportunities for serving in the community,” she said.

Rotary Lifetime Achievement Honoree Peter McGrath occupies the opposite end of membership longevity, having been a member of Burbank Noon for 52 years.  (For perspective, when he joined in 1966, we hadn’t landed on the moon yet, and the Beatles were still together.)  “As a young man, older guys were giving me all kinds of business advice,” he recalled.  Now he’s the gray-haired sage. In between, he grew a business, raised a family and served in just about every Rotary capacity, including club president.  McGrath’s long and distinguished Rotary career made him a natural candidate for a roasting, and his own wry remarks made sure that the flames left nothing unsinged.

Women In Rotary History Honoree Janice Lowers was not expecting to be part of the program that evening.  But her contingent of Burbank Sunrisers knew she was in for a pleasant surprise.  They also knew she exemplified the enormous impact of women in Rotary since 1989 when the international organization had the good sense to admit women members.  Her Burbank Police Department career involved her in many community projects and made her aware of many unmet needs.  She carried that awareness into her many years with Rotary, where she has been one of the club’s dynamos.  Recalling the late President George H. W. Bush’s “thousand points of light” speech she said, “If I could just be one of those points of light. I’m so proud to be a Rotarian.”

Giving financial support.  Also during the Wednesday evening party, Foundation Board Chair Gussow awarded $10,000 to the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center Foundation, in support of a state-of-the-art Emergency Room and Urgent Care Facility.  Gussow reminded that Burbank Noon club that they had committed to $5,000 annually for five years ($25,000 total) for this purpose. “But thanks to our president, Albert Hernandez, who also has a passion for this project, our first installment is $10,000, shortening the giving time by a year.”  This was in no small part due to very successful fundraising during the previous 2017-18 Rotary year.

On hand to accept the contribution were Dr. Celina Barba-Simic, a board-certified physician in

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

emergency medicine and a member of PSJ’s staff since 2004; Renee Bianco, Vice-President of Foundations, LA Region and Executive Director of PSJ Foundation; and Michael Mayne, Senior Philanthropic Advisor at PSJ Foundation.  They were joined by Burbank noon member Nat Rubinfeld, co-chair of the Burbank Committee and member of the board of directors of the PSJ Foundation.

Giving time.  Add in getting ready to distribute holiday baskets, and the bell ringing for the Salvation Army and you have, along with many other Burbank service clubs, a very special time of giving.

Burbank Noon Rotary Gives Back This April

By Greg Semay

For Burbank Noon Rotary, April will be the kindest month. The service club will be giving a total of 12 thousand dollars to several local organizations, as well as awarding scholarships and recognizing “Teachers of Excellence.”

Previously, Noon Rotary had made many small donations over the year. “But this time we decided to have more of a concentrated giving effort in line with our theme of youth services and homelessness,” explained Rotary Noon President Brian Volpei. 

·       On April 3, Noon Rotary will be making donations to BCR and Kids Community Dental Clinic.


·       On April 10, Noon Rotary will be recognizing “Teachers of Excellence.”


·       On April 17, Noon Rotary will be making a donation to Family Promise.


·       On April 24, Noon Rotary will be awarding several scholarships to local high school seniors

Although Noon Rotary has a well-endowed foundation, the club depends on its annual fundraising to make significant donations.  “Our fundraising goal is $8,000 for this Rotary year, but our karaoke event alone has netted us $10,000,” said President Volpei.

So it seems it that the melodic mayhem at Nickelodeon last February has turned into sweet music for the Burbank community.

Burbank Noon Rotary meets at the De Bell Clubhouse every Tuesday at noon.

Burbank Noon Rotary Sings Its Way To Fundraising Success

After the doings during one not-to-be-named Saturday night, some people will never again be able to run for office.

Their minutes with the mike will howl and yowl from screens large and small, and across the decades, when those yet unborn will be listening and howling too.

John Volpe, Brian Volpe, and Barry Gussow. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Ordinarily, the deities of a song would’ve turned the stars above into thunderbolts, hurling them toward any perpetrators of melody mayhem.  But that Saturday night they stayed their hand.  The caterwauling was for a good cause.

Blame Noon Rotarian MIKE THOMAS for tempting the wrath of the gods.  It was his idea to inaugurate Burbank Noon Rotary’s first annual karaoke fundraiser.  And it looks like Noon Rotary will be making sizeable contributions on behalf of several worthy local causes, just as soon as they finish counting the coin.  It seems that gales of mirth had lofted the giving spirit to new heights.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Mike’s major accomplices included Noon President BRIAN VOLPEI, who translated Mike’s idea into a festive evening at Nickelodeon’s new courtyard, complete with a four-star buffet and bar.  Other Noon Rotary organizers of the event were JESSA FREEMYER, BARRY GUSSOW, RENEE JOHNSON, GREG MADORE, and NATALIE WORSHUM. Noon Rotary gives a special thanks to VICKY FENTON and NICKELODEON for donating the venue.


“The Noon Rotary event owes a huge debt to our amazing sponsors,” said Noon President Brian.  “Their generosity not only gave us a great evening but allowed all the event revenues to go to our foundation.”  Besides Nickelodeon, contributors included CENTANNI TRATTORIA, TONY’S DELI, LINCOLN BEER COMPANY, PORTO’S BAKERY AND CAFÉ, ZACH’S CATERING, GRANADA, SANTORO’S and CALIFORNIA EATERY.

Fundraising success also came from Noon Rotary’s fiendish set of karaoke rules:  You could nominate anyone to sing a song of your choice for only $25.  It’s even better if a bunch of you each contribute $25, and better still if—how to put this delicately—singing is not your target’s signature strength.  Now, the person nominated can avoid singing the song but only if they pay $40 to sing a different one or $50 to get out of singing altogether.

But more often than not, after a glass or two or three of liquid courage, there’s your friend. wailing for all its worth, frightening any stray dogs within a half-mile radius and giving tom cats the wrong idea.  Your friend should’ve paid the $50…but you knew that.

Members of Morning Rotary Belt a tune. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

As befits the Nickelodeon venue, the proceedings got more and more animated as the night wore on.  Several Sunrise Rotarians killed (as in murdered) Bohemian Rhapsody with great enthusiasm.  Others, emboldened by the low bar they had just established (which would’ve been impressive if they had been doing the limbo) thought they could lower it even further.  They came close.

Now to be fair, there were more than a few voices who turned the chairs around and amazed everyone.  A certain Noon Rotarian even acquitted himself well with Hamilton’s opening number, at least in the sense of Rocky Balboa keeping his dignity intact after going the distance with Apollo Creed.

If laughter’s the best medicine, there were several miracle cures that night.  But then, doing good by having fun has always been Noon Rotary’s signature strength.

Burbank Noon Rotary Hosting First Karaoke Bash at Nickelodeon Studios

On Saturday, February 24 at 6:00 pm, Burbank Noon Rotary will be hosting its 1st Annual Rotary Karaoke Bash at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank.

This event will have a new twist on Karaoke. As part of the event’s fundraising objective (and to provide tons of entertainment for all of the attendees), for $25 any attendee can nominate any other attendee to sing a song of their choosing. That individual can then sing the nominator’s song choice at no cost to them, or for $40 they can select a different song, or for $50 they can opt not to sing at all. 

Each attendee can only be nominated one time so if you are going to nominate someone, make sure you choose a great song.

This fun musical evening will be emceed by Lisa Donahey (lisadonahey.com, facebook.com/ LisaDonaheyMusic,twitter.com/LisaDonahey).

A cash bar (soft drinks, wine, beer, and liquor) and savory appetizers will be available throughout the evening.

Proceeds from this fantastic event will benefit non-profit organizations and schools in Burbank.

Guest must be on the entry list prior to the event. When you buy tickets you will be added.

Tickets are $75.00 and are available for this event here: https://squareup.com/store/burbank-noon-rotary-foundation/item/fundraiser-ticket-burbank-noon-rotary