On the Town: Glendale Latino Assn. honors 2, helps support local toy drive

“Invite your friends and co-workers to meet you at Porto’s Bakery & Café.” That’s how the invitation to the Glendale Latino Assn. mixer began.

Besides satisfying their sweet tooth, attendees had the opportunity to contribute to the “Cops for Kids” toy drive held at the popular bakery.

Last Wednesday, more than 100 people dropped in for free eats and drinks, courtesy of Betty Porto, the bakery’s co-owner.

While they munched on Porto’s popular potato balls, the guests brought toys to drop off for the drive. There were a lot of plush toys — Santas, bears, reindeer, penguins and baby dolls — for the little kids and plenty of toy cars, trucks and trains for the big kids.

Even a toy grenade launcher that looked like the real thing was donated. Glendale Deputy Police Chief Carl Povilaitis wasn’t thrilled about that one.

Other cops on hand to collect the tamer toys were Sgt. Mike Wenz and community service officer Amy Tate.

Tate, who runs the “Cops for Kids” charity, said the program has been offered to those in need in Glendale for 30 years.

This year, police officers have “adopted” 27 families nominated by Glendale elementary school representatives. For every family, the officers donate $100 in gifts to children under 18 and $50 in gifts to those 18 and older.

Often children ask for the most basic of needs. They want underwear, socks, tennis shoes, shirts and backpacks. Each family is also given a Christmas tree.

All of the goodies amount to about $20,000 raised during the year by the police department.

The funds also cover scholarships given to Glendale students.

Tate said the surplus toys not distributed at Christmas are saved for future important uses. Officers called to a scene of a domestic-violence incident, for instance, give the toys to frightened children. In that way, the children may see the police in a more positive light.

Glendale VIPs attending included Glendale City Councilwoman and former mayor Paula Devine, who was named the Latino association’s 2018 Woman of the Year. She was at the event with her husband, Art.

The association’s Man of the Year was Glendale City Atty. Mike Garcia, who did not attend the mixer.

More VIPs on hand were Miryam Finkelberg, association president, and her husband, Louis, and two of their three sons, Kyle and Sean.

Nancy Guillen, immediate past president of the organization, attended, wearing a toy antler headband.

Treasurer and legal counsel Monica Molina was busy behind the scenes collecting $10 from association members and $15 for non-members. Mixer donations contribute to the organization’s annual scholarship fund. To date, the association has given $164,000 in scholarships.

More mixer attendees from Glendale were Denise Miller, Susan Hunt, Monica Sierra, Mercy Velazquez, Glendale Arts’ Elissa Glickman and Glendale Community College trustee Anita Quinonez Gabrielian.

Two nights after the mixer, the Glendale Police Department’s “Shop With a Cop” program paired 40 kids in need with an officer for shopping at Target in the Glendale Galleria.

City officials attended a sweet ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of a new See’s Candies at the Americana at Brand on Friday.

Located between Nordstrom and Kate Spade, the shop had more than 200 candy lovers ready to open their wallets for plenty of nuts, chews and chocolates.

The trick was to snag some of the free stuff. The first 100 people in line scored free See’s tote bags and “Happy Habit Hats.” Everyone got a chocolate-covered caramel candy.

Cutting the ribbon was Glendale Mayor Vartan Gharpetian. At his side were Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian and City Atty. Mike Garcia.

Applauding from their place in line were Glendale residents Angelo Puglisi and his wife, Sylvia. The couple said they are big fans of See’s and came to the opening straight from church.

Mistress of ceremonies was district sales manager and Glendale resident Patti Dugan. Another See’s VIP on hand was new store manager Stacey Thorpe, who reminded those with charity on their minds that See’s “Candy by the Carton” allows fundraisers to purchase candy in bulk and sell it directly to supporters.

See’s “Yum-Raising” is designed for fundraisers who want to create an online shop and communicate with supporters digitally.

RUTH SOWBY RANDS may be reached at