Thriving family now aids others

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: John Jackson greets a Christmas that he wasn’t sure he’d see160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! BURBANK — In the 20 years William Arthur’s students have gathered boxes of food and toys to help needy families through Burbank’s Holiday Basket program, they never met the people they helped — until now. The Washington Elementary School fifth-graders recently found themselves face to face with Sarah Quiambao, a 38-year-old mother of three. As tears welled up in her eyes, she stood in front of the class and told the children how much joy the efforts of kids just like them brought her family at a time of great need. “I was so touched by the children’s gesture that I wanted to share my story,” Quiambao said. It began in 2000, when she emigrated from the Philippines with her two sons, Tristan and Van Niccolo, to join her husband, Troy. An architect in the Philippines, Troy Quiambao pursued a design career in the United States. Once his family arrived, immigration processing fees and bills mounted. Those early days were tough. Soon after her arrival, Quiambao became pregnant with her daughter, Tarra Isabella, now 5. “At first, it was like trying to make ends meet,” Quiambao said. “Living day by day.” That same year, the Quiambaos became enrolled in the Holiday Basket program, a citywide effort since 1946 to aid lower-income families. It’s organized by the Burbank Coordinating Council with support from city departments, churches, businesses, school PTAs and students like Arthur’s. “We were just building our lives here,” Quiambao said. “And there were these wonderful people that tried to give something special for some people that they didn’t know.” Quiambao said her children were ecstatic when they received their toy truck, coloring set and artist’s easel, asking her over and over again, “Where did the gifts come from?” Six years later, the Quiambaos are thriving. They own two homes and are living the American dream. Although times are good, they haven’t forgotten their first Christmas in the United States and the kindness of strangers. When the opportunity arose for Sarah Quiambao to once again participate in the Holiday Basket program — this time as a volunteer helping others — she signed up immediately and got her children involved in gathering food. “I know how it feels,” Quiambao said. “We’re so blessed that now we’re able to help somebody.” Burbank Coordinating Council member Patricia Gunn, the program’s chairwoman for 14 years, said this year’s effort helped more than 2,000 people, and that stories such as Quiambao’s are more common than people might think. “I can only tell you what (volunteers) have said to me,” Gunn said. “They say, ‘You know why I do this? Because I was a recipient at one time.’” Arthur’s students participate because he wants them to truly appreciate and take pride in the gift of giving, from gathering the food, decorating the boxes and selecting the toys to writing a parody version of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” full of food-inspired lyrics — “five onion rings!” At an annual presentation, the children hand over boxes of food and toys and sing their song for PTA volunteers. This year, Quiambao was part of that group. One by one, the volunteers thanked the children, until it was Quiambao’s turn to speak. As the children listened intently, she told them about the power of their work and the greatest gift any family could ever hope to receive — one given from the heart. — Rick Coca, (818) 713-3329 [email protected]last_img

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