As a program volunteer, Natalie has the opportunity "to give back to the community and be with my friends," she said.
"Seeing everyone being happy is a big change," she said.
Natalie's experience encapsulates the underlying goals of Connect with Your Community — to inspire leadership and partnerships among residents in redevelopment areas in which residents may feel estranged from the common identity that exists elsewhere in Burbank, said Gaby Flores, community resources coordinator.
"We want the residents in these communities to decide, 'You know what? It's time for me to give back and for me to have an investment my community," she said. "So those are the changes we are beginning to see and, granted, the programming has been around for about 3 1/2 years, but now we're starting to see the residents really getting involved."
Events like the Verdugo Street Fair — which will be followed by a Peyton-Grismer Back to School event in August and the Lake Alameda Fall Fun Fest in October — spark cooperation citywide. The Burbank Police and Fire Departments, Warner Bros., Burbank YMCA and other companies and agencies with a community presence will join the event as vendors and exhibitors, Flores said.
Today's festivities include informational booths, city services and programs; prizes and giveaways; free caricature drawings and other arts and crafts, as well as a bicycle tune-up workshop that will give participants useful tips on fixing and maintaining their bikes, Flores said.
Community development has become a sort of two-word mission statement for the department, which strives to integrate the less fortunate into the larger community, connecting them with services and programs in the city, said Community Development Director Sue Georgino.
"If you live in one of the more affluent parts of Burbank, you know what the city has to offer," she said. "But when you're in the areas where your parents are having a tougher time providing for you economically, you don't necessarily have those connections or know about them."
Outreach through the Connect with Your Community Program serves as an ideal link between members of the department and the residents they serve, she added.
"It seemed to me as a perfect marriage of an opportunity for our staff to understand why we do the work we do in a really hands-on way — why we're involved in this community development, why we're trying to make people's lives better in a macro sense," she said.
WHAT: Verdugo Street Fair
WHEN: Today, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
WHERE: Verdugo Avenue, between Lake Street and Victory Boulevard
CONTACT: Community Development Department, (818) 238-5172