Family Promise ‘Rattles’ in Fundraiser at Starlight Bowl

Photos by David Laurell
Family Promise bestowed their 2021 Impact Award upon Charles “Chuck” Cusumano, who was joined by family members including his wife Tracy, and sister-in-law and brother Evelyn and Roger Cusumano.

This past week, Burbank’s Verdugo Mountains shook, rattled and rolled.
It wasn’t the type of shaking, rattling and rolling that had Burbakers dropping, covering, holding on, and then checking their phones for the epicenter and magnitude. Instead, it was the type that rocked the hills with the sound of music – specifically the music from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.
While the Starlight Bowl has not hosted an evening of music since August of 2019 due to the pandemic, last week the city allowed the bowl’s parking lot to serve as the venue for a 1950s “drive-in” concert staged as a fundraiser for the Burbank-based Family Promise of the Verdugos, an organization committed to helping local homeless families achieve lasting independence.

The evening, presented as “Shake, Rattle and Roll at the Bowl,” featured the seventh annual presentation of the organization’s Hands On, Hearts In and Impact Awards to the evening’s honorees: Patrick and Laurie Patterson and Charles “Chuck” Cusumano.
Accepting their awards via pre-recorded presentations that were shown on a big screen, Cusumano was given the Impact Award for his longtime support of helping the homeless community while the Pattersons accepted the Hands On, Hearts In Award for their dedicated support to the organization through volunteer efforts and in-kind contributions.
The event also included a live performance by Elvis Presley tribute artist Scot Bruce.
“With so many challenges due to COVID, and more in the foreseeable future, the turnout and financial support we received from our friends for our event tells me we have a great team of donors who are ready and willing to help Family Promise in our mission to help those that are homeless and at-risk of homelessness,” said Albert Hernandez, the organization’s executive director. “I also have to thank our event committee who did a great job in organizing what I believe to have been the fundraiser of the year,” he added with a laugh and a wink that acknowledged the lack of competition in staging live fundraisers since the pandemic began.
Among the many individuals and businesses that Hernandez thanked for making the event a success were Lisa Donahey, who served as the evening’s mistress of ceremonies, and the event’s co-chairs, Jessa Freemyer and Kathy Sessinghaus.
Hernandez also acknowledged the help of Kristen Smith, who oversees Starlight Bowl performances that are put on by Burbank’s Parks and Recreation Department. He and his committee were diligent in working with Smith to make sure they were abiding by Los Angeles County protocols for safely staging a live event.
The evening of tributes and live music also included vintage cars provided by the Road Kings of Burbank and a boxed dinner donated by Steve Mora, the owner of Metropolitan Culinary Services.
The fundraiser gave attendees the opportunity to mask-up, mix and mingle from a proper social distance with folks many had not seen since the pandemic began.
Along with having the chance to financially support the work of Family Promise, many felt that, although the event was not a traditional fundraiser, the evening was a harbinger of a reemergence into what will, hopefully, be a post-pandemic normalcy.
“While COVID has been devastating for those who contracted the virus and the families of those that have been lost, I believe something good will come of it,” said Barry Gussow of the city’s Parks and Recreation board. “I think it has shown us how much we take for granted and has given us all a better appreciation for one another and how important it is for us to be able to come together and celebrate our community and those who do so much to be there for those amongst us who are in need of help.”
For more information on Family Promise’s services and to learn of support opportunities, visit familypromise.verdugos.org.

David Laurell may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.