By Joyce Rudolph
Employees of Viacom celebrated a day of giving back to the community by adding their creative touches to Linden House, a transitional facility for young adults run by the Family Service Agency of Burbank.
It is an annual event that brings together employees from the companies under the Viacom umbrella, including Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank and Nickelodeon Games in Glendale, VH1 and Comedy Central, according to Carson Smith, human resources manager at Nickelodeon in Burbank. The cost of materials is covered by Viacom.
“One day a year we go out in the community and do something good,” Smith said. “It is an opportunity to reach out in the community, where we work and many of us live, to help.”
So on April 20, a team of more than 25 employees got an early start at 7:30 a.m. to work their magic in several locations at Linden House.
Emily Asaro, a production assistant who works on “Dora the Explorer”, was working on a mural on the walls in the garage, which will become a workout and social area.
“One of our painters George Nachev designed it,” she said. “It’s an abstract design.”
Story board artist Ysty Veluz liked the colors in the design — olive, gray blue and flesh tones with white intersecting lines.
“The color scheme is not too loud,” she said. “The design is dynamic with muted colors. I think it’s appropriate for the age group.”
In the front yard Alexis Block and Rory Patterson were installing a water feature — a big orange ball that would become a water fountain. A few feet away Mardine Pouryousef, Eric Swanborg and David Wigforss were building a wooden bench.
Linden House is a partnership between the Family Service Agency and the Burbank Housing Corp., according to Judith Arandes, executive director of the city’s housing corporation.
“We buy neglected properties and we rehabilitate them,” she said. “As a nonprofit we get good loans from the City of Burbank and that enables us to keep the rents low and rent them to lower income families.”
Seven years ago, the corporation started a partnership with the Family Service Agency to create living spaces for special needs populations. The first project was CARE Cottages, which provides housing for women and children who were victims of domestic violence. The second joint venture was Home Front Project, a residential program for homeless families.
Linden House is a transitional home for young adults, ages 14 to 24, who are homeless, at risk of being homeless and/or have aged out of the foster care system. Over their two years at Linden House, they receive counseling through Family Service Agency, and are given the tools to become self-sufficient.
Within six months of moving in, they must have found a part-time job and be in school full time or in some career/job training program, said Laurie Bleick, executive director of the Family Service Agency.
“These young adults are survivors and they can teach us something about getting through the day,” Bleick said. “We want them to take a moment and breathe in a safe environment where they can think beyond tomorrow, that they can start planning for a year from now … 20 years from now and think about what they want from their lives and be able to construct a life that is beyond survival.”
Each participant in the program has their own individualized treatment plan. They have a therapist through Family Service Agency and participate in support groups. Most of them are utilizing some form of art therapy or non-verbal ways of communicating the traumas they have experienced before coming to Linden House. They all complete a financial planning class, life skills class, and participate in communal activities.
“We are now moving the kids toward coming up with a project every year that they will give back to the community, and they will begin to learn not just receiving but giving back, and they are excited about that,” Bleick said. “So, Linden House is not just about individual treatment but about building community.”