When Gloria Salas recently began receiving congratulatory emails, texts and phone messages, she was confused. That was until she found out that her husband, former Burbank City Councilman Tim Murphy, had learned she was to be the recipient of the Community Service Award at the Glendale YWCA’s 24th annual Heart and Excellence Awards.
“I couldn’t figure out what I was being congratulated for until I realized that Tim knew and told everyone,” laughed Salas. “It was nice to hear from so many people, and I really am honored, but I’m not one of those people who likes to be out in front taking the bow. I feel more comfortable being behind whatever team I’m working with just to get things done.”
A native Angeleno who has worked in the legal field since her senior year of high school, Salas’ passion has always been advocating for women’s rights and causes. She has been a longtime member of the Zonta Club of the Burbank and has served as the chapter’s president and advocacy chair of Zonta District 9, which covers five western states. In that role she has dealt with issues such as human trafficking and domestic violence, and went to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to lobby on various pieces of legislation affecting women and girls.
Salas sits on the board of directors of the Burbank Human Relations Council and has been involved in organizing the annual Community Days of Remembrance events commemorating the Holocaust and the First Peoples and Armenian Genocides. Through her church, she has also played a role in coordinating holiday toy drives for children living in domestic violence shelters, providing food for the homeless, collecting hygiene products for victims of human trafficking, spearheading business suit drives for women entering the workplace, and collecting donations for orphanages in the Philippines.
Having just completed her term as president of the local chapter of Zonta, Salas now serves as the Area 3 director for Zonta International District 9. Asked to reflect on her presidential term, which was challenged by the pandemic, Salas said she is proud that the club was still be able to do positive work, fundraising, and offer support to the Glendale YWCA’s domestic violence and shelter program.
“This past year we adopted a family from their program for the holidays,” said Salas. “The woman was a survivor of domestic violence and she and her children were at the YWCA shelter. She didn’t want anything for herself, just toys for the children. We made that happen, and got some things for her, also. Sadly, the pandemic has really increased the instances of domestic violence.”
Salas was also able to oversee a fundraiser that will provide the money for grants that the Burbank Zonta Club awards twice a year to women who have survived and thrived in spite of great challenges.
Asked what she would suggest to Burbankers who are looking to make a difference in the lives of others, Salas said there is no need to look far.
“The needs are great no matter where you look — homelessness, human trafficking, which has increased because so many young girls are on their computers doing home schooling, mental health issues, domestic violence, hunger — it’s all around us,” she said. “You can just stand still and, if you are really looking and are aware, people with issues will be circling you everywhere.”
Explaining that while people with a desire to help others can always go the United Nations website to see the issues people are dealing with around the world, or lobby for more engineering, aerospace, science and technical training and classes for young women in schools, they can also simply look to friends and neighbors to quickly find those in need of help.
“Keep your eyes and ears open,” Salas suggested. “Burbank has this label of being like Mayberry, but there are things going on here that people would not believe. People need to educate themselves on recognizing needs, such as someone who is food insecure and the horrors of what far too many people are dealing with, such as spousal abuse and women with children who are living in their cars. It would shock most Burbankers to know that there are children in our community who live in cars. These things happen everywhere, even in bedroom communities like Burbank. Being of help comes from just waking up, looking around, being aware, asking questions, and then finding out what you can do to help.”
The Glendale YWCA’s Heart and Excellence Awards will take place virtually on Wednesday, April 14. This event brings together local government officials, business leaders, and past honorees who support the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
This year’s event, presented under the theme “Rise to Recovery,” will recognize eight women from Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena, including Salas and L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents Burbank.
“I’m humbled to be in the company of such amazing women,” said Salas. “Their lives are dedicated to their communities — to helping people in need. It really is an honor because, when I look at each one of them and learn of what they have accomplished, I feel like I should just be walking behind them and holding their trains as they step up to accept their awards.”
For more information on the YWCA’s Heart and Excellence Awards, visit www.glendaleywca.org. For more information about the Zonta Club of Burbank, visit www.zontaburbank.org.
David Laurell may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.