First published in the Dec. 17 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Photos by David Laurell / Burbak Leader
One hundred twenty-five Christmases have has passed since a part-time editor and writer at the New York Sun newspaper named Francis Pharcellus Church wrote a response to a letter from an 8-year-old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon who questioned the existence of Santa Claus.
In what has become one of the best-known editorials ever published, Church leveled a charge at the “skepticism of a skeptical age” for why Virginia’s friends didn’t believe in the jolly old elf and assured her that he does exist “as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.”
This past week, that love, generosity and devotion by which Church declared to be the proof that Saint Nick has and always will exist was on display at Tequilas Cantina and Grill, who partnered with the Burbank Chamber of Commerce to stage the second annual Burbank Holiday Toy Drive to benefit children whose families are in the Home Again Los Angeles program.
With her husband Carlos at her side, Tequila’s co-owner Patricia Rivera welcomed supporters to the event held on the tented patio of their West Magnolia Boulevard restaurant.
“This is our third year doing a toy drive for Home Again Los Angeles and our second year since partnering with the chamber,” Rivera said. “This has become an amazing event we look forward to each year and we are grateful to everyone who came out and helped make the holidays brighter for local children whose families are struggling.”
Along with the Riveras, attendees who were encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toys to the festive evening, were also welcomed by Santa himself who appeared courtesy of the Burbank Kiwanis Literacy Club Foundation and the organizations former president Douglas Chadwick, who was mysteriously absent from the event until after Santa left (wink, wink).
Home Again Los Angeles has a history of providing extensive family services to the Burbank community. The Burbank-based nonprofit assists families experiencing homelessness in gaining independence by transitioning into permanent housing and employment.
The organization’s CEO Albert Hernandez was joined by Leslie Smith, who serves as the chamber’s member services director. They both thanked the assemblage for their support.
“I’m thrilled over what Patricia, Carlos and the chamber have done for us over the past years, and what all of you who are here tonight are doing,” Hernandez said.
“Right now, we have five families who have exhausted all of their finances just to get into an apartment. That leaves nothing for gifts. So, what is being done by you here this evening will give them a Christmas. As I look out over this room, I see each one of you. You are all like a family to us. So, on behalf of the families we serve, let me thank all of our family members who are here tonight.”
Among the notables in attendance who got to spend some one-on-one time with Santa to tell him of their last-minute requests, and then enjoy Tequilas’ authentic Mexican dishes, were Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, Burbank’s outgoing Mayor Jess Talamantes and his wife Sandy, Councilman Nick Schultz, Councilwoman-elect Zizette Mullins, Burbank Police Commissioner Romik Hacobian, Burbank Cultural Arts Commissioner Lusine Simonyan Hacobian and Santa’s helper, Kiwanian Kelly Peña.
The evening also gave the Riveras the opportunity to extend a special thanks to outgoing Councilman Bob Frutos, who was in attendance with his wife Laura, for playing a huge role in bringing all the people and community entities together to stage this toy drive.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Tequilas’ family — all of our employees who helped make this possible, and to Bob Frutos,” Rivera said. It is because of him that this is happening here tonight and will result in the joy of many children. We all owe him great thanks and are honored that he is with us this evening as one of his last events as a member of the City Council.”
If you would like to participate in this toy drive, it is not too late. You can drop off an unwrapped toy at the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, 200 West Magnolia Blvd., or Tequilas, 4310 West Magnolia Blvd. until Dec. 24.
It will be one of the ways in which you can show that love, generosity and devotion still exists in our current age of skepticism, to give credence to Church’s claim of Santa’s existence, and that … “a thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.