Fashioning a new purpose

Laura Sturza

Years of sewing specialty clothing for studios and stars -- often

on emergency deadlines -- left Anita Kwasni frayed and ready to

follow a new pattern.


“It was a very stressful business,” Kwasni said of her time with

companies including Warner Bros. and Disney. Ready to make a change,

the Burbank resident was sitting in McCambridge Park, “praying for

God to give me some direction,” when members of The Salvation Army


Corps, who were inviting people to come to their church, stopped by

the park, she said.

A woman from the group asked Kwasni if she would like to volunteer

with them, and nearly eight years later, the former tailor is still

serving those in need as a full-time volunteer at the Burbank center.

"[This work] is the love of my life,” Kwasni said.

Coordinating volunteers who keep the building spotless,

distributing breakfast and lunch five days a week, assisting with


donations and offering encouragement to those in need of it are all

part of an average day.

Her post means the 58-year-old talks to people without jobs,

homes, food or adequate clothing on a regular basis. Some of them

need referrals to other services, which they receive from Salvation

Army Captains Gary and Brenda Smith.

As the state faces a looming budget crisis of more than $30

billion, and local programs risk deep cuts, volunteers play an


essential role in maintaining services.

“Volunteers are important to us all the time,” City Manager Bud

Ovrom said. “It’s going to become even more critical as we go into

this budget crisis because money for these type of services are

typically what get cut.”

In addition, the downturn in the economy gives people who are

looking for work an opportunity “to keep active and keep their skills

up” by volunteering, said Dee Call, the city’s volunteer coordinator.

During the 2002 holidays, The Burbank Salvation Army Corps served

a complete sit down Thanksgiving dinner to 500 people, and

distributed gifts and food to almost 400 families, including 2,000


“My life has quality now, I can’t tell you how rich I feel,”

Kwasni said.