I don’t believe it’s a journalistic guideline, policy or rule, but, I think, if you write a column that appears in a Dec. 26 publication you are pretty much obligated to start it with the line “ ’Tis the day after Christmas,” so here goes…
’Tis the day after Christmas, and members of the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and the Greater East Valley are enjoying the toys, games, dolls, activity sets, sports equipment and books they received, thanks to the employees and clients of Comprehensive Financial Services.
The Burbank-based company, a diversified financial consulting firm that specializes in retirement, investment, estate and tax planning services, traditionally hosts an annual holiday party for its staff and clients. Those who attend are asked to bring an unwrapped toy for members of the local Boys & Girls Club. This year, due to the pandemic, that didn’t happen.
“We have had a multi-decade relationship with the Boys & Girls Club,” said Anna Luke, president of Comprehensive Financial Services. “Every year we have a toy drive at our party and then distribute them to the kids at the club. This year, knowing we weren’t able to do that, we heard from many of our clients who still had an interest in doing something for the kids. Reacting to that, our staff began a telephone and email campaign and people really responded. We started receiving dozens of toys and monetary donations that we were able to present to Shanna Warren and Susan Sebastian from the club.”
Saying it was one of the nice things her company has been able to do this year as we all deal with challenges we have never dealt with before, Luke said she was thrilled that its tradition has continued in spite of COVID-19.
“Our staff, led by my husband Victor Luke, our chief administrators Lisa Lopinski, Kayleigh Whitmore and Candy Hanks Marinace were the ones who coordinated the toy drive,” said Anna Luke. “And our clients were just amazing. They were unwilling to allow the pandemic to stop them from being generous and they really stepped up and were so great in helping to make this happen.”
Warren, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club, said the organization was really touched by the support it received from Comprehensive Financial Services, especially in a year that has seen its fundraising efforts down by 65%.
“Every year CFS and their clients do an amazing job, and I am so grateful for the love and support they have shown our club,” said Warren. “This holiday tradition began 20 years ago, and I just can’t thank Anna and Victor Luke, their staff and their clients enough for choosing our club as their beneficiary. It was really special this year because we know they went out of their way to make sure our club members will have a special holiday. Along with a very generous monetary donation they provided more than 85% of the toys that will bring joy to more than 150 club members, so we are all very grateful to them.”
Because of the ongoing restrictions limiting social gatherings, the Boys & Girls Club knew it could not hold its traditional “Santa’s Workshop” party in which each club member gets to select a gift. Instead, the club instituted a “Give and Go” event asking member families and even families from the community at large to practice social distancing and just drive by to pick up their holiday gifts.
“Along with CFS we had so many wonderful donors and supporters who provided gifts for our members and we wanted to find a fun way to distribute them,” said Warren. “Since we couldn’t all get together as we have in the past, this seemed like a festive alternative,”
Throughout this challenging year, the club has played a vital role in helping local families. It never closed its doors, which made it the only child-care program in Burbank to do so. It also extended its hours, conducted virtual mentorship programming to help young people navigate today’s challenges, gave assistance to teachers in its distance learning programs, provided personal protection equipment, meals and school supplies to families at no cost, and offered child care to first responders and essential workers at little or no cost.
Having been good for goodness sake this year, just last week the club itself received the best present ever: The keys to its new main clubhouse, located at 300 E. Angelino Ave.
“We want to say a huge thank you to the Cusumano family, the Walt Disney Co., the city of Burbank, Gain Federal Credit Union, as well as all of our countless donors and board members who have supported these efforts over the past 10 years,” said Warren. “We are so excited to start the process of turning this beautiful building into our new home and look forward to moving in by spring.”
Serving Burbank and surrounding communities for 25 years, the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley supports and nurtures potential in more than 4,200 young people every day. Led by professional, dedicated and trained staff working at the main club and 21 local school sites, kids participate in a variety of enrichment programs designed to help them experience a positive sense of self and build strong character, with no child ever turned away for an inability to pay.
According to Sebastian, the club’s director of development, it will look forward to implementing new, innovative fundraising opportunities in 2021. If you are interested in offering support, visit BGCBurbank.org or call Sebastian at (818) 842-9333.
David Laurell may be reached at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.