BCR Tone Chime Choir

The BCR Tone Chime Choir, conducted by Sylvia Nielsen-Ioka, performs during the BCR -- "a place to grow" Holiday Program. ) (Photo by Joyce Rudolph / December 17, 2013)

BCR “a place to grow” is celebrating its golden anniversary, having started as the Burbank Center for the Retarded in 1963. The center's staff and clients wished a fond farewell in June to retiring executive director Lonna Dunson, who took on the title in 2005, but had worked at the center since 1968.

Her successor, Julie Larsen, is the perfect fit. Larsen served on the board of directors for 20 years. But there is also a family connection. The Burbank Junior Woman's Club — assisted by the Burbank Woman's Club — and Burbank Unified School District were vital in the process when the center opened its doors to four preschoolers.

Both Julie's mother, Julia Larsen, and her grandmother, Mae Horn, were past presidents of the Woman's Club. Julia Larsen was president of the Junior Woman's Club when it donated the initial $10,000 for the center's first rental space. Today, the enrollment is 108 children as well as teens and adults, ranging in age from 9 to 75.

Dunson continues to stay in touch and attended the center's holiday program last month at St. Francis Xavier Church auditorium.

A selection of holiday favorites was part of the first act titled “Magical Christmas,” performed by clients in the Adult Activity program and produced by Jay Bogan and Danielle Vergara. A highlight was the Tone Chime Choir, conducted by Sylvia Nielsen-Ioka.

The clients in the children's extended day program joined the adults in the second act. Several songs were performed under the subtitles of “Love,” “Friendship,” “Patriotism,” “Courage” and “Strength.” Members of the Burroughs drum line joined the clients in the finale song “What Do I Stand For?”

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JOYCE RUDOLPH can be contacted at rudolphjoyce10@gmail.com.