Burb's Eye View: She's busy being part of the solution

Most of the 20 raffle tickets that once stuffed the envelope were gone. Janet Diel scanned the tables for one last basket to try to win — there were dozens filled with toys, games, gift cards, food and wine.

She settled on one and threw her remaining tickets in. Nothing left to do but wait.

Diel was one of hundreds at the Family Service Agency's annual gala who were competing for the prizes.

She knew that just one basket could take care of Christmas needs for some children — grandparents and parents eagerly threw in for Lego sets, a blazing pink Barbie basket....

Diel won a basket that she would eventually give to some kids she's never met.

As president of the Burbank Coordinating Council, her work is well under way to supply toys and food to some 2,000 Burbank residents in the coming months. Since 1946, the 80-year-old organization has delivered thousands of baskets to families in Burbank. And for more than a quarter-century, Diel has been there to help.

"It's how you feel when you see the kids' faces … when you see a kid's face light up or the tears in a mother's eyes when she can give a holiday to her kids," Diel said. "It gives you a feeling in your heart that you can't get anywhere else."

The object of the Burbank Coordinating Council has been to create community service projects that can grow on their own. The organization's idea of helping homeless families evolved into the Burbank Temporary Aid Center; a crossing guard program was eventually expanded and taken over by the Burbank Police Department.

The group still runs two programs: A summer camp that began in 1936 with help from Burbank Noon Kiwanis and the holiday baskets project.

The latter program is a full-time job in itself. At the council's monthly lunch meeting last week, basket coordinator David Golonski said 143 families went "un-adopted" last year even though the group put together baskets for more than 500.

"That's way too many (unsponsored families)," he said. "We really need to find more donors."

Inside the community room at the Little White Chapel, he spoke to a wide cross-section of the Burbank community — business leaders, clergy, lifetime Burbank residents and Burbank Unified employees.

To kick off this year's holiday basket effort, Diel gave Golonski some of the first collected items — from a basket of U.S. Marines collectibles Diel won at the Family Services gala a few days before.

"These kids are going to have a great time. These are Army men to the Nth degree," she said.

In the back of the room, Diel's husband, Henry, and son, Jason, collected the $9 charge for the meeting's lunch. Between now and December, the family will be involved in every stage of the basket program — collecting, sorting and distributing.

If you're born into the Diel family, you're going to be helping someone else.

"You need to be part of the solution, not just talking about it to other people," Janet Diel said.

The Burbank Coordinating Council meets from noon to 1:30 p.m. the first Monday of the month through May at the Little White Chapel, 1711 N. Avon St. The group will collect food donations at 12 stores throughout Burbank on Dec. 7.

To volunteer for the basket program or for more information, contact the council at (818) 238-7647 or visit http://www.burbank coordinatingcouncil.org.

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