Community: Performers glow in annual holiday show

JoEllen Bosset and Joseph Vartanian play Mr. And Mrs. Santa Claus in the annual Holiday Program produced by BCR "a place to grow."
(Joyce Rudolph / Burbank Leader)

My heart is bursting with Christmas spirit after seeing the annual Holiday Program produced by BCR “a place to grow.”

The organization has supported the developmentally disabled population for those in and around Burbank for more than 50 years. The staff and clients spend weeks working on the recorded song selection and choreography before the show is staged at St. Francis Xavier’s Holy Cross Hall.

In her jolly holly welcome, executive director Julie Larsen announced that the center recently received a $30,000 grant from the Ahmanson Foundation to purchase a van. It transports clients to their jobs at Goodwill Industries in Glendale and the Stough Nature Center in Burbank as well as their volunteer work on the Burbank Tournament of Roses float.

A stipulation tied to the grant is that the center take the clients out into the community more often.The evening kicked off with client JoEllen Bosset leading the flag salute and client Mark Aguilar singing “God Bless America.”

Act 1 showcased Yuletide songs performed by the adult day activity program and was produced by the program’s supervisor Tara Svenkerud.

Act 2 was filled with lively Broadway musicals featuring the clients in the adult extended-day activity program and produced by its supervisor Jackeline Dawson.

Gina Manente gave a beautiful a cappella rendition of “Oh Christmas Tree” in the first act.

Another highlight was “Christmas Time’s a Comin’.”

Several of the clients who were dancing and singing were David Beckwith, Danny Gonzalez, Rey Garcia, Julia Liganor, Narbeh Melik-Jahanian, Annette Magana, Napoleon Montances, Mark Nakamura and Joseph Vartanian.

Nakamura sang the first act’s finale song “O Holy Night” and the audience joined in.

Jeff Bedard, from left, is the Lion, Andrew Sacasas plays the Scarecrow and JoEllen Bosset as Dorothy in "Ease on Down the Road" from the Broadway musical "The Wiz."
(Joyce Rudolph / Burbank Leader )

The second act, titled “BCR on Broadway”, was filled with tuneful hits of yesterday, such as “Ease on Down the Road” from “The Wiz” and “Masquerade” from “Phantom of the Opera,” replete with smoky special effects.

During the evening, Debra Callahan, of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Ladies Auxiliary #2188, presented a $1,000 donation to BCR. More funds were raised through a silent auction of items donated by local businesses and a bake sale.

Members from the Foothill Civitan Club and the Burbank chapter of the National Charity League helped throughout the evening.

What’s so incredible about this show is watching the clients progress over the years. They lose their shyness and gain so much confidence on stage. And it carries over to when I see them at other events and shopping at the grocery store.

Maybe they should change their name to BCR “a place to glow.”

Burbank nonprofits establish endowments

The Community Foundation of the Verdugos gave its supporters an update on its new endowment funds during its Autumn Appreciation Dinner held at Vertigo Event Venue in Glendale.

The foundation, led by chief executive Edna Karinski, works with nonprofits and individuals to create endowment funds that continue to earn money to support their future.

It also offers grants and scholarships to nonprofit community projects.

Zonta Club of the Burbank Area was honored for establishing an endowment this year. Its initial $50,000 will continue to grow over the years and help strengthen its future as an organization.

Zonta members accepting a crystal heart memento were Samantha Mielke, the club’s president, Nicki Bonner and Marva Murphy.

Also starting a new endowment this year was the Burbank Community Fund.

The permanent endowment funds will provide grants for Burbank nonprofits, Karinski said.

Another endowment started this year was the Angie and Ernest Burger Family Fund. The couple lives in Glendale, but Ernest Burger is a longtime member of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. The fund will provide grants to Burbank nonprofit organizations.

A scholarship fund was established for Judith Dellinger, who taught for 36 years in Burbank schools. Parents and students from Burbank wanted to recognize her work as well as the work for the city of Burbank by her husband, Ernest.

The first scholarship will be presented in June, and information about how to apply will be on the Community Foundation of the Verdugos’ website,, in mid-December.

Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and the East Valley, which established its endowment in 2011, was recognized for adding $25,000 to the fund this year, Karinski said.

“They are trying to be diligent to secure the future for the children and the youth they serve and make sure the programs are always going to be there,” she said.

JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at