Judging by the smiles, everyone had a great time at the “Imagine a City” dinner benefiting the counseling services provided by Family Service Agency of Burbank at all public schools.
The biggest grins were worn by those packing their cars with silent auction gifts just outside the gate of Providence High School.
The highlight of the Oct. 3rd event was the presentation of the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award to the Luis Lara Family, Alan Arzoian and Gary Bric. They were honored for giving to their community time and time again.
Mike Flad kept the program moving at high velocity. After introducing dignitaries, he worked with Michael Hastings and Anja Reinke inspiring folks to lift their bidding paddles to pledge donations — and thousands of dollars came in.
Tables were packed with past and present city and school officials including new Superintendent of Schools Matt Hill who announced that a room at Burbank High School has been renovated as a counseling center for students and their families with services provided by Family Service counselors.
Agency Executive Director Laurie Bleick thanked everyone for supporting the event saying “We can’t do this work without you!”
There were about 350 guests and proceeds exceeded all previous years’ fundraising efforts, Bleick said, which is much needed given the expanded services at Burbank High School.
Not only was the evening a chance to honor three outstanding community members but to support the emotional, psychological and social well being of this city’s youth. The agency was founded in 1953 and the four words that explain its purpose are Counseling, Preventing, Educating and Advocating.
Michael Cusumano of the Cusumano Real Estate Group in Burbank recalled how his partnership with Family Service came about in 2007 when he received a call from board member Marsha Ramos asking him for help securing a permanent office space. That facility became a realty in 2008.
“I didn’t realize the thousands of hours of counseling the agency provides to the youth in our community,” he said. “It’s the only organization offering this kind of service in the community.”
They are dealing with the most uncomfortable issues and because of the confidentiality, specifics of what the agency does cannot be shared, so theirs are quiet successes — saving families and rescuing people at risk, he said.
“Laurie and her board and her volunteers make a huge difference in this community and that’s why we are glad to be one of their supporters and that is why we are asking you to support them as well tonight,” he said.
Luis Lara and his family were being honored for providing the meal each year for the Imagine a City dinner through their Command Performance catering business.
Agency board member Eric Hansen listed Lara family’s many contributions to the community, including preparing meals for events held by Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life and the Burbank Fire Department’s Special Olympics dinner.
Hansen met Luis Lara when the family started donating 100 Thanksgiving meals for the city’s Senior Nutrition Program’s Home Delivered Meals program.
“The entire family helped in the preparation and packaging of those meals and it’s a true team effort! It’s a joy to watch them working together laughing and joking,” Hansen said. “The Lara family is always generous with their time … and provides service with a caring attitude.”
For the past four years, the family has prepared 50 Thanksgiving meals for the Family Service Agency clients as well as 350 pancake breakfasts for Burbank CareWalk participants. They also sponsor a back-to-school barbecue each September for Family Service Agency youth clients and their families.
After Lara introduced all his family members, he thanked the agency for his honor.
“I feel so happy,” he said. “I’m proud to help the community!”
Flad touted Alan Arzoian and his Handy Market for continued support of all the organizations in town. Flad teased him about never wanting to take credit for any of his charitable efforts.
“You are a part of what makes Burbank special,” Flad said. “We are so lucky to have you in our community. It’s a pleasure to know you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and congratulations on receiving the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award.”
Arzoian thanked the agency for the award but added “Everyone in this room deserves this award. I don’t do anymore than anyone else here. I’m just very proud and humbled to be here tonight.”
He introduced his family attending including his wife Karen.
Congressman Adam Schiff, a past recipient, presented the Vision award to Gary Bric. Schiff acknowledged the countless hours made by Mary Alice O’Connor to improve the community, especially in the arts and for military veterans, and called her “an incredible force for good.”
Schiff lauded Gary Bric for working tirelessly for the city as a City Council member and mayor, Burbank High graduate and business owner of Gary Bric’s Ramp.
“He never hesitates donating his time and food and drinks for nonprofit events,” he said. “He’s a straight-shooter and always puts his heart and soul into everything he does.”
Bric thanked Schiff for his contributions to the country and to the city of Burbank. Bric also complimented the other two award recipients. Being a restaurant owner, he knows what a strong commitment Luis Lara makes in providing meals to many charity events in town. And to Alan Arzoian, he said, there’s no mistaking Handy Market’s contributions — just look at the line that stretches three blocks long of people waiting for barbecued meals every Saturday.
Bric thanked his family and wife Shelley for being there and supporting him and finally he thanked Laurie Bleick and the board of directors and staff.
“They are the ones responsible for putting this on, so a big round of applause for them,” Bric said.
To see a complete gallery click this link: FSA Gala Pictures from Ross A. Benson Photography