First published in the July 9 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
This past week, the Providence Saint Joseph Foundation staged a festive block party and open house to celebrate the success of their six-year Minutes Matter campaign instituted to raise $78-million to build a new emergency department and urgent care facility.
The party, to honor and thank the project’s named supporters, was held on the street and grounds which separate the two facilities just off South Buena Vista Street on the campus of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.
“We are so grateful to those who stepped up and made this a reality,” said Paula Davis, who gave tours of the old emergency facility and helped educate potential donors of the need for a new facility by coordinating and hosting salon events and private home parties.
“Tonight is a celebration of everyone whose financial support made this happen, not just the big donors whose names are on the buildings and the walls, but everyone in the community and surrounding areas who did what they could to be a part of this incredible philanthropic effort,” Davis added.
While close to 3,000 donors made contributions to the project, one individual, whose name is not recognizable to most Burbankers, and one family, whose names is, perhaps, the most recognizable in the city, were lauded for their monumental contributions during last week’s event.
Following the name of Dr. David Burbank, a dentist from New England who, in 1867, came to Southern California and became a sheep rancher on a huge parcel of land he purchased that is now the city named after him, the second most recognizable name in Burbank is Cusumano.
The Burbank-based Cusumano Real Estate Group, founded by brothers Chuck and Roger Cusumano in 1959, is today one of the leading leasing, property management, development, construction and brokerage companies in Southern California.
Still overseen by Chuck and Roger Cusumano, the company now includes Chuck’s sons, Michael and Charlie as principals and more than 40 employees and associates.
The Cusumanos, who have been long-time supporters of the medical center, have funded the Cusumano Family Urgent Care Facility. Scheduled to be operational later this year, the 8,500-square-foot facility, adjacent to the new emergency department, will fill a crucial gap in providing treatments to walk-in patients who require less acute care.
As for the new emergency department, a 34,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility equipped to improve triage by providing separate and specialized waiting and treatment areas for patients who are ill, injured, pediatric, geriatric or psychiatric, it has been named for a man who, unlike the Cusumanos, very few Burbankers ever knew or met: the late Jaromír Střížka (pronounced Yar-o-meer Strits-ka.)
Střížka, whose name will now become highly recognizable and indelibly a part of the Burbank community, made the single largest financial gift in the foundation’s history.
Born in 1919, in what is now the Czech Republic, Střížka had been a successful businessman in his home country. In 1953, he fled Czechoslovakia as the Communist Party rose to power following World War II, immigrating to the United States.
By the early 1960s, Střížka had established several musical instrument brands and product lines including the Estrella classical guitar, and opened a musical wholesale business called European Crafts Inc., which he operated until shortly before his death in 2015.
Last week’s event, which provided supporters with a tour of the new emergency department facilities, dining stations and entertainment provide by The Spazmatics, was hosted by actor and television personality Mario Lopez.
Among the special notables in attendance were Brian Helleland, who serves as the medical center’s interim chief executive officer, Tina Johann, chief philanthropy officer for Providence Saint Joseph Foundation, Angela Khurdajian, the foundation’s director of philanthropy, Juliette Marsh, chief mission integration officer, and Ed and Murphy Romano, who served as co-chairs of the campaign and addressed the attendees via video due to health issues.
Local dignitaries on hand for the festivities included Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose office allocated $600,000 toward the campaign, Burbank City Councilmembers Bob Frutos and Sharon Springer, City Clerk Zizette Mullins and former Mayors Michael Hastings and Bob Bowne, who both played significant roles in the Minutes Matter campaign.
The evening also honored the emergency department’s staff, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., NBCUniversal, the estate of Bob and Dolores Hope and physicians associated with the medical center who came together to make a $1-million commitment to the campaign.
The Jaromír Střížka Emergency Department, which will be operational and treating patients within the next two months, will almost triple the size of the current space. The department will include 44 treatment rooms, two critical procedure bays, behavioral health rooms and a pharmacy. It will also house on-site x-ray, ultrasound and CT-scanning capabilities.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.