Tag Archives: Burbank Temporary Aid Center

BTAC Honors Mayor Will Rogers, Burbank Association Of Realtors

BTAC Board Chair Nancy Korb, Mayor Will Rogers and BTAC CEO Barbara Howell (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Temporary Aid Center herded several hundred well-wishers into the Castaway corral last Friday night for its western-themed, annual fundraising gala. Blue jeans and bandannas made their way to the watering holes and otherwise grazed along the aisles of silent auction items and opportunity baskets.  After a spell, emcee Barry Gussow rang the dinner bell.  Good grub was waiting in the Starlight Room, and the spotlights were set to shine on this year’s recipients of BTAC’s “Burbank Top Award for Citizenship,” Mayor Will Rogers and the Burbank Association of Realtors.

Strong community support has allowed BTAC to be a safety net of last resort for those who are homeless (about 1,000 in Burbank at present) or in serious danger of becoming so (over 9,000.)   For over 40 years, organizations like BAOR and folks like Mayor Rogers have enabled BTAC to provide sack lunches, groceries, hygiene kits, showers, clean clothes and utility bill assistance, among other services.  The citizenship award is BTAC’s heartfelt way of saying, “much obliged.”

National Charity League Members (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

The appreciation runs both ways.  “The burden of so many social services has fallen to nonprofits like BTAC.  Thank goodness we have them for the underserved communities,” stated State Senator Anthony Portantino, one of several public officials attending the gala.  Can BTAC be replicated throughout California? “BTAC is a good model for tight-knit communities where people are willing to help each other,” responded State Assembly Member and former Glendale Mayor Laura Friedman.

The “Volunteer Spotlight” segment, featuring the Burbank Chapter of the National Charity League, made clear that Burbank is indeed a community that cares. NCL was represented by Chapter president Cheryl Kisob, Vice president of Philanthropy Teresa Weeden, Class of 2018 Patroness Grade level Advisor Stephanie Yonkee, and Class of 2018 Ticktocker president Elise Jonke.   (There are over 90 Ticktockers in six different grade levels, often functioning within mother-daughter teams.)  Each month a class of NCL hosts a food drive outside of a local grocery store or supermarket to collect non-perishable food and personal hygiene items for BTAC.  Ticktockers see first hand the generosity of the Burbank community.  “It reminded me of the blessings in my own life,” remarked Elise Jonke. NCL members also provide BTAC with hundreds of hygiene kits and lunches each year, for direct distribution to the homeless.

Next came recognition of the citizenship award honorees, BAOR and Mayor Will Rogers.

Burbank Association of Realtors with Cheritta Smith, Chris Rizzotta, Courtney Korb BAOR President and Barbara Howell (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Both as an organization and as a source of individual volunteers, BAOR had embraced BTAC from the beginning.  “Community service and civic involvement have always been core tenets of our membership,” stated Courtney Korb, BAOR 2018 President.  Through its Community Services Foundation, BAOR gives food drives for BTAC and provides other assistance as needed.  (It has also raised money for local pet adoption services, partnered with Boys&Girls Club, and distinguished itself as the single largest donor of scholarships in Burbank.)  At the gala, Korb presented BTAC with a $5,000 donation. “We are grateful to be able to continue to support all the work of BTAC,” said Korb. “We understand there is always a need for assistance and are so proud of our members’ willingness to jump right in and ask how they can help.”   Joining her on stage were Cheritta Smith, BAOR Association Executive, and Chris Rizzotti, BAOR Community Service Foundation Past-President.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Shortly after joining the BTAC Board of Directors in 2005, Mayor Rogers staged a sold-out, one-man fundraising show for BTAC at the Colony Theatre. He made an impact on BTAC’s day-to-day operations as well, creating a thorough—and long-needed—manual of policies and procedures. He also personally assembled the tribute journal for BTAC’s annual gala. And he chaired BTAC’s annual Santa’s Room event and managed the extensive Santa’s Room inventory.  “If Will said he would do something, it was done, and it was done well,” said BTAC Executive Director Barbara Howell.  As a Board member, Mayor Rogers “was the conscience of BTAC, always asking the difficult questions, pointing the organization towards the best path for our clients,” stated fellow Board member Michael Walbrecht.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

“I told my wife, ‘You look so beautiful in that outfit.’  My only regret is that I didn’t ask where she was going,” quipped Mayor Rogers to the guffawing crowd.  In the tradition of his rope-spinning namesake of the previous century, he continued to regale everyone with self-deprecating humor—although he did cast blame on former Mayor Tim Murphy for getting him interested in BTAC to begin with. No doubt that’s because “in spite of being a sort of cynical person” the sight of BTAC helping people, especially around the holidays, “turns him around every year.”  Perhaps having in mind the many young people who have done volunteer work for BTAC (like the Ticktockers), Mayor Rogers went on to observe that, whatever criticisms may be leveled at the millennials and post-millennials, “we have some really spectacular kids, at least in and around Burbank.”

Cynical or not, Will Roger forged a path from muckraking journalist to the mayor that was marked by a willingness to tackle problems and not merely decry them.  And this was especially evident in his activities on behalf of BTAC and the people they serve.

At the conclusion of the event, Barbara Howell acknowledged her staff and volunteers. Then came a sobering statistic: There are some 10,000 people in Burbank (about 3,000 families) who are struggling to not be homeless.  A woman who was about to be evicted contacted various organizations “and they told her to come back when she is homeless,” related Howell.  In contrast, BTAC helped 20 people not to be evicted last year; usually, it was by paying the utility bills and donating food, freeing the family budget to cover the rent.

Over 60% of Americans do not have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit or car repair. That’s a disturbing level of financial vulnerability. Is our economy turning into a bone-dry forest, where any spark of trouble causes huge swaths of family fortunes to go up in flames?  In Burbank there is, so to speak, at least one fire extinguisher on hand.  Howell ended by quoting Jimmy Stewart from her favorite western, Shenandoah:  “If you don’t try you don’t do, and if you don’t do, you wonder why you’re here.”

Click on any picture to enlarge it.

Burbank Temporary Aid Center Gala Honors Three for Citizenship

One could almost feel the sea breeze as staff and supporters of Burbank Temporary Aid Center gathered at the Castaway to celebrate Jamie Keyser Thomas and Mike Thomas, recipients of the Burbank Top Award for Citizenship.

BTAC board member Darryl Forbes, seated, with Jack O’Neill, from left, and Joy and Michael Forbes.

A luau theme was symbolic for the 14th annual dinner gala as the honorees were married on Maui in 2011. Everyone received a colorful lei as they stepped through the door of the Verdugo Room where they perused opportunity baskets and placed bids on silent auction items.

Proceeds will go to support the good works of BTAC, which provides temporary assistance to 9,000 residents of Burbank who are trying to avoid becoming homeless and more than 300 individuals who are homeless.

Guests moved to the Starlight Room for dinner and program led by Michael Hastings who took the reins as master of ceremonies. It took Hastings several minutes to bring the proceedings to order and he joked throughout the evening that no one is able to command attention of an audience like retired NBC/Universal executive Jack O’Neill.

In kicking off the program, Hastings referred to the proverb “There but for the grace of God go I” in reminding all to count their blessings because many people in Burbank don’t have the things we take for granted.

BTAC Board Chair Ron Cogan, from left, congratulates Mike Thomas and Jamie Keyser Thomas along with BTAC Chief Executive Officer Barbara Howell and Michael Hastings. (Photos by Joyce Rudolph)

“We’re here to celebrate those people’s lives, bring them out of the place they are and that’s why we are here tonight to celebrate them so we can continue to bring them from the places they are,” he said.

Ron Cogan, BTAC board chair, relayed statistics on the increase of homeless people coming to BTAC for services over the last 10 years. In 2007, there were about 100 homeless people coming to BTAC and now there are 325 homeless people coming for services. Client showers at BTAC have increased from 20 showers per month 10 years ago to 27 showers per day. The client laundry has increased from 15 loads per month to 12 loads per day.

“The reason I bring this all up is because everyone knows all these programs cost money and that’s why this evening is such a vital source of fund raising,” he said. “We are so grateful for the amounts you’ve spent on tickets and the auction but we need you to help spread the word. To maintain the growth we have been seeing and keep up with the demand, we need to raise more funds every year.”

Following dinner, Hastings acknowledged “Mr. BTAC” board member Darryl Forbes for his 30-plus years of service.

“He lives and breathes BTAC,” Hastings said. “Hopefully others will follow your lead!”

Hastings then introduced BTAC volunteer Margarita Willen who thanked all for their support over the years.

“If it weren’t for your generosity, I wouldn’t have a place to volunteer,” she said. “I have had the honor of being part of the BTAC family for nearly three years. It’s a short time but every hour that I volunteer I work up a sweat. I work in the pantry services and I work for the best bosses Ed (Stapleton) and Kelley (Tabor).”

She sorts donations, cleans the pantry carts and hands out lunches to the homeless.

Willen joked that volunteering helps her save money.

“I have less time to go to the mall,” she quipped, and then seriously she added, “To me it’s about making Burbank a bit more comfortable for those less fortunate.”

Chief Executive Officer Barbara Howell introduced the staff and acknowledged new employee Francesca Gallard, supervising case manager.

Howell thanked all for attending and reminded them they are providing hope for people who have lost hope.

“I hope that you understand you truly are touching lives of people in a very immediate way,” she said. “A check you dropped off helped a family whose power had been shut off. Or people aren’t going hungry because you did a food drive for them.”

The program ended on a high note with Hastings reading the accomplishments of the honorees.

Thomas is a graduate of Leadership Burbank’s Class of 2007. He also is a member of the Noon Rotary Club, Leadership Burbank Alumni Assn. and Burbank Chamber of Commerce. His business MT Commercial Cleaning serves many business clients and nonprofit organizations in town like BTAC, YMCA, Family Service Agency and Boys & Girls Club.

Keyser Thomas was born at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center and graduated from Burbank High School. Her title at Disney is manager, Disney Corporate Citizenship, Los Angeles Community Engagement. She is a member of the Leadership Burbank Class of 2005 and gives time to Disney Elementary School.

Together the couple donates time to the Leadership Burbank board, Burbank Business Partners board and Rotary projects like Meals on Wheels, Keller Williams’ Thank-a-Soldier event and bell-ringing for the Salvation Army.

“It’s such an honor to be here. This is totally not our comfort zone, but we’re humbled and so appreciative to be celebrated by an organization that means so much to us,” Keyser Thomas said. “It’s great to be in this position to stand up here with my husband, my best friend Mike Thomas.”

Thomas added that his wife pretty much had said it all, but she didn’t mention their dog Murray, the featured rescue puppy at last year’s BTAC gala thanks to Caroline Cusumano. While the couple paid $1,000 during the live auction for the puppy, he’s now cost the couple about $5,500 if you count the leather couch he consumed, the Christmas tree lights and a few pairs of shoes.

“And we would not trade him for anything,” Thomas said.

In closing, he added, “Please BTAC keep up the good work and we will forever support you!”

Some of the city officials attending were State Sen. Anthony Portantino, City Council members David Gordon and Will Rogers, City Clerk Zizette Mullins, City Treasurer Debbie Kukta, City Manager Ron Davis, Police Chief Scott La Chasse, Superintendent of Schools Matt Hill, School Board members Larry Applebaum and Roberta Reynolds.

Linda Noel was chair of the dinner committee, which included Andrea Alejandre, Jennifer Bender, Alethia Calagias, Kimberley Clark, Darryl Forbes, Jessa Freemyer, Maddy Horne, Barbara Howell, Courtney Korb, Nancy Gams Korb, Leslie Smith, Lauri Veverka, Alyson Westfall and Vicki Williams.

Burbank Police Donate to Burbank Temporary Aid Center

On Monday, November 21, the Burbank Police Officers’ Association and the Burbank Police Department Command Staff presented Burbank Temporary Aid Center (BTAC) Executive Director, Barbara Howell, a check for $1,750. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, BTAC will distribute more than 1,000 turkeys, serving over 500 households in Burbank.

Courtesy Burbank Police Department

Courtesy Burbank Police Department

BTAC began distributing Thanksgiving food last week and will continue through Wednesday. The holiday food consists of the “traditional” items of turkey, hams, stuffing, potatoes, pies, etc.

BPOA President Lieutenant Jay Hawver commented, “The BPOA is very happy to give back to our community by donating these funds to BTAC.” Police Chief Scott LaChasse added, “Partnering with the BPOA to help support such a worthwhile organization like BTAC, year after year, is gratifying and rewarding.”

Founded in 1974, the Burbank Temporary Aid Center is dedicated to, providing individuals and families, crime victims, senior citizens, and the homeless with the short-term emergency assistance they need to live with dignity.

Burbank Temporary Aid Center’s Top Award For Citizenship Dinner & Awards

Friday night the Burbank Temporary Aid Center (BTAC) held its 10th Annual Gala event, this year saluting a former Burbank Fire Chief and a local credit union for stellar records of community service and compassion.  Staff of the charitable agency that for 39 years has offered services and assistance to families, seniors, the homeless and virtually any Burbanker in need, said accounting for the event is not yet complete.  But initial figures indicate this year’s has been the most successful fundraiser thus far.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Receiving their awards are Philip Denlea of Logix Federal Credit Union, Barbara Howell BTAC Executive Director, and Chief Ray Krakowski retired. (Photo by Ross A. Benson


“We rely on this event to replenish our food pantry and our budget, and we deeply appreciate the support,” said Barbara Howell, BTAC’s Chief Executive Officer.  “The community has enthusiastically seconded our picks for the honorees to receive this year’s “Burbank’s Top Award for Citizenship.””

The 2013 honorees gathered at the Castaway Restaurant were recently-retired Burbank Fire Department Chief Ray Krakowski and Logix Federal Credit Union, formerly called Lockheed Federal Credit Union.

In addition to Krakowski’s 32 years of service for the city, beginning as a fire fighter, and ultimately serving as Interim City Manager, BTAC also cited his long record of service to the Boy Scouts, the Fire Chiefs Association and the National Forest Service.

The Logix Banking Team (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Jason Lee, left, Art Aguilar, Ernie Bolanos, Philip Denlea and Alethia Calagias represented Logix Federal Credit Union at Burbank Temporary Aid Center’s annual dinner on March 1 at the Castaway Restaurant. The financial institution was the recipient of Burbank’s Top Award for Citizenship along with Chief Ray Krakowski. retired.(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Logix F.C.U., founded in Burbank in 1937, was chosen for its long record of supporting a lengthy list of organizations including, but extending well beyond, BTAC.  A partial list includes Penny Lane Centers, For The Troops, Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center Foundation, Burbank Family Service Agency, and Leadership Burbank.

Logix was also cited for its “Volunteer Time Off” program, giving employees paid time off to volunteer for BTAC and others.  An especially popular activity for the volunteers has been working on BTAC’s annual “Santa’s Room” program, collecting and sorting toys, then helping client families “shop” Santa’s Room for Burbank’s neediest kids.