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Burbank Holiday Basket Program needs money and volunteers

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Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Volunteers sorted and organized donations from a food drive for the Holiday Basket Program at the Little White Chapel Christian Church 1711 Avon Street Burbank December 8, 2012

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Volunteers sorted and organized donations from a food drive for the Holiday Basket Program at the Little White Chapel Christian Church 1711 Avon Street Burbank December 8, 2012

The Holiday Basket Program is kicking into high gear with deliveries planned for this Saturday. The program provides Christmas gifts and cheer for hundreds of Burbank families who would otherwise have a very grim or sparse holiday.  Last year, over 500 families, including 1400 children, received a Holiday Basket  filled with gifts and food.

This past weekend, a citywide food drive was conducted for the program. There is a critical need for money and volunteers. On Monday, December 10, I did an email Q&A with Janet Diel, long time Burbank activist and vice-president of the Burbank Coordinating Council, which has been the lead on the program for nearly 80 years — matching donors with needy families.

Janet Diel Holiday Basket Program Q&A

1. How many families do you have so far? Do you expect the number to grow?

We have over 545 families so far and expect to reach close to 600 by the end of the week. We get more applications every day.

2. What kind of donations are you getting and who are the churches and organizations and others involved?

We get food, gifts, and money from local businesses, city offices, schools, studios, and individuals. Little White Chapel hosts us for food drive storage and sorting and packing boxes. Washington Elementary School helps us with two days, one for building baskets, and the other for delivery day.

3. What do you need the most of right now?

Since we are building baskets for 150 unadopted families…..We need money to buy more gift cards for teens/or gifts and food cards to provide a main dish and fresh fruit/vegetables.

4. So what is the schedule for this week?

Dec. 13, Thursday…..Little White Chapel at Avon and Jeffries….2-6pm…pack food items for baskets…need 5-10 volunteers to help

Dec. 14th, Friday….Washington Elementary at Winona and Lincoln St……we match food with gifts for the 150 unadopted families from 2-8pm…takes lots of volunteers

Dec. 15th, Saturday….Washington Elementary lunch shelter area….we deliver baskets to families throughout the city….takes hundreds of volunteers to do this. We are there from 8am to 5pm and hope to complete and deliver ALL baskets by the end of the day.

Call Janet to confirm attendance or ask questions…..(818) 216-9377 cell or (818) 843-3699 home.

5. Tell me some of the memories that make the Holiday Basket Program worthwhile?

One time at the end of the day, my husband had on his Santa hat and we were delivering the last of the baskets. We took one (not prepared by our family but donated by someone else), and when we pulled into the driveway, two boys ran to the door of the house…(it looked bare and sad with father in the living room in a wheelchair with no legs) and yelled…”You were right there is a Santa Claus and he’s here right now.”   Well we all cried and went directly home to pack more food and gifts for their family to redeliver…..never have forgotten the looks on those boys’ faces, and the father too.

There are many other stories of moms who fall crying into the arms of the person delivering and saying that our program is all she had for Christmas for her small children…these really touch our hearts and are the reason we continue to work hard to make sure we provide assistance to every family that applies. We want to make sure these families and especially the children don’t feel left out or forgotten at the holiday time.

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