Drive-Thru Resource Event for Students Returns in August

Photo courtesy Burbank Housing Corp.
Volunteers at last year’s Back to School event for Burbank students from low-income families hold signs for participants. About 34% of Burbank Unified School District students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, according to the superintendent.

Though many students finished the school year just weeks ago, local nonprofits are already preparing for their annual Back to School event.

Traditionally, the August event has taken the form of a resource fair representing several charitable organizations providing information and services to Burbank students in low-income families. In a normal year, the Kids Community Dental Clinic might offer screenings, while the Burbank Noon Lions Club could offer vision examinations.

But due to the pandemic, the nonprofit coalition overseeing the event will offer it in a drive-thru format, according to Raha Arnold, director of operations and asset management at the Burbank Housing Corp. The coalition also gave out Back to School resources via a drive-thru distribution last year.

California officials are expected to lift statewide coronavirus restrictions on June 15, but Arnold explained that event organizers decided on the drive-thru format months earlier, when the trajectory of coronavirus cases and health guidelines was less certain. 

“We wanted to err on the side of caution,” she said. “We weren’t really sure how things were going to look, and we needed to get the information out to people and start collecting funds and materials and supplies.”

Students attending the event on Aug. 7 will receive information from local groups — including BHC, the dental clinic, the local Boys and Girls Club, the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, South Hills Church, the Burbank Library and others — regarding their free or low-cost services, as well as a free backpack filled with supplies. Organizers are also planning to distribute a free hot meal to families. The local YMCA will host the event in its parking lot, as it did last year.

This year, Arnold said, organizers expect to have 400 attendees; the event attracted between 400 and 500 families in pre-pandemic years. About 34% of Burbank Unified School District students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, according to Superintendent Matt Hill.

“This event is a great event for our community,” he said in an email to the Leader. “BUSD appreciates all of the support from our community and nonprofit partners. We thank the Burbank Back to School Committee for hosting this event.”

Photo courtesy Burbank Housing Corp.
Local nonprofits distributed resources and materials to families of low-income students at a drive-thru event last year. This year’s event, scheduled for August, also will use a drive-thru format.

Partnering nonprofits are offering registration forms to low-income families they are already working with, though if a family believes it may qualify for the program and isn’t already connected with a local organization, it can contact BHC at (818) 559-2336 or by visiting burbankhousingcorp.org/contact-us.

The event was in danger of being discontinued in 2012, according to a nonprofit coalition presentation on the Back to School fair to the BUSD. But when the city of Burbank determined it no longer had the funds to oversee it, the coalition, which had participated in prior years’ events, continued the annual program.

Shanna Warren, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley, said she co-founded the coalition alongside Barbara Howell, CEO of BTAC, in 2008.

“The reason why we kept it going after the city could no longer do it was because we knew how valuable these resources were for our families,” she explained, “and we were worried that if we stopped doing it, these low-income families wouldn’t have access.”

Warren encouraged those interested in volunteering or donating to a local nonprofit to contact the organization directly. Community members wondering what nonprofit might be best for them to partner with can email her at shannawarren@bgcburbank.org.