The Family Service Agency of Burbank’s annual “Imagine a City” gala, which will honor City Manager Justin Hess and state Sen. Anthony Portantino, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Olive Ball Fields at Izay Park.
The mission of Family Service Agency is to offer quality mental health counseling, care, education and advocacy at low or no cost. FSA has dramatically changed and saved the lives of local individuals, couples and families as well as active and veteran members of the armed forces by providing housing, crisis intervention, legal guidance, safety in the face of domestic violence and hope for those in the grip of mental illness and substance addiction.
Former City Manager Mary Alvord, who is serving as co-chair of the event along with Terry Stein, said the gala had to be “reimagined to adhere to county safety protocols.”
“We’re out there a little bit in uncharted territory as the first local organization to do an actual gala since the pandemic hit; but the FSA board discussed it, felt we could do it in a safe way, and so we’re running with it,” said Alvord. “We really felt that, as long as we could do it safely, it is something that people really need because they feel so isolated and are hungry to see one another.”
Alvord said that in the same way Laurie Bleick, the agency’s executive director, has had to reinvent the way FSA works during the pandemic, the nonprofit’s board had to reimagine how it was going to do this event, which serves as their major fundraiser.
“We know that many people and businesses are financially strapped due to the pandemic,” said Alvord. “But we really rely on this event for funding and felt we had to step out and do it as a celebration of hope.”
According to Alvord, they have plans to create the Field of Hope from cutouts of every person who purchases a ticket to the event.
“Exactly how we will handle it will be dependent on what the county COVID numbers are at that time,” she said. “We are working with the city and doing our due diligence to be in compliance with all the public health protocols. The fields are so big that we feel this can be done safely. When people arrive they will be given a band to get their baseball park box dinner, there will be live music, and then they will have the opportunity to have their photo taken by their cutout.”
Hess and Portantino are the evening’s Vision Award honorees, which is presented annually in recognition of the memory, work and spirit of longtime community volunteer Mary Alice O’Connor. She was also a founding member of FSA.
Hess, who has been with the city for more than 20 years, serves as its chief executive officer and is responsible for carrying out its operations in accordance with the policies established by the City Council. He oversees a full-service city that has 15 departments and a staff of roughly 1,500 employees. He is a longtime member of the International City/County Management Association and is also vice president of the California City Management Foundation and a member of the Municipal Management Association of Southern California.
Hess earned a B.A. degree in political science from UCLA and is a graduate of the Executive Master of Leadership Program at the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development.
Portantino, who represents California Senate District 25, is also a former Assembly member and advocate for public education, mental health care and accountability. He chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Select Committee on California, Armenia and Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art and Cultural Exchange and he is a sitting member of the Banking and Financial Institutions, Governmental Organization and Insurance committees.
Portantino successfully authored legislation requiring mental health facilities to notify a patient’s family or friend at least 36 hours in advance of the patient’s possible release. In 2018, he introduced SB 972 which was signed into law, requiring the National Suicide Prevention Hotline telephone number be printed on student identification cards in grades 7-12 and higher education.
To get tickets for this event, receive further information on FSA’s services, volunteer or make a financial donation, call (818) 845-7671 or visit familyserviceagencyofburbank.org.