In his second epistle, which many biblical scholars believe to have been written shortly before his death, the apostle Peter encourages good stewardship and the use of an individual’s talents and gifts to serve others.
While every city is blessed with its share of those who have taken Peter’s advice to give of themselves for the betterment of the lives of individuals, charitable organizations and the community at large, some cities are especially lucky to have those who go over and beyond the apostle’s call. In Burbank, one of those people is Elaine Paonessa.
City officials and members of the community recently joined the Salvation Army of Burbank to laud Paonessa for her six decades of volunteerism and service at a luncheon held in the Lagoon Room of the Castaway Restaurant.
Calling Paonessa a legend for her 40-plus years of volunteer service to The Salvation Army of Burbank, Lt. Kari Rudd went on to say that it is because of people like her that organizations such as theirs can exist. “Elaine’s contributions have saved and transformed lives,” she added.
Born in Portsmouth, N.H. and raised in San Diego, Paonessa was already showing signs of musical talent by her eighth birthday. An accomplished vocalist who could also blow a mean trumpet, as a young woman she toured nationally with an all-girl orchestra.
In 1952, Elaine and her husband, Bill, who passed way in 2006, settled in Burbank, where she worked as the first female sales representative for the Automobile Club of Southern California. During those early days, she began amassing an impressive roster of volunteer commitments. Over the years she has played instrumental roles with the Boy Scouts, the Emblem Club of Burbank, the Burbank Women’s Council, the Burbank Civitan Club and as an advisory board member of the Salvation Army, where she has been the chairwoman of the Angel Tree holiday program, which annually provides food baskets and toys to more than 400 families. She founded the Burbank Performing Arts Federation and has been a longtime supporter of SERVE, an organization she founded to help raise money for the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center Foundation.
Paonessa, who has also led volunteer efforts with the Burbank Farmer’s Market and as a musical director of the Van Bloem Singers, a group that visits and performs at senior residences and healthcare facilities, is a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Los Angeles County Commission on Aging’s Outstanding Older American award. She has also been named Burbank Woman of the Year and Citizen of the Year.
Among the dignitaries and special guests who gathered to honor Paonessa were Salvation Army District Commander Lt. Col. Victor Leslie and Lt. Eric Rudd, Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes, City Treasurer Donna Anderson, former Mayor Mary Lou Howard, Police Commissioner Nat Rubinfeld, Park, Recreation and Community Services board member Mickey DePalo and the honoree’s daughter, Gay Hull, and granddaughter, Erin Fulp.
Others in attendance included Sharon Cohen and Helen Wang of Burbank Library Services, Victor and Sue Georgino, Cathryn and Alia Thorsen, Ruth Cordon, Jean Kay, Herb Sandmaucher, Lorraine Hunter, Dee Dee Ruhlow, Richard Bertain, Joe and Janet Hooven, Teresa Dirobertis, Barry Burnett, Joe and Anthony Terranova, Brenda Lantieri, Gary Clark, Alma Rubinfeld, Kimberly Hernandez, Kay Hamilton, Marcia Hicks and Jack Reardon.