The Coast News Group
Phil Urbina (right) and his wife Kathy pose with their Starfish Leadership Award, which they earned for their efforts with the Carlsbad Christmas Bureau Adopt-A-Family Project. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene

Local couple honored for giving spirit

CARLSBAD — Phil and Kathy Urbina possess a special empathic gift when it comes to helping those in need. Every year, this husband and wife team spearheads the Carlsbad Christmas Bureau Adopt-A-Family Project and their effort and kindness have never been overlooked, especially, this year.During the Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 annual Business Awards Dinner, a thunderous wave of applause erupted inside the La Costa Resort and Spa ballroom as Phil and Kathy Urbina received their Starfish Leadership Award.

“The Starfish Leadership Awards program was created to honor those who have shown extraordinary commitment to champion and further worthwhile causes and have inspired, engaged and led others to join in that effort,” said Gina McBride, founder of Starfish Leadership Awards. “Phil and Kathy are incredible in their leadership, bringing countless other volunteers and donors, including their two children, on the journey to deliver hope and joy to those in need.”

And for McBride, that’s what “Starfish Leadership” is all about.

A few weeks ago, McBride stopped by the Urbinas’ Carlsbad-based business, Cousin’s Signs, to tell them the winning news.

“It was so appreciated because people do acknowledge what the Christmas Bureau does,” Phil Urbina said. “But it just doesn’t represent our work it represents the work of our small committee of nine people and the whole community.”

Both Kathy and Phil Urbina are quick to point out that the award just doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to Carlsbad, they said, because it takes a village to do the work that they do every single year.

“This is why we are holding the award for everyone,” Kathy Urbina said. “It’s just not us.”

Last year, 460 families were adopted. Items such as food, clothing, toys and more were doled out.

“Kathy and I are the facilitators,” Phil Urbina said. “But it is truly the community that comes together and adopts these families and puts a lot of smiles on a lot of young kids’ faces.”

Phil Urbina became involved with the Christmas Bureau back in 1989. It was established in 1970 by some community leaders who realized there were people in Carlsbad who needed a brighter holiday. In the mid 1990s, Phil Urbina became a board member, and soon after, Adopt-A-Family was added to the organization name.

Kathy and Phil Urbina said it’s incredible to see everyone come together. For one, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Carlsbad’s Village Branch donates their gym for the Adopt-A-Family warehouse.

An enormous amount of boxes, Phil Urbina said, come out of that gym on distribution day. This typically happens by the second week of December.

“We have a lot of angels who help us,” he said.

There is an endless list of those who adopt families or donate items such TaylorMade, Wells Fargo, Booz Allen Hamilton, local schools, Carlsbad Hi-Noon Rotary Club members, scout troops, city departments, Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, Legoland, private families and many more.

For the Urbinas, the Carlsbad Christian Assembly Church is also invaluable, helping needy families with the registration process for their wish list.

The Urbinas said that their board, which includes themselves, Becky Smith, Clint Voltmer, Don Metcalf, Louise Donahue, Pat Paschall, Steve Wilders, and Tracy Carmichael might be small, but it’s mighty.

On award night, Phil Urbina couldn’t help but be reeled back to a touching memory.

“The night made me think about my father,” he said, choking back the emotions.

Phil Urbina’s father owned rental properties and would gather items left behind from tenants who had vacated.

“He would pack up his jeep with these things, drive down to Tijuana, find a needy area and open his jeep up to let people in and give them clothing and other items,” he said.

Phil Urbina admits he got this “giving spirit” from both his father and mother; he’s also delighted to see it being instilled in his children.

When Phil Urbina looks at the name plate on the award, he thinks the names should be swapped.

“The award says Phil and Kathy but it should really be Kathy and Phil because she does way more work than me,” he said.

Phil Urbina is the public relations guru for the Carlsbad Christmas Bureau Adopt-A-Family Project while Kathy Urbina does all the behind-the-scenes paperwork and organization between adopters and adoptees.

After distribution day is over, and families drive away with their holiday goodies, Kathy Urbina said she is overwhelmed with a feeling of relief and satisfaction.

“When the distribution is done, we start thinking about our own Christmas,” she said. “But our Christmas’ tend to be on the smaller side because we don’t need anything — we are so blessed and have so much to be thankful for.”