Life and Arts

On the Town: Spirit of Giving fundraiser aims to support the needy over the holidays

City Councilman Bob Frutos congratulates 2019 Spirit of Giving honoree Char Tabet.
(David Laurell)

As one drives past the beautiful homes on Burbank’s hillsides, the ranch-style houses of the city’s Rancho equestrian district, and the well-maintained dwellings of “The Flats,” with their manicured lawns and backyard pools, it is so easy to forget there are city residents who live very different lives.

Talk to Barbara Howell, who heads up the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, or Laurie Bleick, executive director of the Burbank Family Service Agency, and you will quickly learn, there are people who live and work in Burbank who are one paycheck away from not being able to keep food on their tables or pay the rent for their small one-bedroom apartments that, in some cases, house an entire family.

For nearly three decades, Janet Diel, president of the Burbank Coordinating Council, has never forgotten those families. Heading up the organization’s Holiday Basket program, she, her committee and hundreds of caring Burbankers join forces every year to help local low-income families with children have Christmas trees, decorations, a holiday meal and gifts.

Diel and her committee hosted their annual Spirit of Giving fundraiser luncheon at the First Presbyterian Church of Burbank this past week to help make the holidays brighter for more than 500 local families.


The local chapter of National Charity League, represented by Cynthia Wagner, left, and Robyn Ellis, was lauded as a 2019 Spirit of Giving honoree. (Photo by David Laurell)
(David Laurell/Burbank Leader)

The luncheon, emceed by Vice Mayor Sharon Springer, also honored the coordinating council’s 2019 Spirit of Giving honorees, Char Tabet, a Burbank Unified school board member, and the mothers and daughters of the local chapter of National Charity League, who were represented by Robyn Ellis and Cynthia Wagner.

Diel, who was called “an amazing jewel of our city who has changed the lives of so many children,” by Tabet, said she appreciated the assemblage for helping her to be able to help others.

“Each one of you who is here today is an important piece of the puzzle that makes this program work,” Diel said.


“It is only because of your caring and giving spirit that we can do what we do for the families we serve,” she added.

Always embraced by a broad cross-section of the community, the event last week included musical performances by Sayana Ford, Cate Galliego, Bodhi Nguyen-Barnes and Indira Ross, young members of the Beautiful Downtown Burbank Singers who performed under the direction of Robin Randall.

This year’s Spirit of Giving luncheon was made possible by the generous support of individuals and local businesses who sponsored the event, and the fundraiser’s committee — Brenda Burroughs, Jason, Jossie and Henry Diel, Deanna Holloway, Socorro Oseguera, Doris Palmer, Sandra Thompson, Fatima Khalifeh, Chris Krohn and Jennifer Tripet.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Burbank Coordinating Council’s mission, the organization is looking for donations of gift certificates, food items, unwrapped toys and personally requested items that are provided to those who adopt a specific family.

The council is also in need of volunteers to help with food drives and to deliver baskets.

For more information about how to get involved, call Diel at (818) 216-9377 or visit

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