On the Town: Guest chefs have secret recipe for helping homeless


Officials with Ascencia homeless services recently thanked donors and those who contribute to its year-round meals program during a volunteer appreciation reception held at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center recently.

Kelly Linden, Providence’s chief executive, and Terry Walker, manager of business development, welcomed 90 guests including Ascencia’s board of directors, staff, volunteers and supporters.

Debbie Hinckley, Ascencia’s board president, conducted the program and said that in the guest chefs program, a different group of volunteers comes in 365 days a year to purchase, cook and serve dinner to those residing in the Glendale shelter.

This year, some 900 volunteers donated 4,646 hours of service to the program.

“Our clients have had 730 gourmet dinners and breakfasts served by 50 teams of guest chefs,” Hinckley said. “All of these volunteer services have saved $46,467.50 that Ascencia could spend on [other] homeless services.”

Last year, the board instituted the Top Guest Chef Award, Hinckley said, to recognize outstanding commitment to the guest chef program. The first recipient was St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Burbank.

This year’s recipient was Aren Blanco, who started her guest chef service in 2010 with St. Robert’s church.

She enjoyed it so much, she started her own team of chefs and now serves dinner twice a month. In total, she has logged in more than 150 hours serving dinners to Ascencia clients.

“It may be more than that, as Aren is very humble and sometimes does not log in her hours,” Hinckley said.

In addition, Blanco has brought in more than 50 volunteers to help with the meals.

This year, the board instituted the Volunteer of the Year Award, and the recipient was announced by Brianna Beyrooty, administrative assistant who coordinates the volunteers.

Receiving the honor was Barbara Gormley, who began in February 2016 and has logged more than 200 hours of service — the longest administrative volunteer to date.

Several of the guest chefs, donors and guests attending had created culinary delights for the reception. In judging, the majority voted desserts as the top two favorites.

Debbie Andrus captured first place for her cream puffs, and Anush Avejic received second place for her Armenian kadayif with cream.

Adding icing to the cake, Tippy Boonkokua, branch manager of HomeStreet Bank in Burbank, presented a $2,500 donation to Natalie Profant Komuro, Ascencia’s executive director .

Volunteers not only provide the meals, but they sit down and eat with the homeless clients and exchange their life stories, said Anjalika Nigam, development officer with Ascencia.

A group of police officers had served food to clients at one dinner, and a client’s high-school-age daughter was so taken by her chat with the police chief during the meal, she has decided on law enforcement as her career.

Residents put on glitz for ‘Ritz’ luncheon

Glendale residents stepped back in time at the recent “Puttin’ on the Ritz” fashion show luncheon at the Sheraton Universal Hotel.

The “Roaring ’20s”-themed event raised funds for projects by the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center Guild.

Over the guild’s 70 years, members have raised money with this fashion show, card parties and their Gift Gallery shop in the medical center’s lobby.

In her welcome speech, Julie McArdle, the organization’s president, said members have raised more than $7 million for area medical facilities such as the Disney Family Cancer Center, the Howard and Hycy Hill Neuroscience Center and the Cusumano Family Outpatient Center.

Residents attending were Lynda Burns, who is chair of the Glendale Commission on the Status of Women; and members of Glendale’s Cabrini Literary Guild — Genevieve Collopy of Eagle Rock, Sarah de la Torre of Glendale and Connie Alamdari of La Cañada Flintridge.

Providence Guild publicity chair Maureen Walsh, who is also a member of the Cabrini Guild, had a table of guests including Mary Rough of Glendale, Anna Kalayjian of Granada Hills and Nancy Hinderer of Santa Clarita.

Longtime guild member Wanda Bistagne attended with her son and daughter-in-law, Chuck and Leslie Bistagne, who now run the family business Bistagne Bros. Body Shop, in town since 1946.

JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at