Lively flamenco music and dance filled the historic Los Angeles Union Station as we celebrated our 11th anniversary Gala, A Spanish Night on the Sunset Express on January 28th.

Over 350 guests help us honor the Glendale Chapter of National Charity League with the Ambassador of Hope Award. Cindy Kenyon, immediate Past President, and Isabella Portantino, a ninth grade Ticktocker, accepted the award on behalf of NCL. Ascencia’s Board of Directors recognized the mother-daughter charity for years of support, including funding for beds and bike racks, and their donations of baked goods and sandwiches for Ascencia’s outreach team. Miss Portantino cited the “ninja sandwich-making skills” that she and her mother, Ellen, employed to make at least 800 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Ascencia’s outreach team to distribute to people on the streets.

Ellen Leyva of ABC7 Eyewitness News returned as Mistress of Ceremonies, while Paco and Yolanda Arroyo and their troupe, Herencia Flamenca, mesmerized the crowd with dramatic flamenco dancing.

Dignitaries on hand were State Senator Anthony Portantino, State Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, and Glendale Mayor Paula Devine. Also in attendance were Glendale Councilmembers Ara Najarian, Zareh Sinanyan, and Vartan Gharpetian, and Burbank City Councilmembers Bob Frutos and Will Rogers. Former Glendale Mayor Frank Quintero, whose wife Jani danced with Herencia Flamenca, attended with fellow commissioners and Executive Director Frank Miller of the Hollywood-Burbank Airport.

Ascencia Executive Director Natalie Komuro briefly reviewed the organization’s growth since last year, including the expansion of employment and financial literacy services in Glendale and new staff in Burbank and West Hollywood.

Rick Dinger, our auctioneer, led a lively auction featuring travel packages and stay-cations. The “Fund-A-Need” auction followed the poignant story of former Ascencia client Anthony, whose speech can be seen here.

Ten years ago, Anthony had an injury on the job, became addicted to painkillers, and ultimately lost his job. Divorce and the deaths of several close relatives followed close after that. His addiction worsened, leading to homelessness. With the help of case managers and psychiatrist at Ascencia, he rebuilt his life over the course of years, at last landing a job that pays too much for him to continue in Ascencia’s Shelter plus Care program. In addition to thanking Ascencia staff, Anthony credited Dr. Roy Kushel for helping him recognize the depression that was a source of his problems, and City of Glendale staff Ivet Samvelyan and Arsine Isayan, who coordinated the Shelter Plus Care subsidy program. It was an incredible journey that shows the lasting impact Ascencia can have on a person striving to get out of homelessness.

The evening ended with Gala Chair Karen Swan announcing the lucky winner of the opportunity drawing for a Disney Castle package.

Photos by James Van Evers

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