Ascencia Cooks Up Banquet of Ways to Volunteer

(Photos courtesy Karina Moreno) - Ascencia volunteers donate their time, money and cooking skills to provide a festive Thanksgiving meal for shelter residents.

First published in the Nov. 26 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

More than $1 billion — that’s the amount Americans spent on turkey alone this past week. Amid the splendor, the parade floats and holiday bloat, though, Burbank homeless service partner Ascencia and its community volunteers celebrated turkey day in the spirit of giving, and have much more in store for the holiday season.
The shelter and service provider’s mission is to maintain “a community where people in need can access services and find safe, affordable housing,” according to their website — and Ascencia does just that by providing shelter housing, permanent supportive housing, case management and services such as showers, laundry facilities, employment services, mental health services and addiction treatment.
This week, as they do yearly, Ascencia provided their residents with a festive holiday dinner.
“We decorated our dining room and many of our community supporters dropped off cookies, prepared other sumptuous meals and made every effort to express to our residents that they are not alone,” said Karina Moreno, volunteer coordinator at Ascencia.
The meal was provided courtesy of a guest chef. Ascencia’s guest chef program provides volunteers an opportunity to cover breakfast, lunch or dinner for the shelter’s residents.

Ascencia volunteers donate their time, money and cooking skills to provide a festive Thanksgiving meal for shelter residents.

“Guest chef volunteers are such an important way to help Ascencia save on our bottom line,” Moreno said. Dinner alone costs Ascencia more than $500 to provide for Ascencia’s 45 clients. The cost savings from the guest chef program allows Ascencia to fund additional program services.
“In the future, if volunteers are unable to cook on-site for our residents, they can purchase and drop off the meal. It all helps Ascencia in such a tremendous way,” Moreno said.
“We were met with full gratitude, and thanks for all we do while our residents are staying in the shelter. Our volunteers know our work, they support us by spreading the word and becoming ambassadors to our mission,” Moreno said, adding that they always need more volunteers and guest chefs.
Over the next month, Ascencia will keep the giving going with an adopt-a-family program, clothing drives, hygiene and meal kit programs, guest chef sessions and meal drop-offs.
“Most people feel an overwhelming need to step up and help. For those who see homelessness as a tragedy and want to do something to help those who are suffering, support Ascencia — our work literally saves lives every day,” Moreno told the Leader.
Volunteers can sponsor a family or individual’s Christmas or Hanukkah by signing up to purchase gifts.
“Interested Burbankers can also make a donation to Ascencia this holiday. There are so many people who are languishing on the streets that we can help break the cycle of homelessness,” Moreno said. “From the time a client enters our Access Center, we provide comprehensive wraparound case management services, on-site mental health care, including trauma therapy, art therapy for children, tele-psychiatry, occupational therapy and a financial literacy program.”
Donate and learn more about Ascencia’s holiday programs at ascenciaCA.org.
“Ascencia has a 98% retention rate of the people we serve staying housed. Something we are so proud of,” Moreno said.