Smola leaves behind legacy

Based on recent history, Pat Smola’s tenure as executive director of

the Burbank Temporary Aid Center was fairly lengthy.

But for the community she served so effectively, and for her

supporters -- of whom there are many -- her apparent dismissal came


all too soon.

Smola told the Leader last week that she was notified by letter

June 27 that she had been terminated from the position she’d held

since June 2000. BTAC board of directors president Jan Loporcho


confirmed Smola’s separation from the center, but would not say

whether she was fired or had resigned.

Smola, widely credited with stabilizing center operations and

vastly improving its fund-raising, has been on disability leave since

February for a stress-related illness, and acknowledged that she had

filed a workers’ compensation claim against the center. Despite her

lengthy absence from BTAC’s day-to-day operations, however, she said

the letter was “devastating and humiliating” because she has poured


her heart into the center much of the past three years.

The Burbank Temporary Aid Center is supported by individual

donations and city grants, religious organizations and service

groups. By early summer of 2000, all of them had been given cause to

wonder if their contributions were being used wisely, as the center

had gone through three executive directors in two years, and several

employees had quit out of frustration with the center’s lack of



Then came Smola, who by all accounts stabilized the center’s

administrative operations and proved adept at fund-raising. A former

escrow officer, Smola scored donations from the Burbank Sertoma Club,

U.S. Postal Service, IKEA and Joslyn Adult Center, among others. Such

donations were crucial to keeping things up and running at the

center, which assists more than 2,500 people per month with food,

shelter and transportation vouchers.

Since board members say they can’t talk about the circumstances

leading to Smola’s departure, the whole story might never be known.

Surely, the uncertainty of going even longer than five months without

the services of the center’s executive director, for whatever reason,

must have played into the decision.

But what seems certain is that Smola, who gave BTAC the best

public face it had had in the past five years, will be missed by

center employees, volunteers and the community, not to mention the

thousands of people BTAC serves. Her stay was much longer than her

immediate predecessors’, but not as long as it deserved or needed to