HomeCommunity NewsDavid Laurell: HALA Honors Burbank’s Efforts to Combat Housing Issues

David Laurell: HALA Honors Burbank’s Efforts to Combat Housing Issues

While it wasn’t a very long journey, technically, Burbankers had to travel south to get to last week’s Home Again L.A. annual gala, and yet, it was the west —  as in the “Old West” and the “Wild, Wild West” — that dominated the evening’s theme. 

More than 400 supporters gathered at the Autry Museum of the American West at Griffith Park for the nonprofit organization’s “Boots & Brews BBQ” staged to raise funds for HALA’s mission to empower unhoused families and usher them towards a life of independence with permanent housing and stable employment.

“This is our 10th gala,” said HALA CEO Albert Hernandez as he juggled last-minute issues with welcoming attendees and providing directions to the barbeque buffet, silent auction and entrance to the museum.

“It has really become a tradition — a gathering of those whose hearts and hands have made it possible for us to eradicate homelessness and nurture self-sufficiency among our families. It is a celebration, but it’s a celebration with a purpose — one that showcases inspiration, gratitude and a shared vision within our community.”

Established in 2010 as a part of the national Family Promise organization, the beginning of a transitional period in 2015 resulted in Home Again L.A., which, under Hernandez’s leadership, revitalized their branding, strategies, resources, services, programs and partnerships.

That was also the year the HALA board of directors made the decision to stage an annual gala fundraiser and created two significant recognitions: the Impact Award, which honors an individual, business or nonprofit group that has provided influential positive support to the homeless, and the Hands On, Hearts In Award, which lauds a person or entity that has, beyond financial support, volunteered physical assistance in their dedication to HALA’s mission.

At last week’s gala, hosted by NBC4’s legendary weatherman Fritz Coleman, the 2024 Hands On, Hearts In Award was awarded posthumously to longtime HALA supporter and volunteer Barbara Lazar. Coleman retired in 2020 and now co-hosts the weekly “Media Path” podcast.

Oren, Donna and Maya Lazar posthumously accepted HALA’s 2024 Hands on, Hearts In Award on behalf of their late mother Barbara Lazar.

Lazar, who died in June of 2023, was a former senior planner with the city of Burbank and served on HALA’s board for seven years. Far beyond her boardroom service, she was instrumental in securing a day center for unhoused families to shower, do laundry, have access to a computer, and establish a relationship with a case worker. She also worked tirelessly to enlist numer-ous local faith-based organizations to provide shelter for families in need and was often found in various church and temple kitchens helping to prepare meals for those families.

The Hands On, Hearts In Award, presented by Hernandez, was accepted by Lazar’s children Oren, Donna and Maya Lazar.

Last week’s event also saw the 2024 Impact Award bestowed upon the city of Burbank for its ongoing efforts to collaborate with HALA and other community partners to implement effective solutions to address the challenges of homelessness.

Former Assistant City Manager Judie Wilke and her husband, Tom, were among the more than 400 HALA supporters at the organization’s “Boots & Brews BBQ” gala.

The award, presented by its first recipient, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, was accepted on behalf of the city by Mayor Nick Schultz and Vice Mayor Nikki Pérez.

“This recognition is a testament to the [city’s] incredible partnership with HALA and reflects our unwavering dedication to serving those in need and cultivating a community founded on com-passion and generosity,” Schultz said.

Since its inception, Burbank has played a pivotal role in providing essential funding and resources to HALA’s critical programs, such as rapid rehousing, rental assistance, and community workshops, all aimed at supporting the city’s vulnerable population. In addition to these supportive services, in 2019, the city provided pass-through funding to renovate a three-unit complex for HALA families, and in the last two years, allocated funding that has helped the nonprofit secure housing for 91 Burbank families, further solidifying its commitment to addressing homelessness in the community.

Among the many whose commitment made the 2024 gala a success included HALA board chair Deborah Weirick, chair-elect Carol Nunez, former board chair Patrick Garney and board members Joylene Wagner, Alex Parajon, Romik Hacobian, Laurie Krattiger, Steve Mora, Amanda Adams, Crystal Nathaniel, Dr. William Wang, David Zuckerman, Christopher Clarkson, Lt. Steven Corrigan, Marie Filipian, Nancy Guilen, Janice Lowers and Dr. Lisa Laurent.

The organization’s day-to-day work is handled by Hernandez and staff members Jose “J.P.” Pentecostes, Carrie Prado, Krystal Lee, Lisa Partida, Renee Johnson, Chaquitta Boyce, Byron Prado, Briana Ahern, Aylin Cervantes, Yasari Cervantes, Emily Dahan, Blanca Mendez and Devie Rodriguez, all whose dedication also attributed to last week’s festive fundraiser.

For more information about the work of and support opportunities with HALA, visit homeagainla.org.

The first recipient of HALA’s Impact Award, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, arrives at the Autry Museum with his wife, Ellen, for last week’s gala.
Fritz Coleman, who hosted HALA’s gala, greeted by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman.
Former Burbank planners Michael and Joy Forbes, Assistant City Manager Courtney Padgett and City Manager Justin Hess were among the notables in attendance.
Among the many dignitaries in attendance were former Mayor Jess Talamantes and City Clerk Kimberley Clark.
Burbank City Treasurer Krystle Palmer and her husband, John, were out in support of HALA.

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

First published in the May 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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