Erin Burns is the Tiburon Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Volunteer-of-the-Year. She was chosen for her many contributions to better lives at The Hilarita, a low-income housing complex in Tiburon with a community of seniors, disabled and working families with children.
Erin says her parents instilled in her and her siblings a strong sense of responsibility to work for the betterment of their neighbors. Growing up at The Hilarita, she knows firsthand how difficult it is for youngsters in the complex to go to school with classmates who can afford to buy just about anything they want.
“Most families at The Hilarita are just hard-working people who are trying to make ends meet while living in an extra affluent community,” she says.
When the food pantry stopped delivering food to The Hilarita, Erin got on the phone with the Marin Food Bank and convinced them to come to Hilarita. She also started and coordinated a service-learning project where children learn about earthquake preparedness and make disaster survival kits for The Hilarita seniors. In addition to all this, she is on the board of The Ranch – the local recreation department.
Three years ago, she co-founded “All In,” a nonprofit organization based in Tiburon whose mission is to create a socially and economically inclusive community that supports local families in need. She was encouraged and supported in this endeavor by the Tiburon Peninsula Foundation, the Belvedere Community Foundation and the Reed Schools Foundation, as well as other entities such as churches, schools, businesses, police and fire departments, plus many individuals.
“I was amazed and humbled by their generosity,” she says. She also went door-to-door at The Hilarita asking for donations and everyone participated – not donating large amounts, but all gave what they could. “A 100-percent participation was unprecedented for this community,” she says.
“All In strives to encourage residents and organizations to think and act locally while creating bridges of opportunities for these families,” she says. “The projects of All In are practical and are designed to be responsive to the immediate needs of low-income families and their children.”
Erin has been school director at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center Pre-school in Tiburon for the past three years, after spending six years there as a teacher. Before that, she was a resident counselor at a Catholic Charity group home for 12 to 17-year-old girls in San Francisco.
Erin’s eight-year-old daughter, Olivia, once asked her, “Mom, are we poor?” Erin replied, “What do you think?” and Olivia paused and then said, “Well, we have food and a home, so I guess not,” and she skipped off to play.
Erin Burns was honored at the Bank of Marin’s 26th annual Spirit of Marin luncheon in September, and she will be fêted by our Tiburon chamber in early November.