The Burbank Coordinating Council plans to hold a food and item drive Saturday outside every grocery store and CVS Pharmacy in the city.
It is the council’s 65th year serving Burbank’s neediest menresidents during the holidays. Janet Diel, president of the Coordinating Council, said 80 more volunteers are needed to stand outside stores between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday to give shoppers lists of suggested items, such as canned food, pasta, paper towels, toys, soap and toothbrushes for donation.
The holiday tradition began in 1946 when the council provided a single meal for families for Christmas. Over time, the group’s ambitions multiplied, and in 2010 more than 500 local families, including 1,400 children, were given holiday baskets filled with food, toys, gift certificates, clothing and toiletries.
At Monday’s Coordinating Council meeting, Councilman Dave Golonski said 507 families signed up to receive baskets.
“Right now we have 384 [families] adopted to date and 183 different donors,” he said. “That leaves us with 123 unadopted as of today.”
Year round, Diel, who is known for “pinching a penny till it screams,” said she and co-chair Barbara Sykes shop the biggest sales. On Black Friday, Diel said she bought 150 art kits at $2.79 at Michaels and 25 $5 bathrobes at CVS.
She still tears up over one memory of delivering a basket to a Burbank family. She recalls pulling up to a house with a dirt yard with her husband Henry dressed as Santa. Two boys were playing in the front, and their wheelchair-bound father was inside the home, which had no furniture or drapes. As Henry walked up to the house, Diel recalled one boy shouting, “Daddy! There is a Santa Claus, and I know it because he’s here.”
“For the people that do this project, there’s a sense of ownership,” she said. “I don’t know whether you can call it joy or excitement — it’s a given. It’s what we do for the holidays. Somebody said to me once that these are people who are lazy who just don’t want to work. That’s not the case. Some of these families are really struggling, and it could be any of us.”
To pass out lists of items to shoppers on Saturday, donate items, adopt families or deliver baskets on Dec. 17, call (818) 238-7647 or (818) 843-3699. Email CCHolidayBaskets@aol.com.