Until one climbs into the trenches, it is hard to realize the effort that goes into the Burbank Coordinating Council’s annual Holiday Baskets Program.
Volunteers organize the toys during the Burbank Coordinating Council’s Holiday Basket program on Friday at Washington Elementary School (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)
But hundreds of volunteers — first-timers and veterans — worked last week to see that more than 500 families had food and gifts this joyful season. Recipients are low-income families who have children enrolled in the government-sponsored lunch program at the elementary schools.
Churches, businesses, PTAs, organizations and individuals adopted families and filled bags with food and gifts.
Families that weren’t adopted received bags of food and gifts organized by Coordinating Council members and volunteers. The effort began on Dec. 6 when volunteers, stationed in front of grocery stores throughout the city, collected donations of nonperishable food items from shoppers. Volunteers sorted and packed the donations on Dec. 10 at Little White Chapel Church.
Danielle Boyce, 15, left, of National Charity League, signs in to volunteer at the Holiday Basket Program with Sally Veres, treasurer of National Charity League (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)
Food, gifts and toy donations were brought to the Washington Elementary School auditorium on Dec. 12 where volunteers filled bags according to cards that listed the number of family members and ages of children.
Two volunteers who helped on Dec. 12 were Sally Veres, treasurer with National Charity League Burbank, and daughter Samantha, who is a member of the 10th grade Ticktocker class. The class adopted three families this year and worked the night before to put them together, Veres said.
“We bought gifts cards and shower gel for the teenagers, shower gel for the men and toys for the younger kids,” she said. “We bought grocery store gift cards for parents.”
The Ticktockers placed the donations in big laundry baskets, plastic storage boxes and cardboard boxes wrapped with Christmas paper, Veres added.
Rachel Smith, 12, left, fills a bag of gift items with Erin Flynn during the Burbank Coordinating Council’s Holiday Baskets program (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)
It is a great lesson in giving for the Ticktockers, she said.
“I think it brings awareness that there are people that need help and at various times people need extra help,” she said. “It teaches them giving back to someone else. For
me, helping Coordinating Council is my favorite thing to do. President Janet Diel and all the Coordinating Council members are just great to work with.”
Danielle Boyce, 15, who is also a 10th-grade Ticktocker, was packing bags with fruit and gifts on Dec. 12.
“It’s one of the events that’s really rewarding,” she said. “You get to see the results of what you are doing and how much it impacts people.”
Volunteering on the project with her mom made the whole experience more meaningful, Danielle said.
“It’s a way for us to connect and do something together other than a hobby and do something for the world together,” she said.
Like Santa’s elves, volunteers scurry to fill baskets of food, gifts and toys at Washington Elementary School (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)
More volunteers converged at Washington Elementary’s lunch shelter at 8 a.m. on Dec. 13 and helped to deliver bags of donations to recipients.
Many of the volunteer workers were former recipients coming back to give to the program and others are current recipients who want to share the work to help everyone, not just themselves, said Coordinating Council President Janet Diel.
Volunteers who made the deliveries had heartwarming stories to share.
“One lady came back and told us that the family who received their basket was so overwhelmed with the generosity of the gift, that they offered to let the driver take back some so another family could benefit too…there were tears and hugs,” Diel said. “It seems the families who have the least are the most concerned with helping others too.”
Volunteers fill bags with food and gifts on Friday to prepare for Saturday’s delivery. More than 500 families received the donations in the Burbank Coordinating Council’s Holiday Basket program (Photo by Joyce Rudolph)