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Donors share bread so others can break it

Joyce Rudolph

It’s hard work to get tons of cans and boxes of food items and toys

organized and delivered to more than 400 families in need, but the

benefits outweigh the arduous task, said Pat Gunn, project


coordinator of the Holiday Basket Program.

The results of some three months trickle in as the cards with the

delivery information on them are mailed back from the volunteers who

delivered the goods.


“One of the most rewarding things is knowing this program affected

that many people. I have a basket on a table and over the next few

months it will fill up with several hundred cards,” she said. “Each

card represents a family who received a holiday basket. It’s very


And often, there are also comments from those who delivered the

items, like “The family was very deserving,” or “I’m so glad I was

able to help.”


The Burbank Coordinating Council started the food donation program

in 1946. Families receiving donations are recommended to the program

through the Burbank Unified School District. Most are the families of

students enrolled in the free lunch programs at the schools.

For this year’s endeavor, volunteers began at 7 a.m. Dec. 20

preparing boxes with food and toys in the lunch shelter of Washington

Elementary School. Despite the morning chill, volunteers were

scurrying to pack boxes into cars.


Groups, individuals and local businesses adopt families. The cards

tell donors how many people are in the family and the ages and sexes

of the children, Gunn said.

A typical box includes items to make a holiday meal, including a

meat gift certificate to a local store in increments from $10 to $20,

box of instant mashed potatoes, canned fruit, rolls, margarine and

stuffing mix. Some donors add a few staples like peanut butter and

ramen noodles.

“Lots of people who cook on hot plates don’t have refrigeration,”

she said, so many items are things that can be stored on shelves.

Meat gift certificates give families the choice to buy a turkey or

three chickens that can be spread out over three meals.

Other items often added to boxes are diapers, toothpaste, laundry

and body soap, shampoos and hand and body lotions.

Gifts for the children run the gamut of board games to Barbie

dolls, Gunn said.

The Coordinating Council received almost $3,000 in cash donations

this year as a result of a letter that went out to last year’s

participants. Council members purchased $1,000 in grocery gift

certificates. The rest of the money purchased $10 gift cards for

Target, paper and postage for thank-you notes to participants and the

balance was placed in the fund for next year, Gunn said.

“When you consider how many people it affects it’s not that much

money, because most of our baskets are sponsored by other people,”

she said.

Those adopting families were community groups like Girl Scout

troops and local companies like NBC and Universal Studios.

Universal Studios adopted 45 families this season, Gunn said. And

the Burbank Council on Disabilities adopted Burbank Center for the


“Access Hollywood” from NBC provided toys for 50 children and we

combined the toys with food donated by a local elementary school,”

Gunn said.

Students from Burbank High School, and Miller and Emerson

elementary schools arrived at 7 a.m. and were working on food baskets

for families that were not sponsored by anyone.

Councilman Dave Golonski was carting several boxes to a truck.

“I think it’s a great thing that everybody pitches in and does

this,” he said.

This was the second year that Universal Studios employee Carla

Voegele and her husband, Klaus Voegele, joined in the effort.

“It’s what God wants me to do,” Carla said. “It’s all about doing

things for other people so contrary to the message we get in this


Volunteer Sandi Albright had just returned from her fourth holiday

basket delivery.

“Most of the people are really needy,” she said. They all say

thank you. They were ecstatic to receive the gifts. And the kids’

eyes were so big.”

It was the first year Nita Gonzales had participated in the

program. She just moved here from Minnesota following her divorce. It

wasn’t long ago that she was on the other side of the fence.

“I know how it feels,” she said. “I’ve been there.”

Tom Foster from Job’s Daughters Bethel 208 was volunteering time

along with past honored queens Jossie and Joey Diel and Valaria


This was Tom’s first year volunteering.

“I’ve been shoveling boxes and helping people who don’t have the

lift power I’ve got,” he said.