HomeCommunity NewsDavid Laurell: Tequilas Burbank Welcomes Santa to Toy Drive Kickoff

David Laurell: Tequilas Burbank Welcomes Santa to Toy Drive Kickoff

As is the case with every Los Angeles restaurateur, Patricia and Carlos Rivera, who own Tequilas Burbank, are accustomed to celebrities crossing the threshold of their Mexican restaurant.

While most of those celebrated diners are from the entertainment world, this past Saturday evening the Riveras played host to one of the world’s most recognizable luminaries. Decked out in fur from head to foot, the acclaimed guest had made a 3,850-mile journey from the North Pole to attend the kickoff to a toy drive the couple is staging in partnership with the Burbank Chamber of Commerce that will benefit children in the Home Again L.A. program.

After greeting the jolly ol’ gent, the Riveras, who are local celebrities in their own right for all they do for the community, welcomed an assemblage of those who support the Burbank-based nonprofit that assists unhoused families.

“We have been doing a holiday toy drive for 12 or 13 years now and this is our third year of supporting Home Again Los Angeles and our second since partnering with the chamber,” said Patricia Rivera. “Doing this is an easy call for us. Some events we do take a tremendous amount of work, but every year, this one is purely joyful and from the heart. We always look forward to this evening and are grateful to everyone who is here to help make the holidays brighter for local children whose families are struggling.”

As the wait staff began presenting guests with bowls, plates and sizzling cast-iron skillets brimming with soups, burritos, tacos and fajitas, attendees were also thanked for their participation by Burbank Chamber of Commerce CEO Jamie Keyser Thomas and Albert Hernandez, the CEO of Home Again L.A.

“We served 699 families in 2023, which represents almost 2,000 children,” Hernandez told the gathering. “Your participation in being here this evening and providing toys is something that our staff and the families we serve are very grateful for.”

Hernandez also offered thanks to the Riveras.

“While it means so much that Patricia and Carlos have partnered with the chamber to make sure the children in our program receive toys, what they do goes way beyond the holiday season and a toy drive,” said Hernandez. “They are always supportive of us and our families, and we are thankful for them because of what they do all year long for Home Again Los Angeles, and the entire Burbank community.”

The evening’s program culminated with Hernandez introducing a special guest.

“I am privileged to introduce you to Sergio Gonzalez, one of our former clients who, like all of those we serve, doesn’t need or want a handout, but a hand-up to help them through challenges that because of a variety of situations any of us could find ourselves in,” Herandez said.

Emotionally sharing the story of how, due to an unexpected challenge, he and his 5-year-old son Abel went from being unhoused, to living in motels, to ultimately securing a permanent home with the support of HALA case managers, Gonzalez concluded his remarks by bowing his head and thanking everyone in attendance for what they have done for him, his son and others in the program.

If you would like to participate in the HALA toy drive, you have until Dec. 24 to drop off an unwrapped toy at the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, 200 W. Magnolia Blvd., Tequilas, 4310 W. Magnolia Blvd., Morrison Burbank, 3821 W. Magnolia Blvd., or Barragan’s Mexican Restaurant, 730 N. Victory Blvd.

HALA provides a myriad of assistance services to families experiencing homelessness by helping them gain independence by transitioning into permanent housing and employment. For more information about their work, or to make a financial donation, visit homeagainla.org.

Santa joins Jamie Keyser Thomas and Albert Hernandez as they collect donations for the toy drive.
Tequilas server Holli Miller was as lively and quick as Saint Nick in delivering authentic Mexican dishes to attendees.
Santa keeps a watchful eye over Burbank Rotarians Maye and Lee Stacy.
Rey and Gema Sanchez, owners of the Burbank-based Chulada Seasonings and Spices, were among those out in support of Home Again L.A.
Sergio Gonzalez, a former client of Home Again L.A., shares an emotional story about how he and his 5-year-old son found themselves experiencing homelessness.
Tequilas hostess Johanna Vazquez cozies up to Santa.

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

First published in the December 16 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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