Back in the mid-1990s, a small group of residents that included former City Councilmember Tim Murphy, the late Elizabeth “Liz” Shapiro and former Mayor Dave Golonski’s late wife Barbara Sykes began discussing the possibility of bringing a chapter of the Boys & Girls Club to Burbank.
In 1995, by virtue of the dedicated work of this group, the city of Burbank provided a shuttered firehouse to serve as the home for the new club.
While the club was new, the building that would serve as its home was old — very old — and in desperate need of repairs and renovations. That challenge was met by community volunteers who donated their time and talents to repair walls, floors and plumbing, upgrade electrical wiring, mount shelving and paint. Soon after, staff was hired and the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank opened its doors to about 75 kids.
As the years went by, the club began a partnership with the Burbank Housing Corporation and the Burbank Unified School District to establish what has become hugely successful with after-school and summer enrichment programs. They added a special program for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, a computer lab, and an award-winning creative arts program that offered dance, drama, singing, and art in several mediums.
As the club’s membership grew, so did its geographical reach. They adopted a new moniker: the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley, and now operate at 23 sites.
And yet, while the reach of the club had grown by leaps and bounds, the club’s main facility still presented a challenge to both staff and club members who had outgrown the old firehouse.
Those days are now gone as the club recently moved into what was previously the Salvation Army complex on East Angeleno Avenue in the city’s downtown area. With the help of the Cusumano family, the Walt Disney Company, and the city of Burbank, which each gave $1 million, the club’s staff and board brought in a fourth million by establishing a fundraising campaign. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office secured $250,000, and U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has also been working on securing federal funding, all to go toward the building’s $5.3 million purchase price.
The new facility, complete with a classrooms, a theater, community room, gym and commercial kitchen, served as the venue for an open house celebration that was staged in lieu of the club’s annual gala this past Friday evening.
For many years, this event, which drew close to 350 supporters to the Burbank Hilton of Lakeside Golf Club, for the first time was held at the club’s main facility.
“For me, our staff and our board, this was the best fundraiser we have ever done in that we were able to welcome people into our home,” said Shanna Warren, who has been with the youth organization since 2001 and serves at its chief executive officer. “In the past, our gala fundraisers have always included a program, entertainment, an honoree and a dinner. But with this one, just coming out of the pandemic, we thought a cocktail party format would be perfect in that it would give people the opportunity see our new facility and do what they have wanted to do for so long: hug one another, catch up, and just have a good time.”
Among those Warren was most excited to have in attendance were board president Paul Herman, members of the board, and a few folks who were there from the start.
“I was excited that Tim Murphy and Dave Golonski joined us,” Warren said. “They were involved from the very beginning and knew our old facility inside and out. It was a thrill to show them and other longtime supporters how far we have come — what we now have — and to share the positive reactions we have gotten from our staff and the kids.”
Other dignitaries and notables who attended the event, which was chaired by club staff members Marisa Robinson and Susan Sebastian, included state Sen. Anthony Portantino, Mayor Bob Frutos, Councilmembers Sharon Springer and Nick Schultz, school board members Steve Frintner and Armond Aghakhanian, the club’s 2020 Youth of the Year Nick Rotter, and Raha Arshadi-Arnold, who represented the Burbank Housing Corporation.
Expressing her gratitude to everyone who has made the club’s new home a reality, Warren especially thanked outgoing president Herman and longtime board members Lorrie Copeland and Mathew Poage. “Under the leadership of Paul and the guidance of Lorrie and Mathew, the club has started a new chapter and our future is looking bright,” she said.
Now preparing to seat their 2021-22 executive board, Dan Stillwell, the son of Shapiro who died in 2004, will take over the presidential reins. Brian Volpei will serve as vice president and Courtney Korb as secretary.
“It’s still hard for me to believe how blessed we have been,” said Warren. “This would have never happened without the dedication and support of a lot of people. We have had an influx of teens who have been suffering from isolation and depression that are so thrilled to be back, seeing their friends, working on the computers, playing basketball, going on field trips, doing their art projects — just being with other kids. It is so gratifying to see this happening on a daily basis — it is just beautiful — and if anyone would like to see what is going on in our new home, I love showing it off so just call me and I’ll be glad to arrange a tour.”
Anyone wishing to take a tour of the club’s new home or help in raising the final $2 million in order to reach the goal of the capital campaign, call Shanna Warren at (818) 842-9333.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.