“We moved around a lot growing up,” he said, having cleared through a plate of eggs and a cup of coffee. “This is nice.”
The center holds monthly dinners for the homeless and others in need, but had never served a Christmas morning meal until a staff member and volunteer came up with the idea recently.
“I wanted these people to have a nice hot breakfast for Christmas,” said Nancy Freidson, the transitional housing program manager for PATH Achieve who helped organize the event.
As Freidson flipped her self-described “world famous French toast,” volunteer Linda Pillsbury swirled an egg batter that would soon become a zucchini mushroom frittata.
Pillsbury helped Freidson develop the idea — both Jewish and motivated by a hefty sense of altruism and their usually quiet Christmas mornings.
They were aided by other volunteers and Director of Residential Programs Jerome Nilssen, all of whom joined the guests at the breakfast table upon breaks from the kitchen.
“I’ve really made a connection with these people over the last few months,” said Freidson, a therapist who volunteers her services to PATH Achieve once a week. “I’ve seen them struggle and know how important it is to be like a regular person with them.”
As plates cleared and the remaining remnants of food were consumed, presents were handed out to wide-eyed children and elated parents who would not have been able to purchase Christmas morning gifts on their own.
The center received dozens of gifts from faculty at Glendale Community College, the Glendale Assistance League and the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, Freidson said. One of the beneficiaries was Jose Lira, whose 5-year-old son, Emmanuel, grinned widely as he dragged a black trash bag bigger than him through the center.
“Especially for him it’s a dream come true,” Lira, 43, said. “He really believes that if he doesn’t get presents he was being naughty. To see in his eyes how bright they are, it’s like a treasure.”
JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.