Although the Billy Strayhorn jazz hit “Take the A Train” played in the main concourse of the Los Angeles Union Station for Ascencia’s ninth anniversary gala on Jan. 31, it was the MetroRail Gold Line from Pasadena that dozens of guests took to reach Union Station.

In fact, many of those guests had a glass or two of wine at La Grande Orange Café before boarding at the Del Mar Train Station.

Several more groups of revelers hopped on the Metro Rail Red Line at the Hollywood/Highland Station after a light repast at Trastevere Italian Restaurant.

The 300 or so guests left programmed the address of Union Station into their car GPS’s and found their way without a conductor. No matter how you got there, once at the station, the 1940s vibe washed over you.

Gary Greene, an attorney, and his Big Band of Barristers, comprised of actually judges, provided the swing music (“Chattanooga Choo Choo” was another favorite.)

Old ticket booths renovated since Union Station’s 1939 opening surrounded the concourse. Arches fanned out in art deco style.

Decades-old empty suitcases used as props were scattered along the edges of the concourse. Gene “Chip” Stone, immediate past president of Ascencia, and his wife, Nancy, obligingly posed for snaps holding a couple of the suitcases.

Gala Chairwoman Debbie Hinckley and her husband,Bruce, who is on Ascencia’s advisory board, also took a moment out for photos during cocktail hour.

Just before a salmon-and-pot roast dinner was served, guests, in various imitations of ’40s dress, sat at circular tables in the middle of the concourse.

A stunner in her white, feathered chapeaux was Burbank Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy. More VIPs present included Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, former AssemblymanAnthony Portantino, Glendale City Councilwoman Paula Devine and husband, Art, former Glendale Mayor Frank Quintero, former Glendale Mayor Eileen Givens and husband, Jim (new to Ascencia’s board of directors), Nicholas Lam and City Manager Scott Ochoa (both on Ascencia’s advisory board), City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and Deputy Police Chief Carl Povilaitis.

A list of VIPs could not be complete without the mention of Natalie Profant Komuro, Ascencia’s executive director. She helped the program run like a train’s timetable.

Ascencia Board President Mia S. Lee welcomed her large audience of more than 400 supporters. She reminded them of Ascencia’s goal to “…end homelessness — one person, one family at a time.”

Lee also presented Ascencia’s Ambassador of Hope Award to Kiwanis Club of Glendale. The award was accepted by Todd Hunt, the club’s president.

Stone then spoke in his capacity as co-chairman of the “Advancing Ascencia” capital campaign. The goal of the three-year campaign is $7.45 million (80% of which has been raised in the past two years).

Stone also cited some sobering statistics — 8,000 children and adults are homeless in Glendale and the surrounding communities. On a more positive note, Ascencia has provided housing and support services for 10,800 homeless people since 2006.

One of those homeless for the last 2½ years is Kimberly Collins. No longer homeless, Collins has had a bed at Ascencia since early December. Her son, 21-year-old Mathew Cooper, lives in La Crescenta with his father.

The audience was riveted as she told her story. Collins’ spiral into homelessness began in young adulthood with the deaths of her brother and twin sister. Medicating herself with drugs and alcohol, Collins eventually lost her job then lost her home over two years ago. Collins felt the options she had left were few — primarily the temporary company of a strange man, sleeping in a park or in her son’s car.

“But it made him so sad,” Collins said.

Now employed by Paradise Builders in Culver City, Collins can “pay my own bills.” She ended her remarks with, “The Lord led me to Ascencia.”

The evening concluded with a live auction to raise money to help more Ascencia clients like Collins. Dancing turned the evening celebratory.

February 10, 2015

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