Although a soup line is traditionally for those in need, this past Sunday the tables were turned as those who lined up in their cars for a bowl of soup at Burbank’s UMe Credit Union were those fulfilling a need.
The soup-securing succession was staged in lieu of Family Promise of the Verdugo’s annual Empty Bowl event in which supporters of the nonprofit agency select a hand-crafted artisan ceramic bowl and local restaurants team-up to provide a signature soup for a sit-down luncheon.
Close to 200 supporters of the organization, which provides assistance, safe shelter and meals to homeless children and their families, pulled into UMe’s parking lot to receive a take-away container of Guy Fieri’s Kitchen and Bar Express’ chili or tortilla soup. This arrangement was made possible by Steve Mora, president of Metropolitan Culinary Services, who serves as the prime food and beverage provider at Hollywood Burbank Airport.
Welcomed by the event’s co-chairs Jane Winter and Christine Rumfola and Family Promise board President Kathy Sessinghaus, each participant also received a swag bag that included various goodies, such as a 10-year anniversary wooden spoon to commemorate Family Promise’s decade-long presentation of their Empty Bowl fundraiser and coupons that can be redeemed for a bowl of soup at either Morrison’s, Coral Café, Grain Lab, Tequila’s or Skaf’s Lebanese Cuisine restaurants.
Wondering how or even if they could do this year’s event, which serves as Family Promise’s premier fundraiser, Winter said the board began brainstorming ways to safely make it happen last summer.
“This event provides us with significant and much-needed funding, so we were all committed to find a way to make it work,” said Winter.
Rumfola, who lauded UMe Credit Union and the company’s marketing manager, Steve Mozo, for working with Family Promise to make the event possible, said she was also happy that local restaurants were offering soup redemption coupons.
“The hope is people will frequent these restaurants to redeem their coupons and, while there, have lunch or dinner,” said Rumfola. “So, along with supporting Family Promise, this is something that will also help our local restaurants who are in need of help during the pandemic.”
Once duly “souped and swag-bagged,” supporters were stopped and thanked as they exited Sunday’s event by Mozo and Albert Hernandez, who serves as the executive director of Family Promise.
“Family Promise is an organization we at UMe have been very proud to be involved with over the years,” said Mozo. “Knowing that during the pandemic they have more families in need — some whom we at UMe have been honored to have met — we were determined to do all we could to execute this event.”
Expressing gratitude to both UMe and each participant, Hernandez said he was thrilled and thankful this vital funding event was able to take place.
“During the pandemic, we have been busier than ever before,” said Hernandez. “We have also taken on new programs that include overseeing the rental assistance program for the city of Burbank. We are now also going beyond our usual mission and partnering with Los Angeles County to help families in need throughout the entire San Fernando Valley. We have already provided assistance to over 250 local households and another 100 families in the region who face the fear of food insecurity and homelessness on a daily basis.”
After pausing to thank state Sen. Anthony Portantino as he was leaving with his soup and swag bag, Hernandez surveyed the work being done in the parking lot by members of his staff, board members and volunteers.
“Our demand is great, but we are strong, and we were all dedicated to not giving up on this event,” said Hernandez. “We were not able to do it in the way that has become our tradition, but that did nothing to diminish the support we have received. We have already exceed our fundraising goal, and I am extremely grateful to UMe, our board members, and everyone who made this possible.”
Among the board members whom Hernandez lauded were Patrick Garney, Darrin Borders, Jodi Reneaud, Kenny Pawlek, Dawn Greenwood, Frieda Hovsepian, the Rev. Todd Leonard, Diana Moreno, Carol Nunez, Joylene Wagner, Dan Soderstrom, Romik Yaghoobimishi and David A. Zuckerman.
Family Promise provides food, shelter, counseling and job-readiness training that offers the basic needs, self-reliance and confidence to establish a more stable future for situationally homeless families.
For more information about the work of and support opportunities with Family Promise of the Verdugos, visit familypromiseverdugos.org.
David Laurell may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.