First published in the Nov. 12 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Photos by David Laurell / Outlook Valley Sun
The average annual salary in Burbank is $63,696 with most salaries ranging between $47,283 and $79,147, according to ZipRecruiter, as of Oct. 2022.
That amount of annual income may mean living in a beautiful four-bedroom house on a lake in some parts of our country, but in Burbank, as is the case throughout Southern California, that amount can just about cover a one- or two-bedroom apartment, and not the kind with a concierge, spa, gym, movie theater, gift-wrapping station or Feng Shui garden.
While Burbank is largely seen as a prosperous city from a 30,000-foot view, or even a far lower one during take-offs and landings at Hollywood Burbank Airport, once back on the Media City’s terra firma, there are those who deal with the daily challenges of unemployment, financial difficulties, food insecurities and homelessness.
This is, of course, nothing new, and since 1974, the Burbank Temporary Aid Center has been providing individuals and families, the working poor, senior citizens and the homeless with the short-term emergency assistance they need to live with dignity and get back on their feet.
This past week, after a two-year-plus pandemic hiatus, the leadership of BTAC staged “Cheers to BTAC,” a scaled-down version of their annual gala fundraiser. The event, held at the Violet Cactus Studio, gave the nonprofit organization’s staff and board the opportunity to express their appreciation to those who have shown support to their cause, especially during the challenging COVID era which had a devastating impact on many who never thought they would need BTAC’s help.
The evening, which included a wine tasting reception, opportunity chances and dinner, was attended by state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, Mayor Jess Talamantes and Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony.
Supporters were welcomed to the West Verdugo Avenue event facility by BTAC’s Executive Director Barbara Howell and the organization’s board President Jeanette Meyer, who also chaired the event.
“It is so great to see so many familiar faces,” said Howell as she looked out over the assemblage. “It is also wonderful to see new faces, of new supporters who we are so grateful for.”
Following Howell’s welcoming remarks, recognitions were presented Talamantes and Friedman.
“I was surprised to learn that BTAC helps between 5-10% of Burbank’s population, which is an amazing statistic,” Friedman said. “During the pandemic, my office received many calls from people who outright told us they could not afford food or alluded to that fact because they weren’t willing to come right out and say it. My staff knew that by referring them to BTAC they were always there to provide help. I am here tonight because BTAC is always there for members of this community who are in need.”
Along with BTAC board members Roger Koll, Vicki Williams, Nancy Korb, Kimberley Clark, Maddy Horne, Genia Spero and Richard Bertain, Howell thanked the individuals and local businesses who sponsored last week’s event which included UBS, SoCalGas Company, Brad Korb Realty, Burbank Sportscards, the Violet Cactus and the Koll Family. Howell also recognized longtime volunteer Libby Vice who serves as BTAC’s volunteer coordinator.
During the pandemic, Howell said she saw more people come in need of food and personal care items than she saw in her almost two decades at the helm of BTAC.
“We had so many people come in that we have never seen before — a 40% increase,” Howell said of the height of the pandemic.
She also explained that while their caseload increased, their fundraising events had all been put on hold and their volunteer staff dwindled.
“Our volunteers are mostly retired people, which means they are of the age that is of a higher risk of being affected by COVID-19. Because of that we went from 75 volunteers to 17 almost overnight,” Howell said. “So, we are in need of rebuilding our volunteer staff.”
Founded by the Burbank Ministerial Association and the Burbank Coordinating Council, BTAC provides a centralized source of services for the homeless and those in financial and employment transition. It serves more than 9,000 people annually, providing food, laundry and shower facilities, financial assistance, job placement and case-management help.
If you or someone you know needs BTAC’s services, or if you would like to volunteer or make a much-needed financial donation, call (818) 848-2822.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.