First published in the Sept. 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Over the years, the coordinators, volunteers, supporters and family sponsors of the Burbank Coordinating Council’s Holiday Basket Program have been responsible for filling the spaces under Christmas trees, stockings, stomachs, hearts and souls of so many who have been in need.
This past week, to raise funds for this year’s program, the council, in partnership with Burbank’s Buddy’s All Stars Sporting Goods, also filled many local closets and clothes drawers by making brand new sports apparel of all sizes available for just a dollar apiece.
“Some of these items retail for between $40-$60, which puts them out of reach for many families,” said Mary Anne Been, a BCC board member who is heading up this year’s basket program. “Thanks to Buddy’s and others who helped bring all the pieces together to make this sale happen, we’ve been able to offer great sportswear to people while also bringing in the funding we need.”
The sale took place in the Burton Avenue parking lot of Imagecraft Productions, a Burbank-based company that provides equipment rentals and production support to the entertainment industry.
“My husband, Jason, is the owner and president of Imagecraft, so he made arrangements to have all of the clothing that Buddy’s donated brought here,” Been said. “Without Imagecraft’s space, vehicles and forklifts, I don’t know how we would have been able to do this sale.”
People were lined up to make purchases before the sale even opened, and once it did, they were welcomed by BCC board members and volunteers from local high schools, National Charity League and the Boys and Girls Scouts. The teens assisted board members with setting up for the event, sorting out the clothing by size, folding and helping customers with their purchases.
“The amount of items we received through this donation was just amazing,” Been said. “We owe a great debt of gratitude to Daniel Perez at Buddy’s All Stars; Julie Samples, who was responsible for bringing all the elements together; Hilde Garcia, who chaired this event; and all the kids who volunteered. We got so much clothing from Buddy’s that we may do a second sale at some point and will also be including some of the items in the holiday baskets we deliver.”
The Burbank Coordinating Council was established in 1933. Comprised of community volunteers from local businesses, schools and PTAs, churches, nonprofit agencies, service organizations, and interested individuals and families, the group has a long history of making the holidays brighter for low-income families or those who are in financial or home transition due to myriad circumstances.
The Holiday Basket Program, which typically serves more than 500 families each year, allows individuals or groups to sponsor a specific family. Sponsors are given a list of the ages and genders of each family member along with a “wish list” of things they want or need, which allows them to personally shop for these items and create a customized gift basket, or work with BCC to bring all the food and gift items together.
A second option is for people or organizations to make financial donations or donate toys and other items that can be distributed within the baskets for families without sponsors.
Along with toys, personal items, articles of clothing and food to prepare holiday meals, some sponsors have gone the extra mile and even bought their family a Christmas tree, lights, ornaments and decorations.
“We have established a wish list for things we need on Amazon.com,” Been explained. “People can go there to help us or simply make financial donations directly to us which all go toward the program.”
Among the things Been says are always in high demand are socks and pajamas of all sizes.
“One other thing for people to think of is that we normally get the great majority of items for children and their mothers,” Been added. “The fathers always seem to get left out so we try to include a flashlight or something for them. But if people would like to donate shaving items or anything especially for men, that would really be appreciated.”
While BCC has traditionally held a fall kickoff luncheon to begin the annual basket program, this year, due to the pandemic, officials have decided not to do that.
“We are, however, looking into doing some sort of event to honor Janet Diel, who has been the longtime face of BCC and the Holiday Basket Program,” Been said. “That will depend on how we can do it in accordance with all proper safety protocols, and we are tentatively aiming at the beginning of November for that.”
For information on how families can summit applications for sponsorship, how to sponsor a family, make a donation of any kind or to learn more about BCC’s upcoming event, visit burbankcc.org.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.
Photos by David Laurell / Burbank Leader