Valley Professionals NetworkJavier Ascarrunz, president of the Valley Professionals Network (VPN) understands the benefits of fellowship in a community as vast and diverse as the San Fernando Valley. That’s why when the VPN searched for a local charity to expand their donation efforts, Widows & Orphans was an ideal match for its mission. “The framework of the group is to be a giving organization,” says Javier, and connecting with the firefighting community was a great way to keep that tradition alive.

Dedicated to our Community

Celebrating their 30th year as a networking group, the VPN came together in 1988 when small and mid-size business owners in the Valley wanted to build stronger connections to the local community. Now, the 45 to 50 members thrive on goodwill recommendations and local philanthropy. For years, the City of Hope Cancer Treatment and Research Center received their primary charity donation. And thanks to their commitment, explains Javier, “over time, VPN has raised anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 for the City of Hope.”

So what led the group to add Widows & Orphans to their giving initiative? According to the four-year VPN president, it was Battalion Chief Gene Bednarchik. Javier’s relationship with the Chief helped connect them to the L.A. fire family. “About a year ago, Gene recommended Widows & Orphans as a charity that we could consider for donations, and he put us in touch with the group,” he says. “He invited battalion chiefs to come out and tell us about the charity and we learned a lot about everything they do for the community and the firefighters.”

Battalion Chief Gene Bednarchik and Javier Ascarrunz, president of the Valley Professionals Network (VPN)

      Javier Ascarrunz, president of the Valley Professionals Network with Battalion Chief and Relief Assoc. Trustee Gene Bednarchik

Since then, the VPN has donated to the firefighter charity every couple of months, and shows no signs of ending that relationship any time soon, even if their numbers shift from time to time.
“Ninety percent of our members in the directory are still in the group, but when some leave, they leave because their businesses get so successful and busy, they can’t come to the meetings anymore,” says Javier. But that hasn’t slowed them down one bit. “We hold an event each month where we raise money by auctioning off our companies’ individual services. Every time we do an event, we charge a little more to collect donations for our charities. All our money goes to our charities.”

Partnering with our Firefighter Charity

Although the VPN’s partnership with Widows & Orphans is new, the members have been active in engaging the charity as often as possible. “I went to Hope for Firefighters last year. It was a lot of fun!” Javier shares. “I hope to go again, and maybe to some other events this year.” While their individual businesses and weekly group meetings may keep them busy, the president knows their commitment to the charity is in no danger of waning: “Each VPN member refers business to the others. And they like to support the community and the type of people who want to do more for the community.” An ideal match indeed.

Learn more about the Valley Professionals Network at

By Candace Nicholson

Learn more about opportunities to support our firefighter charity