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
“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,”
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,”
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
“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.