Boost given to teens' nonprofit

A hungry lunch crowd that included city employees and residents purchased meals Friday at a Burger King restaurant, which will be donating 10% of its sales to the Glendale Safe Place in the hopes of helping the organization stay afloat during the recession.

The fundraiser was held at three Burger King restaurants — on Central Avenue, Colorado Street and Glenoaks Boulevard — for the Salvation Army’s nonprofit organization, which was looking for additional funding to support the program that is dedicated to helping troubled teens who need advice or a place a stay, said Meghan Bowra, the Safe Place coordinator.

“We really need the funds to be able to keep doing the outreach to the kids,” she said. “Any little bit that helps.”

Seven teens went to Safe Place facilities, including 40 businesses, nonprofits, the three fast food restaurants, all fire stations and the Glendale Police Department, in 2007, Bowra said.

But the number of teens that needed help in 2008 increased to 20, she said.

With more teens seeking advice or counseling, the program needs more funding to maintain its services and be able to supply the teens with the help they need, Bowra said.

But while the Salvation Army sponsors the program, it is finding it increasingly difficult to get funding for additional supplies, such as informational videos, that the program needs due to the economic downturn, she said.

Getting funding for programs is challenging during a shaky economy, but the organization will maintain the program as one of its top priorities because the community needs it, Salvation Army Capt. Rio Ray said.

The program, which the Salvation Army began sponsoring in 2006, is in great need of volunteers to help counsel teens or be available to them when they need help, Ray said.

The program started in 2002 in the city and was created to help teens who are struggling with abuse, being threatened or bullied, suicidal, addicted to drugs or alcohol or depressed or who ran away from home.

Teens who need help can go to any Glendale Beeline bus, business, city department or organization with a yellow Safe Place sign displayed on their buildings, where employees are trained in crisis intervention in order to aid them.

A counselor is on-call and available to help teens at any hour. If teens need a place to stay, they are taken to a shelter.

Glendale Safe Place is the only program of its kind in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Chris Schmutzer, the fast food restaurants’ managing director, grew up in Glendale and lives in La Crescenta, which he said needs a Safe Place program.

Schmutzer is planning to make the Burger King restaurant on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta a Safe Place zone, he said.

“It’s just good for the community,” Schmutzer said.

The restaurants needed to show their support for the program, and donating 10% of their sales to it was a way to help, he said.

“It’s a small gesture, but in today’s economy, we are happy to do this,” Schmutzer said.

Glendale resident Vartkes Sinanian and his friends were having lunch at the fast food restaurant on Central Avenue on Friday and were glad that their money was going to the program.

“We fully appreciate it,” he said. “I think it’s a very good idea and we are happy to support them.”

Camille Levee, Glendale Healthy Kids’ executive director, knew about the fundraiser and bought some burgers.

Her organization gives information about the program to its clients and tells them where to go if they need help, she said.

“It’s important to the community,” Levee said.

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