In the News

Wine, beer festival on the horizon in Camarillo

April 22, 2016

Wine, beer festival on the horizon in Camarillo
The Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Sun., June 5 at Cal State Channel Islands. Proceeds from the event support the therapeutic programs and services Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families provide to abused, neglected, and at-risk children and their families in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

Discounted general admission and VIP tickets are available through April for $105 and $225 respectively until prices go up May 1 through June 3 to $125 for general admission and $250 for VIP. General admission tickets will be available at the door for $150, but VIP tickets will not be sold at the door. To purchase discount tickets, visit The festival is still accepting silent auction donations. Organizers are seeking big ticket items like high-end jewelry, tickets to professional sporting events, getaways to warm and cold destinations, and special events such as wine tastings, private dinners and culinary tastings. To donate, call Anna Coulson at (805) 366-4023. Festival attendees can sign up now for mobile bidding at

Volunteers are still needed to help set up and take down the event, especially from May 31 through June 2 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., as well as during the days leading up to the festival and to take down the event grounds June 6 and 7. To sign up, visit the website listed above. Exhibitors and sponsors can also still participate. The business or individual names will be connected with the event. For more information, call Juliana Thiessen at (805) 366-4014, email or visit sponsor page at the above website. Festival goers can make round-trip reservations through the Roadrunner Safe Ride Program by calling (805) 389-8196 or visit

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Source: Camarillo Acorn

Casa Pacifica receives $35,000 grant from Ronald McDonald charities

April 21, 2016

Casa Pacifica receives $35,000 grant from Ronald McDonald charitiesCasa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families has received a $35,000 grant from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California.

The grant will go to the agency’s “Building New Foundations of Hope” Capital Campaign to improve and expand facilities on its Camarillo campus. The funds will help with the construction of a parent-child interaction therapy suite, which includes two playrooms and an observation room. The rooms allow families to play together and receive help in building relationships and dealing with behavioral issues that arise.

It is the second time McDonald’s has supported a capital project for Casa Pacifica, a crisis-care and residential treatment facility for abused, neglected, or at-risk children. It also gave money to the original campaign to build Casa Pacifica.
The Ronald McDonald House grants are given to agencies with programs that support children and families in need.

Casa Pacifica’s $21 million “Building New Foundations of Hope” capital campaign is close to reaching its phase one goal of $16.6 million. The first phase of the project will include constructing two substance abuse treatment cottages for teenage foster youth, adapting the current administration building for outpatient services and building a new administration/training/vocational education building.

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County OKs crisis contracts to overhaul system for kids

March 22, 2016

County supervisors on Tuesday OK’d management contracts for the opening of a crisis center for suicidal children, part of a continuum of programs expected to put the county ahead of any other in California. The Ventura County government will pay a combined $6 million to the Oakland-based Seneca Family of Agencies over 15 months, beginning immediately. The nonprofit agency is charged with operating a four-bed unit where children can receive intensive therapy for up to 24 hours and a residential unit for those who need an extended period to recover. Both units will be in the former Pacific Shores Hospital in Oxnard, which supervisors agreed to buy last year. The programs are due to open by fall. “Today should be a great celebration,” Supervisor Steve Bennett told a crowd of about 40 people who attended a hearing in Ventura. The units will offer an intermediate option for children who bounce from home to psychiatric hospital and back. Family members of troubled children appeared at a hearing in Ventura to back the project, with one breaking down in tears over her daughter’s treatment. Another woman was matter of fact. “I support this wholeheartedly,” said a Ventura resident whose 11-year-old granddaughter has been hospitalized five times since she was 6.

County Behavioral Health Director Elaine Crandall said she was recommending Seneca out of three agencies in the state. She limited her search to organizations that were already running crisis stabilization centers, a move that excluded Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families. Crandall said experienced providers would give the county the best opportunity for success in the new venture. She plans to halve the number of children being detained in psychiatric hospitals and reduce the rate of return, she said. Kids from Ventura County are detained involuntarily for psychiatric evaluations at a rate twice the state average. About 1,100 were held in the 2013-14 fiscal year, double the number two years earlier. Crandall also decided to stop contracting with Casa Pacifica for a mobile crisis team that fields calls and goes to the scene. Starting in July, the calls will be answered by a Ventura County Behavioral Health crisis team that has been focused on adults. That team, which is receiving additional training to deal with youths, also will provide counseling to children to stabilize them at home. By consolidating mobile crisis response in the county department, Crandall expects to have a better chance of tracking children and boosting results.

Casa Pacifica CEO Steve Elson told supervisors the nonprofit could have provided key programs in the new crisis system effectively and efficiently. “We are disappointed,” he said. The agency will work closely with the Behavioral Health Department to make the transition from one mobile team to another as seamless as possible, he pledged. “We stand ready to do our part in making this system a model for the county and the country,” he said.

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Source: Ventura County Star

Editorial: County should slow down on child mental health changes

March 19, 2016

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors is set to act Tuesday on a long-term agreement to provide mental health care for the county’s children. The agreement before the board is to hire an Oakland-based company to operate the $6 million annual program and facility. We believe a decision is premature because county officials apparently have not fully discussed all options. Left out of the conversation for this necessary expansion of care is Casa Pacifica, which had held the contract for the existing Children’s Intensive Response Team. This team currently provides the first-line response to children in a mental health crisis.

Casa Pacifica was stunned last month to learn its contract with the county Behavioral Health Department for the response team was not going to be renewed. The legion of agencies and individuals who worked with Casa Pacifica on this were equally surprised. The county has had a long relationship with Casa Pacifica. It was instrumental in the creation of the nonprofit agency in 1994 as it looked for establishment of a public-private relationship to provide care for abused and neglected children. The county shifted the responsibility, and money, for that to Casa Pacifica, which turned to other government funding sources and local private donors to help pay the bills. The relationship had several rough moments in its infancy but over the past 15 years seems to have evolved into a sturdy and growing partnership — a commitment to caring for the children who need our help. That’s why the recent decision came as a shock. The decision came as part of a solution to a growing hole in the care for mentally ill children. As Star staff writer Kathleen Wilson showed in a story last year, there was no place for children with severe mental issues to go in Ventura County. They were held in emergency rooms for hours while nurses tried to find out-of-county facilities to take them for care and treatment.

The county stepped in last summer and purchased the closed Pacific Shores Hospital in Oxnard to turn it into an outpatient and residential treatment facility for minors. Meanwhile, Casa Pacifica officials were working with a committee headed by county Supervisor Steve Bennett to create strategies to tackle the issue. In addition to residential care, a key component was stabilization services that would provide intensive in-home support for teens to see if the best option was for them to remain at home. All that led to legislation introduced by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara. The bill passed the Assembly last summer but stalled in the Senate. Casa Pacifica followed with a ramped-up proposal to the county to upgrade its Children’s Intensive Response Team to handle the in-home stabilization process. It would cost the county about $1 million more a year.

Behavioral Health Director Elaine Crandall rejected the idea and turned to Oakland-based Seneca Family of Agencies to handle the entire program, from initial response through operation of the new county facility. Seneca, she says, has experience in Northern California doing that. Crandall wants to accomplish two things: save money and create a continuum of care where all the information and decisions on a child in crisis are in one place. Those are solid goals. What we do not understand is why she did not talk with Casa Pacific about its ability to meet those goals. This lack of communication with the county’s established provider of care for children in need — an organization that clearly has been engaged in developing solutions to these problems — is why we urge the board to go slow on approving the contract with Seneca. It may be the best deal with the best services. But first, at least talk with the folks who have been in the trenches providing care for children here for 20 years.

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Source: Ventura County Star

Agency won’t have role in reforms it pushed for kids in crisis

March 19, 2016

Agency won’t have role in reforms it pushed for kids in crisis The Casa Pacifica agency called for an end to spotty services for suicidal children almost two years ago, advocated for state legislation and urged a state commission to focus on the issue. But the Camarillo-based nonprofit won’t play any part in delivering the new continuum of services that could make Ventura County a leader in crisis care. The agency lost one contract for its mobile crisis team and was deemed out of the running for another to operate a crisis stabilization unit providing intensive therapy and short-term residential care. “It is ironic,” said Steve Elson, CEO of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families, which operates residential and community-based programs serving troubled children and their families. If successful, the programs that Casa Pacifica promoted will allow many kids to receive therapy at home or in an outpatient center instead of psychiatric hospitals. Dr. Roz Warner, president of Casa Pacifica’s board of trustees, described the board as concerned. “We’re really disappointed that we had no opportunity to participate in this whole turnover and found it to be a confusing process,” she said. “All the decisions were made without our input.” Elaine Crandall, director of the county Behavioral Health Department, says she did speak with Elson even if the results weren’t what he wanted. She did what she thought was best for children, Crandall said. The rate at which children are detained involuntarily for psychiatric evaluations in the county is double the state average, but the reasons are unknown. The number has doubled in recent years and about a third of Behavioral Health patients insured by the state Medi-Cal program are rehospitalized within the same year. “When you know something is not working, you have to try something else,” Crandall said.

The stakes

At issue are two decisions: ending a contract with Casa Pacifica’s mobile crisis team and ruling the agency out as the operator of the crisis stabilization center. The six-bed center is due to open in the fall in Oxnard. The county has for nine years contracted with Casa Pacifica to operate a 24-7 mobile crisis team that takes calls and goes to the scene when needed. But county mental health officials decided that their employees could do that job just as effectively and more cheaply, plus provide in-home care and do follow-up visits. Although those employees are focused on serving adults, the agency plans to provide training and hire children’s specialists to bolster their ranks. Casa Pacifica’s mobile crisis team contract for the current fiscal year totals $1.36 million. Elson submitted a $2.13 million proposal for an enriched program in light of the county’s decision to remodel their services in the next fiscal year. The heart of it was a program to assess and stabilize children in the home. The team would also respond to the most serious calls for help through a hotline, a deviation from Crandall’s plan to turn all calls over to the county team. Crandall concluded that the department could provide the service for about $1 million less plus offer more coordinated services with county employees answering the calls, going to the scene and working in the home. It was an internal decision based on discussions with other managers and a children’s psychiatrist, she said. Elson said he would have liked to negotiate. “We made the proposal and did not have the opportunity to modify or discuss it,” he said. “That would be something I wish had happened.” Casa Pacifica was not in the running to operate the crisis center because the agency had never managed one. That was one of Crandall’s requirements. She found only three in the state. One was uninterested in coming to Southern California and the other did not offer a full continuum of services. That left the Seneca Family of Agencies, which is based in Oakland.

Next Steps

On Tuesday Crandall is asking the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to approve a pair of 15-month contracts with Seneca totaling $6 million. Elson said Seneca is well regarded but that Casa Pacifica, which has provided residential treatment for troubled children for decades, could have gotten up to speed with the help of a consultant. “We were 80 percent there,” he said. Crandall has said there were no concerns over the quality of the mobile crisis team. Complaints have surfaced over slow response times, but an official at the Behavioral Health Department said the complaints turned out to be unfounded or could be explained. The county did not provide enough funding to shorten response times, Elson said. Ventura County government and Casa Pacifica have a long history, starting with its opening in 1994 to provide treatment and care for foster children. At least half of Casa Pacifica’s total annual budget comes from county and public school funding, Elson said. He expects other opportunities in the future. “This is not a relationship-ending decision by any means,” he said.

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Source: Ventura County Star

Child Abuse Victim Kept in a Cage Tells Her Story of Survival

March 8, 2016

Child Abuse Victim Kept in a Cage Tells Her Story of SurvivalA child abuse survivor who was kept in a cage said she doesn’t dwell on the past. Cynthia Vasquez said she has gotten positive feedback since her story first aired. Vasquez, 19, works at Casa Pacifica in Camarillo, the same center that helped her after she was abused and neglected by a foster parent who adopted her and her little sister. Casa Pacifica CEO Steve Elson said she was one of the worst cases they’ve seen. “It was horrendous what she and her sister went through,” Elson said. Vicki Murphy, Casa Pacifica’s Chief Advancement Officer said, “This is a little girl that came to us from a cage, she had lived in an animal cage.” Her foster mother Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez was a social worker and daycare provider who avoided scrutiny for years. Cynthia said Vasquez changed their names, but she is in no rush to have it legally changed back. During her Santa Barbara trial in 2007, Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez blamed parenting books. Vasquez spent less than a year in jail. After a decade of therapy Cynthia said, “I have a job, a car, I’m going to college, I graduated high school having missed four grades. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and I’m happy.” She lives near Casa Pacifica now and said she is thankful for her new foster mother, Shelley Hernandez.

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Source: KEYT Channel 3 News

Child abuse survivor describes horrific torture

March 8, 2016

Child abuse survivor describes horrific tortureA child abuse survivor has described the horror of living in an animal cage for five years while being tortured with nothing to eat but raw eggs and vegetable oil. Cynthia Vasquez, 19, and her younger sister were taken in by foster mother Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez at birth as their 23-year-old father and 15-year-old mother couldn’t cope with parenthood. But their supposed lifeline became a horror as they were pushed to the edge of starvation, burned, tormented, and forced to act happy for social workers for half a decade. They were finally discovered when a cleaning lady tipped off authorities, and Mrs. Vasquez was sentenced to 10 years in jail - though she only served one. Now working at the center which rescued her from captivity, Casa Pacifica, college graduate Cynthia has spoken to ABC News affiliate KEYT about her torment. At first, she says, the girls enjoyed a few years of happiness with Mrs Vasquez, with trips to Disneyland and ‘awesome’ Christmases. However, when Cynthia turned five ‘it just went out of control,’ she told KEYT. She was put in a 5’x4’ plywood cage with a wire mesh window and a latch that her foster mother bolted shut. Speaking to KEYT, Cynthia gave a small insight into the staggering torture she was subjected to.‘I was only allowed to eat raw eggs with vegetable oil. It was disgusting,’ she calmly told the camera. In another instance, Cynthia said, Mrs Vasquez would hold her hand on the stove for a prolonged period of time. ‘She was pushing it down,’ Cynthia said. Shockingly, Cynthia told KEYT, she had no idea her torture was not normal. ‘I thought maybe all kids go through this maybe it is a phase, I was expecting it to stop at some point,’ she explained. For years, social workers were oblivious to their horrific treatment as Mrs Vasquez put on a charade to mask the truth. She left cat litter and cat boxes inside the cages to make it look like pets lived in them. And she threatened Cynthia and her sister to act as if nothing was wrong. ‘She would dress me up really well and she would tell me: “If you don’t act happy and natural, you’re going to be very upset when they leave”,’ Cynthia told KEYT. The cleaning ladies were also threatened that they would be deported if they spoke out. Finally, one of the cleaning ladies faced deportation and immediately went to authorities to tip them off about the abuse Cynthia and her sister were being subjected to.

Casa Pacifica CEO Dr. Steve Elson told KEYT it was one of the worst cases the center has ever seen. Cynthia still remembers arriving at Casa Pacifica at the age of nine. ‘When I went in there was two night staff and they asked me if I was hungry - me and my sister - and we said, “yes, very much so”,’ she told the network. Mrs. Vasquez was arrested charged with child endangerment. During a lengthy jury trial she tried to claim she was following the advice of parenting books. Eventually she pleaded no contest to all charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison - though she only served one, with the rest on probation. Cynthia, however, has moved on. Now with a new adoptive mother, she is studying and happy in her job, helping other children who have been subjected to mental and physical torment.‘I have a job a car, I’m going to college, I graduated high school having missed four grades. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and I’m happy,’ she told KEYT.

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County cutting contract with kids’ crisis team

March 1, 2016

Ventura County Star March 1, 2016 - A nationally accredited team that assesses and counsels suicidal children is being eliminated effective this summer. County Behavioral Health Director Elaine Crandall decided to stop the contract with the Casa Pacifica agency and provide the service through the county’s crisis team for adults, she confirmed Tuesday. Team members will be trained in children’s crisis care over the next few months and four others, plus a supervisor, will be hired, Crandall said. Crandall said she can save $1 million annually through economies of scale and it will be easier to connect children with a cohesive continuum of services that the county plans to offer.“We would take one large pool of trained staff and they would have the capacity to deal with both children and adults,” she said. But some question whether the county can maintain the same quality as the Children’s Intensive Response Team run by Casa Pacifica, a nonprofit agency in Camarillo that serves troubled children.

The mobile unit responds to an average of 332 calls a month from schools, families, police and emergency rooms dealing with severely troubled children. Team members go to the scene for about a third of those calls and handle the others on the telephone. They also write about 50 applications a month for suicidal or homicidal children to be held involuntarily. “To go away from having a full-blown outreach team that is fully trained and accredited really is a step backward,” said Amy Kulp, interim executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, the organization that accredited the team in 2014. She said there is scant research on crisis services but that the ability of the county agency to get up to speed depends on the experience, knowledge and training of the staff.“Crisis intervention requires a different mind set and different skills,” she said. With children especially, counselors must establish empathy quickly and ask the right questions on the spot, she said. Kulp said accreditation is based on paperwork as well as a visit by the association. “We examine everything from training to how someone is introduced to this crisis work,” she said.

The decision comes amid an effort to develop a “continuum of care” for children in crisis. Many youngsters wait for days in emergency rooms until a bed opens at a psychiatric hospital that accepts children, only to return again. There have been few if any intermediate options. County supervisors last year bought a shuttered psychiatric hospital in Oxnard, so they could offer a place where children could receive intense therapy for up to 24 hours. A separate program would offer residential care for those needing a longer period of time to stabilize. Officials also hoped to connect the kids to outpatient services. It wasn’t clear last year where the mobile team fit into the picture. In January, Casa Pacifica submitted a $2.1 million proposal to expand the team and provide more counseling services in the home. Crandall, though, determined she could offer the service through the existing adult team. She estimates a savings of $1 million annually because the agency already has overhead costs, such as management, personnel and billing covered. She said the decision was about half financial, with the other half driven by a desire to track children through the system and improve care.“This is an opportunity to redesign crisis services for children,” she said. With services concentrated at the county, there will be one phone number to call for crisis services. And staff will enter notes into a database so they can easily track children as they move from crisis into outpatient care, she said. She is confident the same level of service can be offered, she said. The county served children in crisis nine years ago before it began contracting with Casa Pacifica, all staff are licensed, and some of the clinicians have experience with children. “One of the things that makes me feel confident is that we hire licensed clinicians to do our crisis work. Even though Casa has done a great job, they hire unlicensed interns working under supervision.”

The team also employs licensed clinicians and those who are eligible to be licensed, and all team members are trained to deal with children in crisis, said Jody Kussin, a community services director at Casa Pacifica. She said 17 people who provide direct services will be laid off. Some may be placed at other jobs within Casa Pacifica or apply to work for the county, officials said. Kussin said she’s concerned about folding the service into an adult team. “I think it’s very sad,” she said. “We’re nationally accredited and nationally recognized as leaders in the field. It’s really been an honor and privilege to do the work we’ve done as first responders and life savers.” Kussin, a clinical psychologist, said a different expertise is needed for children.“A 7-year-old who wants to kill himself is different from a 57-year-old,” she said.

Steven Elson, CEO of Casa Pacifica, said he supported Crandall’s decision even though the agency was losing the program. He said the idea had been discussed for some time. “Given the infrastructure they already have in place and marginal cost increases, it does appear to me they can do it more cheaply,” he said. The Casa Pacifica team has a good reputation and collaborates well with other agencies, said Lori Litel, executive director of United Parents, a nonprofit that helps parents whose children have mental health, emotional and behavioral disorders.“My whole staff was shocked,” she said. A unified team might know more about issues affecting the family because they know the parents’ history, said Erik Sternad, executive director of Interface Children & Family Services. “It is a specialty for sure to work with children and adolescents, but I don’t necessarily see an inherent advantage in separating the teams,” he said.

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Source: Ventura County Star

Caged Child Abuse Survivor Speaks Out

February 23, 2016

Caged Child Abuse Survivor Speaks OutA child kept in a cage by the foster mother who adopted her more than a decade ago is now in a unique position to help other children like her. Cynthia Vasquez,19, works at Casa Pacifica in Camarillo, the same center that helped her when she was an abused and neglected 9-year-old. Casa Pacific CEO Steve Elson said she was one of the worst cases they’ve seen.” It was horrendous what she and her sister went through,” Elson said.

Cynthia still remembers what it was like when she first arrived at the shelter. She remembers being asked if she was hungry and getting something sweet to eat. Vicky Murphy, Casa Pacifica’s Chief Advancement Officer and Director of Alumni Services, said, “This is a little girl that came to us from a cage she had lived in an animal cage in basement for years.” Cynthia said the first year with her foster mother included dance lessons, ice skating, and trips to Disneyland, but then everything changed. Even though her foster mother received thousands of dollars to pay for Cynthia’s care, she wasn’t going to school. “Eventually, it just went out of control,” Cynthia said.

Court records described the case as made of plywood, about 5’ by 4’ with a wire mesh window. Cynthia said there were several cages, the first cage was outside, the third cage was in the basement.“On the inside, there was a bed and latch so you couldn’t get out, ” she said. Cynthia wasn’t alone,  her sister and other foster children suffered the similar fate. She remembers being kept on the edge of starvation. While court records said the children kept in cages were given peanut butter, Cynthia said she remembers eating raw eggs and being warned not to complain about it. Her foster mother, Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez was a social worker and daycare provider when she adopted Cynthia and her younger sister.  Cynthia said Vasquez changed their first and last names.  She said she is in no rush right now to have it legally changed back. Cynthia said she was told to behave on rare occasions when social workers visited their Foothill Road home. “I thought maybe all kids go through this maybe it is a phase, I was expecting it to stop at some point, ” she said. She said a cleaning lady Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez threatened with deportation called the police to report the abuse.

During her Santa Barbara trial in 2007, Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez blamed parenting books someone had recommended she read that were supposed to help her raise foster children diagnosed with attachment disorders. Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley was a prosecutor back then. With cameras in Judge Frank Ochoa’s courtroom you can hear Dudley questioning Syliva Vasquez about the books.  Vasquez denied some of the abuse, but pleaded no contest to four counts of child endangerment. Although she received a ten year sentence most of it is being served on probation.  Vasquez spent less than a year in jail. After almost a decade of therapy Cynthia said, “I have a job a car, I’m going to college, I graduated high school having missed four grades. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and I’m happy.” When she asked for a job at Case Pacifica during a visit to the Camarillo campus Vicky Murphy hired her as a part-time office assistant. Murphy calls her a resilient miracle.

Cynthia Vasquez doesn’t shy away from telling other children they are not alone and that she knows what they are going through because she lived at Casa Pacifica, too. “I’ve always had the saying, ‘Don’t dwell on the past,’ you can complain, but that is not going to change what’s going to happen, so it’s always better to go forward,” said Cynthia. In the near future she hopes to transfer from Oxnard College to finish her bachelor’s degree.  She wants to become an earth science teacher.

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Source: KEYT Channel 3 News

Photos: Disney Stars Helped With A Valentine’s Day Event

February 11, 2016

Photos: Disney Stars Helped With A Valentine’s Day EventDisney Channel and Disney XD stars Murray Rundus, Cameron Boyce, Sophie Reynolds and Felix Avitia from Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything, Landry Bender, Matthew Royer and Benjamin Royer from Best Friends Whenever, Peyton List, her twin brother Spencer List (be sure to watch BUNK’D on Friday when Spencer guest stars) and Nathan Arenas from BUNK’D came together on Wednesday (February 10, 2016) for a fun purpose.

Matthew posted this group shot on his Instagram and said: “Had fun helping my school at Casa Pacifica today. We made a lot of lucky kids days! #twingers”. His twin brother Benjamin mentioned that it was a Valentine’s Day event: “Had so much fun helping out my school at Casa Pacifica helping kids with a Valentines Day Event! #Twingers”. Murray shared this image of himself and his co-stars and wrote: “Fun day today helping out some great kids. Make sure to watch gamers guide tonight! #gamersguide @disneyxd”

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Oak Park is Sweet to Casa (Pacifica) Kids

February 11, 2016

Oak Park is Sweet To Casa Pacifica KidsThis year Valentine’s Day may be a little sweeter for students at Casa Pacifica with the memory of a party hosted for them yesterday, Feb. 10, by the youth at Oak Park Independent School. Casa Pacifica serves abused and neglected children as well as those who have severe emotional, behavioral and mental health issues. The center operates schools on a 24-acre campus in Camarillo, where the party took place. Kate Thompson, a teacher at the independent study school, said her students had participated in other events to benefit Casa Pacifica but this was the first time they’d hosted a party. Twelve-year-old twins Benjamin and Matthew Royer travel from West Hills to attend the independent study school to accommodate their schedule as actors on the Disney Channel’s “Best Friends Whenever.” They were excited about the upcoming party when they spoke to The Acorn last week. Benjamin said that at OPIS the main lessons taught are that “everybody is the same” and helping others is vital. He said he and his brother work at a homeless shelter when they have free time. The boys gave stuffed animals to the kids attending the party. Matthew said he also enjoys helping others. “I really like making people smile,” he said. “I hope to do more in the future.”

Riele Downs, who appears on the Nickelodeon show “Henry Danger,” commutes from Sherman Oaks to the OPIS campus. “It’s really important to me to give back,” she said. The party at Casa Pacifica featured craft stations where kids made keychains, bookmarks and valentines. There was also a cookie decorating station and a photo booth with props, which Thompson said is a crowd- pleaser. Another party activity was “Blind Date with a Book.” Casa Pacifica students could choose a wrapped book that was only identified by genre. Thompson said about 40 of the 240 OPIS students participated in the party yesterday. Oak Park Independent School serves students who need a flexible school schedule, such as actors, athletes and musicians or children who have health issues. Some students attend because of religious affiliations, while other families like the blend of coursework at the school with their own home-school programs. OPIS principal Stew McGugan said some students are training for the Olympics.

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Source: The Acorn

Coats of Snow

January 14, 2016

Coats of SnowTONS OF FUN FOR CHARITY — Two 6-year-olds have fun in the 25 tons of snow delivered to the sixth annual Coats for Casa Pacifica snow day event Jan. 9 at Three Springs Park in Westlake Village. Clare Bagnuolo hangs on to her friend Cambria Richards as they head down the hill. At left, Calabasas resident Lior Sacks, 16, sorts donated coats during the event, a clothing drive hosted by Lydia Gable of Keller Williams and Rick Winters of Winters Financial Group. The clothing drive brought in 1,000 pieces of donated items that will be given to the children and teens served by Casa Pacifica. In addition to the donations, the event featured snow play, sledding, craft-making and refreshments.

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Source: The Agoura Hills Acorn

Coat Drive Nets 2,000 Items for Casa Pacifica

January 9, 2016

Coat Drive Nets 2,000 Items for Casa PacificaThe sixth annual Coats for Casa Pacifica charity event at Three Springs Park in Westlake Village brought in 2,000 articles of winter clothing for nearly 600 children and young adults who are served by Casa Pacifica every day. “We serve children that are abused and neglected and kids that are suffering from mental health challenges — kids that are at the deepest end of our system that really need all of our help,” said Vicki Murphy, chief advancement officer of Casa Pacifica, a nonprofit that serves 585 individuals a day ranging from 6 to 21 years old.

Saturday’s clothing drive generated numerous bags of new and gently used clothing from residents throughout the Ventura County area. Event highlights included sledding on piles of snow provided by Arctic Glacier and complimentary refreshments from Apollo’s Expresso & Shave Ice. “The amount of love that is expressed here for the children of Casa Pacifica — it’s coats, it’s snow, but it’s love,” Murphy said. “It’s their community saying we haven’t forsaken you and we know that you’re here.” Saturday’s event was inspired by local residents Lydia Gable, who works for Keller Williams Realty, and Rick Winters, a financial adviser at Winters Financial Group. “We do a lot of business in the community, and it’s a nice way of giving back to the community,” Gable said. “Casa Pacifica has done a tremendous job for kids. They help the kids that are in need and they are a good local resource for families to be able to rely on.” Winters added: “We just wanted to create some awareness for a local organization, and Casa Pacifica does such a great job. This event has gained a lot of traction over the years.”

The first year reaped about 500 coats, said Alex Cabrera, of Camarillo, who has volunteered every year since the inception of Coats for Casa Pacifica. “The first year, we had our fingers crossed, hoping people would show up, and we got 500 coats,” Cabrera said. “Last year, we had almost 2,000 coats, so it’s really come a long way.” Karen O’Neil, of Thousand Oaks, was there Saturday to donate two coats, one of which she purchased new. “My daughter’s boyfriend actually lived at Casa Pacifica for a while when he was a child,” O’Neil said. “I found out about this event through word of mouth, and I thought it was a great cause.” Karen Hundley, of Westlake Village, donated three coats and numerous sweaters. “We just think it’s great to give to the needy,” Hundley said. “Every time we have things at the house we don’t need, we don’t do a garage sale; we’d rather donate everything we have.”

This year’s event sponsors included Zwaag Termite Control, Macaroni Kid and Michael Lang Design.Saturday’s event involved numerous volunteers, including Kat Gentile, a 10th-grader at Oaks Christian School. The 16-year-old first volunteered at the Casa Pacifica clothing drive when she was 13 years old after her parents bought a house from Gable, who is their Realtor. “I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to help with the community and give back,” said Kat, who donated three bags of clothing in addition to manning a snack table on Saturday. “I go to Oaks, and I have so much. I realize that there are some people in this world who don’t have the things that I do. I have all these beautiful things in my life. I can also give back to other people, too.”

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Source: Ventura County Star

Jaden Smith Personally Delivers Holiday Clothing Donation

December 24, 2015

Jaden Smith Personally Delivers Holiday Clothing DonationJaden Smith signs an autograph while delivering a donation to Casa Pacifica on Monday (December 21) in Camarillo, Calif. The 17-year-old entertainer personally delivered a donation of clothes and Stance socks to the safe house, and took photos with families. Casa Pacifica thanked Jaden on Twitter for helping the safe house, which provides shelter to families and children who are experiencing neglect and abuse.



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Source: Just Jared

Jaden Smith Personally Delivers Holiday Gifts To A Safe House

December 24, 2015

Jaden Smith Personally Delivers Holiday Gifts To A Safe HouseJaden Smith may only be 17, but he is already using the holiday season as a time to give back. The teen celebrated Christmas early by personally delivering clothing to a California non-profit called Casa Pacifica, a safe house for children and families, on Dec. 21. Jaden made sure to fill the needs of others instead of making his own wish list — what a kid!

It’s sweet enough for Jaden to make such a generous donation, but even better, the kids weren’t expecting him to show up with the gifts! “Our campus kids received a surprise visit from actor #JadenSmith who hand-delivered STANCE sock gifts! #thankyou!!” the charity tweeted. In another tweet, the safe house said that Jaden truly brightened the kids holidays with his donation, as the Stance socks come in all different patterns and colors. On top of his personal delivery, Jaden also took the time to sign autographs for the kids! His entire visit was caught on camera, and you can see the pics right here!

Aww, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have really taught their son well! In fact, charity work is something Jaden and his sister, Willow Smith, love doing in their spare time. Jada has even stressed that giving back is a “must” in their family. “My kids are very willing to give things away because they understand that they have such abundance; they don’t have to hoard,” she told Parents magazine. Jaden certainly proved that with his holiday gesture!

Jaden clearly made an impact in his latest charity outing, and we love that he is thinking of kids in need during a time when he could just be thinking of what he wants for Christmas. Considering he’s so young, we wouldn’t doubt it if we see Jaden continue his holiday gift giving for years to come — good for you, Jaden!

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Source: Hollywood Life

Casa Pacifica Board Member Chuck Cohen To Be Honored For Public Service

December 17, 2015

Casa Pacifica Board Member Chuck CohenCasa Pacifica Board Member Chuck Cohen and his wife Eloise will be honored for their years of public service during the 24th annual Community Conscience Mardi Gras Ball in February. Not only is Chuck a current board Casa Pacifica Board Member, but also a past board president who has served the longest terms. Chuck is an invaluable ambassador for Casa Pacifica and we’re elated for this well deserved recognition!


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Source: Acorn Thousand Oaks

Montecito Bank & Trust Celebrates Opening of 10th Branch

November 25, 2015

Montecito Bank & TrustCamarillo residents, city officials, business leaders and nonprofit representatives gathered the evening of Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, to celebrate the opening of Montecito Bank & Trust’s newest branch location in Camarillo. The celebration of the bank’s 10th branch — and 3rd Ventura County location — included a ribbon cutting ceremony and reception for over 100 guests. “We are excited to continue our growth in Ventura County, and are eager to provide Camarillo with the world class experience our customers have come to expect,” Janet Garufis, Montecito Bank & Trust president and CEO, said. “Camarillo has truly welcomed us with open arms, and we couldn’t be happier with the turnout tonight. If you haven’t worked with us in the past, we invite you to experience firsthand how Montecito Bank & Trust is making the communities we serve better places to live and work.” One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of a $5,000 check to Casa Pacifica as a symbol of the bank’s commitment to the Camarillo community.

Casa Pacifica CEO Steve Elson was on hand to accept the check from Garufis, Michael Towbes, Montecito Bank & Trust chairman and owner, and Jeff Paul, director of retail and commercial banking. Montecito Bank & Trust received a 2014 designation of a Premier Performing Bank by The Findley Reports, an independent service which rates the annual financial performance of California banks. The Findley Reports has designated Montecito Bank & Trust as a Premier Performing or Super Premier Performing Bank 29 times in its 40-year history. Montecito Bank & Trust, an S Corporation, is the oldest and largest locally owned community bank in the Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Founded in 1975, the bank celebrated its 40th anniversary in March, and operates branch offices located in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Solvang, Montecito, Carpinteria, Ventura, Camarillo and Westlake Village. The bank offers a variety of competitive deposit and lending solutions for businesses and consumers, including business loans and lines of credit; commercial real estate finance; SBA loans; consumer loans; credit cards; merchant services and online services, including mobile banking and cash management. Its Wealth Management Division provides full investment management as well as trust services for all branch office markets.

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Source: Noozhawk

Casa Pacifica benefits from Container Store grand opening

November 17, 2015

Casa Pacifica benefits from Container Store grand openingThe Container Store marked its official grand opening at The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard this past weekend and will donate a portion of the Saturday’s and Sunday’s sales to Casa Pacifica Center for Children and Families. The store, which specializes in storage and organization products, will donate $15,000 to Casa Pacifica, a Camarillo nonprofit that serves abused and neglected children and adolescents with severe emotional, social and behavioral issues due to abuse, neglect or mental health challenges. The store is at 450 Town Center Drive. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Visit for more information.

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Source: VC Star

Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) Honors Casa Pacifica $10,000 Donation

November 12, 2015

On November 12th Casa Pacifica was generously chosen as the beneficiary at the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) “Stars of the 101” Awards Banquet. Casa Pacifica CEO Dr. Steven Elson accepted a check in the amount of $10,000 from ACG President Jeff Tillman who said “We are especially pleased that the Banquet will help support the important work of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families.”

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Source: Casa Pacifica

Editorial: Providing care for our children at a time of need

October 21, 2015

There is a crisis in the crisis care available to children in our county who are in need of immediate psychiatric help. Faced with an immediate episode, often psychotic, these children — mostly teenagers — are left to languish in hospital emergency rooms while staff scrambles to find a bed in a proper facility to provide them the care they need right now.

The Star’s reporter Kathleen Wilson in her excellent story Sunday revealed the alarming spike in the number of children in need of this level of immediate care. In the last three years where information has been gathered, the number of children in Ventura County considered at risk of harming themselves or others doubled to almost 1,100 a year. The county’s excellent mobile crisis team had about 3,500 calls last year, twice the number of four years ago. Yet, there are fewer places where these young people can go to receive that immediate care. Sitting in an emergency room for 20 hours while the already busy staff tries to find a bed in an appropriate facility is not the solution.

The initial problem is one of beds. Ventura County does have a limited number of beds at the private Vista del Mar, in Ventura, for those over age 12. But these young people can no longer be taken to Hillmont Psychiatric Center, in Ventura, because it is a facility for adults, and children in that condition should not be mixed with adults. Meanwhile, Casa Pacifica no longer has a place to safely hold these children while a bed is being located. As it has so many times in the past, Ventura County is actually in the lead in finding solutions to a mental health crisis. The county bought a former psychiatric hospital in Oxnard that it is converting into a four-bed crisis stabilization center where children can be held and assessed during the critical first day. Officials hope the facility also will be licensed for a four-bed residential unit where children could stay for an additional five or six days.

Steve Elson, the CEO of Casa Pacifica, told The Star there is an ongoing commission in the county trying to determine a continuum of care for these young adults, in addition to establishing more beds for them.

While the commission is doing that, we hope these leaders begin the process of trying to understand why we are seeing this spike in the number of our children in immediate need of psychiatric care, not just here in Ventura County but throughout California. There are guesses as to what is behind it. A drop in the number of trained mental health professionals means there is less early intervention. That, combined with a heightened awareness of problems, may be triggering this spike in calls for help.

There is no reason to believe, though, that this problem is going to go away. We’re proud of the local effort to combine forces to seek adequate solutions. For all the problems we face in this state with adult mental health, we understand that we must be willing to invest in trying to help our children who face these problems so they do not become another statistic on the street.

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Source: VC Star

California Backs off Group Homes, Looks to Lean on Foster Families

November 2, 2015

Governor Jerry BrownAs California dismantles its beleaguered system of youth group homes, state lawmakers bet big on expanding foster care

Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation aimed at fixing the state’s broken juvenile group home system. The homes are meant to provide therapy and care for the state’s most troubled youths. In recent years, several homes have come under intense scrutiny because of sexual abuse allegations, violence, and frequent runaways. The newly signed law, based on a 56-page report from the state’s Department of Social Services, promises to overhaul this form of care, which is largely viewed as outdated and ineffective. Under the new law, group homes will undergo an accreditation process, retrain staff, and serve children strictly and intensively on a short-term basis.

“This reform effort is a fundamental shift in how California will care for children who have to live away from their own homes,” said DSS Director Will Lightbourne in an Oct. 11 statement announcing the bill’s passage.

But in order for the legislation to work, California must meet a number of challenges, one of which has bedeviled the state for years: recruiting and training compassionate, skilled foster families or relatives of foster children who can care for kids who have suffered years of trauma and exhibit severe, often hostile or violent behavior. Administrators who run facilities… worry that under the new law, they’ll undoubtedly have to admit children whose behaviors are more extreme than what they’ve dealt with in the past.

“It makes me feel a little anxious,” said Steven Elson, chief executive officer of Casa Pacifica, a large group care company in Southern California. “But it’s also an opportunity. This is being called a once in a generation reform effort. We need to get it right.”

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Source: Pro Publlica

Food truck and bocce ball festival benefits Casa Pacifica

October 18, 2015

Food truck and bocce ball festival benefits Casa Pacifica The game that originated in Italy and has become popular worldwide shared the spotlight with food trucks Sunday at a benefit event for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families. The Food Truck and Bocce Ball Festival was held at Limoneira Ranch in Santa Paula, drawing 700 to 800 people, according to Casa Pacifica’s Juliana Thiessen.

Nearly a dozen food trucks served up their specialties, which ranged from grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza to ice cream and Bundt cakes. Bands played, and more than two dozen teams competed in bocce. Funds raised went to Casa Pacifica, a crisis-care and residential treatment facility for abused, neglected or at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

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Source: Ventura County Star

Agents see Halloween as opportunity

October 15, 2015

This weekend, Berkshire Hathaway Home- Services California Realty will host a costume donation event to support Casa Pacifica. The donation events will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. at the company’s Camarillo office Sat., Oct. 17 and at its Thousand Oaks office on Sun., Oct. 18. Organized by sales professionals Emilia Marie and Julie Lomakka, the events will also include a children’s Halloween coloring contest and a drawing for a $200 Home Goods store gift card. Donated costumes of all sizes ranging infant through adult will be given to Casa Pacifica in Camarillo for its annual Halloween event. Casa Pacifica serves abused and neglected children and adolescents. For more information about Berkshire Hathaway, visit or call (805) 496-0555.

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Source: Acorn Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Oak Park and Westlake Village

Picks of the Week - Food Truck and Bocce Ball Festival

October 15, 2015

Food Truck and Bocce Ball FestivalFOOD TRUCK AND BOCCE BALL FESTIVAL Sunday, Oct. 11, noon - 5 p.m. The Festival will offer bocce ball enthusiasts, and those just looking for a fun afternoon, a variety of 10 gourmet food trucks to feast from, several live bands to listen and dance to and a bocce ball tournament. Proceeds benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families. $35-110. Limoneira Ranch, 1141 Cummings Road, Santa Paula. For more information, visit By Chris O’Neal and Michel Miller

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Source: VC Reporter

Food truck festival, bocce ball tournament roll into fall to benefit Casa Pacifica

October 9, 2015

SANTA PAULA, Calif. - As several monthly Ventura County food-truck events wrap things up for the season amid promises to reappear in 2016, the one-day-only Food Truck & Bocce Ball Festival is moving to a new fall date: Oct. 18 at Limoneira Ranch in Santa Paula. “We moved it from summer in hopes of keeping the weather a little cooler,” said Jason Collis, executive chef and co-owner of Plated Events. The catering company is again presenting the festival as a fundraiser for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families. The festival raised about $20,000 for Casa Pacifica when it last took place in August 2014. It is returning with three additional shade tents, in case the record-setting temperatures seen earlier this year extend into fall, Collis said. The event also will feature several new-to-the-scene food trucks, including a locally operated Domino’s Pizza truck that represents the national chain’s first foray into the genre, he added.

Trucks making their festival debuts include Baby’s Badass Burgers, Baskin Robbins, Belly Bombz, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Rice Balls of Fire and Shave It. Returning favorites include Confusion Street Cuisine, Cousins Maine Lobster, Grilled Cheese Truck, It’s in the Sauce and Scratch. A beer and wine garden will be on site. Adding to the festivities will be live music by the bands Dirty Rice, Highway Starr and Sound Effect. And the bocce ball? That will take the form of a tournament played on the ranch’s 12 professional courts.

The competition is open to teams of all skill levels, but preregistration is required. The $250 fee for a team of four includes early admission, access to the VIP lounge, one food ticket and three drink tickets per team member, and the chance to win the first-place tournament prize of $500. To register, go to and click on “tournament.” General admission tickets, $35 in advance or $45 at the door, include entry from noon to 5 p.m. and two drink tickets. General-admission couple tickets, $60, are available in advance only. VIP tickets, $60 in advance only, include one food item, three drink tickets and early entry at 11 a.m. — the better to enjoy the VIP lounge and its samples of Ventura Limoncello and Tequila Alquimia. VIP couple tickets, $110, are also available in advance. Admission is $10 for children ages 6 to 12. Limoneira Ranch is at 1141 Cummings Road. For information about the festival, click on http://www.bocce For information about Casa Pacifica, go to

Lisa McKinnon is a staff writer for The Star. Her Cafe Society column appears in the Sunday Life section and Fridays in the Time Out section. For between-column updates, follow 805foodie on Twitter and Instagram and “like” the Facebook page VCS Eats. Please send email to

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Source: Ventura County Star

Our Ventura TV Interview with Marcie Kullback Foster Parenting Coordinator

October 2015

Marcie Kullback, Foster Parenting ProgramView Casa Pacifica’s Marcie Kullback, Program Coordinator of the Intensive Treatment Foster Care Parenting program, this fall on “Our Ventura” TV show. Marcie was interviewed by show host George Alger about Ventura County’s huge need for foster families. 

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Source: Our Ventura TV

Archie, the Casa Pacifica therapy dog, remembered for helping those in need

August 17, 2015

Archie, the Casa Pacifica therapy dog and mascot who became famous throughout Southern California and beyond, has died. He was 10 years old.A purebred Newfoundland born in Maryland on May 4, 2005, Archie was 9 weeks old when he came to California to work and live with Vicki Murphy, chief advancement officer and director of youth services at Casa Pacifica, a residential care facility for abused and neglected children.“We had some pre-doctoral interns do a bit of research into good breeds for therapy dogs, and Newfoundlands are among the top three,” said Murphy. “I called a breeder in Maryland and told them what we needed, and I asked them to pick the dog and send him to us.”The process took some time.“But one day he told me he found the dog and put him on a plane,” she said. “He weighed 26 pounds then.” By the time he was fully grown, the big black dog with a drooling issue weighed 185 pounds.

Archie’s fame was born out of his constant presence at Casa Pacifica, where he was a staff and resident favorite. But with 220 staff members and even more residents at the facility, the trainers told Murphy that Archie needed have a place where he could “just be a dog.” “He ended up coming to live with me and my family because he needed to have an Alpha, according to the trainers,” Murphy said. He became much more than a family pet.

“He had an innate sense about people and what they needed,” Murphy said. “There are times he would just go over to them and put his head in their lap or give them his big paw to hold. He was just determined to get people to love him.” One of Murphy’s neighbors could attest to that. “Archie would sometimes walk himself outside, just slowly, up our street,” Murphy said. A neighbor told Murphy’s husband that Archie was outside. Normally, the neighbor said, the dog ignored her, but this time Archie stopped and leaned against her.“She was surprised that he did that, but then she told us that her dad died that day,” Murphy said. “She told us Archie was giving her a hug.”

The dog was a fixture at Casa Pacifica’s fundraisers and events. Whether holding court at the Casa Pacifica Food and Wine Festival in June each year or simply sitting in the lobby of the facility, Archie was a big draw for the organization.Murphy said the dog also sensed when kids were in trouble at the facility.“He wanted one day to go out the front gates, and he never did that,” Murphy said. “He always went out the back door when he wanted outside. But I followed him up and as I looked outside, I saw a young person about 9 years old who was having a very bad day. He was holding a large stick and he was swinging it at staff members.”Murphy said that Archie went outside and walked slowly as the young person turned, threw down the stick and ran to the big dog, throwing his arms around him.“He knew when people were hurting and he wanted to help them,” Murphy said.

“He was such a part of my life. We lived together, worked together for 10 years. I grew so much in those years. Archie made me a courageous person. He was my spirit guide, and he always will be.” Murphy said that by late July, Archie was having trouble getting up and moving, and the last five days of his life, he stopped eating. Veterinarian Steve Rosenstein of Westlake Village Animal Hospital, who donated care for Archie all his life, told Murphy that it was time. Archie died on Aug. 6. Archie will be succeeded at Casa Pacifica by his nephew, Baker, a 3-year-old Newfoundland who lives with staff member Kelly Meyer, and another Newfoundland, not related to him, Otis, a 15-month-old who lives with staff member Josh Lepore. Murphy said she is planning a memorial but hasn’t yet set a date. To donate to Casa Pacifica in Archie’s name, go to:

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Source: Ventura County Star

Support Roles for Dogs Go Beyond Helping the Blind

August 3, 2015

It’s not just the blind that trained dogs are helping these days - By Damian Geminder ...“The helping effect dogs can have on children was also confirmed by Vicki Murphy, chief advancement officer and director of transitional youth services at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families, which serves abused, neglected and emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth. Children who would normally not talk to clinicians would start opening up due to the dogs’ presence, she said. Children with reading difficulties would start reading to the dogs. When one dog had open-heart surgery, the children learned responsibility by holding a fundraiser to cover the cost, and the possibility of him not making it led to conversations about life and death. “These kiddos have already experienced so much loss,” Murphy noted. Casa Pacifica uses Newfoundland dogs, because they are “so large and loving.” “The kids get a real sense of being able to hug something. And they’ll hug you back,” Murphy said. “Every child should experience joy at least one time a day.”

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Source: NBC Channel 4 News

Steve Elson: Caring for our community’s most vulnerable, hurt children

July 25, 2015

Twenty-one years ago this month, Casa Pacifica opened our doors to our community’s most vulnerable yet valuable children. Eight young people walked onto our campus and into our hearts that day. They have been followed by more than 25,000 children and youth who desperately need our services and the community’s support. Many have blossomed as illustrated in Colleen Cason’s column in The Star on July 12, in which she featured two of our youth advocates who recently completed their master’s degrees. Against the odds, they not only survived but thrived as do many of the children and youth we serve. But the truth is that we care for and treat some of the most damaged, vulnerable and complex kids in our community. We are grateful for our donors, our staff and our partners at Ventura County government. Without them, we could not do this work.

As chief executive officer of Casa Pacifica, I am often asked by donors and visitors to our Camarillo campus why some of the children and youth we serve are so difficult. I answer by sharing about their lives and challenges. Some are simply frightened, traumatized and confused. But others hit and spit at staff members and other children. They try to run away. A few are sexually assaultive and some hurt themselves or try to commit suicide. These are children in pain. They act out that pain. They are the children with the most complex needs one can imagine, often kids who no one else wants or will accept for treatment.

There was a similar situation in America more than 100 years ago. In the late 1800s, the American medical community knew very little about cancer. The only types of cancer identified at that time were manifested as tumors. Surgery was the treatment, but techniques were crude and patients who did not die of the surgery — and many did — lived only a few months. At about this time, hospitals were required to publish their death rates. In order to look better, they began to refuse to admit and treat cancer patients.

The children we choose to serve — more than 4,500 annually including those in our community-based programs in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties — have experienced extreme trauma. They present the most challenging, emotionally charged behaviors imaginable and come with overwhelming and complex needs. All too frequently, other programs in California reject them because they are unwilling to risk their reputation to serve these children — the modern comparison to those 1800s cancer patients. In that sense, I see the campus as both our battlefield and our prize. Our battlefield in that we “battle” for the hearts and minds of extremely traumatized and troubled youth. The “prize” is we see lives changed forever, evidenced by what we hear from alumni — both their appreciation for how they were cared for and their regret for the way they treated staff and the chaos they caused. Helping them is our charge and our calling. And there is a glaring absence of those willing to step into this breach. But, on this battlefield we do not further injure the wounded and we will not do what the hospitals in the late 1800s did — reject the high-risk and most vulnerable children to make our numbers look good.

We have one mission: To treat kids at the most challenging times of their lives and help them overcome some of life’s most difficult circumstances — abuse and neglect, complex emotional and behavioral issues, and family crises. We help children find joy in daily living, even when — especially when — they behave like the damaged and at-risk kids they are. When you hear about a child under the care of our loving and professional staff behaving this way, please remember that many of those placed here are the kids who are so challenging that no one else will treat them. Join me in thanking our partners for sharing this work and our donors for supporting what we do, so urgent and important to our community.

Steve Elson has been chief executive officer of Casa Pacifica since its opening in 1994.

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Source: VC Star

Colleen Cason: Foster youths earn their piece of the pie

July 12, 2015

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - After the Ventura County Board of Supervisors honored 10 foster youths for their academic achievements last week, well-wishers took them out to celebrate with pie.To consider these students would graduate even from high school — let alone attend college — is all but to believe in pie in the sky. And to dare to imagine two of them recently earned a master’s degree is pie in the sky a la mode.

Yet, Cristina Miranda and Raquel Montes are savoring the sweetness of their accomplishments. Miranda, a Moorpark mother of one, was awarded a master’s degree in public policy from California Lutheran University. Montes, a Ventura mother of two, earned her master’s in social work at CSU Northridge. Both work for the nonprofit Casa Pacifica, helping children deal with the same trauma the two of them faced when they entered the foster-care system in their early teens.

“I’ve only seen two others go this far before. And this is the first time we’ve had two in one year,” said Lynda Bowman, who has volunteered for nearly two decades with TEACh or Training and Educational Achievement by Children. A former foster youth herself, the soft-spoken Bowman may not be an angel on Earth, but when I see her with the foster kids she nurtures, I do expect wings to sprout.

Less than 3 percent of foster children go to college. With the cost of higher education these days, affording college is tough enough for kids with two loving parents. Imagine what it must be like for children who have known abuse and poverty so severe they must be removed from their parents’ care — or lack of it. None of this was easy as pie for Miranda or Montes.You might think a child’s academics would improve once she escaped the tumult of a troubled family. The A’s and B’s Miranda earned her freshman year of high school crumbled to C’s and D’s after she was placed at Casa Pacifica. She missed her sisters and her community to the point of distraction, she said.“I kept thinking I wasn’t smart enough,” said Miranda, an outgoing and animated 28-year-old. One of her mentors, Vicki Murphy who directs Transitional Youth Services at Casa Pacifica, encouraged Miranda to give college a try. Even after she failed classes and was ready to toss the textbooks in the trash, Murphy kept spurring her on, Miranda said. Montes took six years to get her associate’s degree. She was raising her daughters, working days and going to school at nights. Murphy and others formed the support system that got her through.

“Their faces became a constant in my life,” said Montes, a reserved 30-year-old with soulful eyes.Their diplomas weigh a lot more than most. Both women are determined to be role models to other children in foster care. “I have been able to grow personally through my profession. Education changes the way you think, and it allows you to be more open to change,” said Montes, who hopes to share that with kids who are struggling to break the negative cycles of their upbringing.

Miranda also is determined to forgive. To that end, she is working at reuniting with her family. Her daughter has formed a loving relationship with Miranda’s father, whose actions resulted in her removal from the home 14 years ago.“My parents had issues. At the end of the day they are humans. No one wants to be remembered for the worst things they did,” she told me. Miranda will begin work on a doctorate in public policy at Pepperdine University with a desire to bring change to the foster-care system. “I would change the idea that foster youth are damaged to the point of no hope,” Miranda told me. “Working with kids in their darkest moment, you can see them holding onto to something positive,” she told me.

The courage and accomplishments of these two women and the village that supported them are cause for optimism, any way you slice it. Email Colleen Cason at For more information on the TEACh Fund Scholarship, go to

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Moorpark eateries sure are ‘Yummy’

June 22, 2015

HIT THE SPOT — The 22nd annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival again drew thousands to Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo. The afternoon event on June 7 featured the Yummies Culinary Competition. Ventura County restaurants competed in sweet and savory categories, voted on by a panel of celebrity judges. Pictured on the left, actor and emcee Oded Fehr, left, presents the Yummy in the savory category to Moorpark’s Café Firenze chefs Giana Barone, center, and John Paolone for their house-cured pancetta. Pictured on the right, Kendall Sanders, left, and Secret Garden of Moorpark owner, Michel Bardavid, prepare chocolate marquise and creamy cheesecake samples for the many guests. The charity event also featured California wines, craft beers, music and a silent auction.

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Source: Moorpark Acorn

Event caters to those who care

June 12, 2015

ROUND AND ROUND— The 22nd annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival on June 7 again drew thousands to Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo. Pictured, Simi Valley resident Lani Eickhoff is one of three winners in the hula hoop contest.





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Source: Camarillo Acorn

Festival in Camarillo feasts on food, fundraising

June 8, 2015

CAMARILLO, Calif. - Making the food he loves, Moorpark’s Café Firenze’s executive chef John Paolone went from judging to winning at the 22nd Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival. The annual festival Sunday attracted more than 4,500 visitors to the CSU Channel Islands campus in Camarillo to sample food from about 80 restaurants, caterers and specialty food service businesses, and sips from more than 185 wineries and breweries, according to Carrie Hughes, director of development and communication at Camarillo nonprofit Casa Pacifica. After winning in the savory portion of the Yummie Culinary Competition, where 14 area contestants offered tastes of their cuisine to be vetted by a panel of judges, Paolone explained that he was delighted his dish of house-cured pancetta with smoked chard, shallots vinaigrette and frisee won first place in the savory division.“We wanted to give everybody a taste of the Feast of the Beast fundraiser to benefit the June 10 Boys & Girls Club of Moorpark,” Paolone said. “I just made the food I love.” Paolone explained that last year he was a judge in the culinary competition and before that Café Firenze celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani had been a judge. This was the first year the restaurant competed in the competition. In the sweet competition, where eight businesses offered an after-dinner treat, the acclaimed winner was Scoops Creamery, which wowed the judges with its mojito sorbet, which creator and business owner Barry Davis emphasized had, “none of the Bacardi burned off.” He said he won first place at Casa Pacifica two years ago with a wine sorbet. Davis explained that two years ago his ice cream shop was a Cold Stone Creamery, but when he started experimenting with alcohol-based sorbets and ice creams the chain was “displeased.” So he opened Scoops in Camarillo, where he is “always thinking outside the box. We have corn ice cream and it’s not what you think. It’s good,” Davis said.

Husband and wife chefs Daniel and Robin Atkin said they have been judges at the food festival for years. “People upgrade their cooking techniques every year. and I think we (judges) get a little more sophisticated. I thought this year’s savory entries had very elegant flavors and were seasonally thoughtful,” said Robin Atkin, a private chef, while husband Daniel Atkin is executive chef for biotech firm Amgen. Other judges included “MasterChef Junior” finalist Troy Glass, 14; Lisa McKinnon, of the Ventura County Star; Steven Diamond, executive chef at Tender Greens restaurant in Culver City; Masa Simakawa, chef de cuisine at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village; Robin Nishazaki, executive chef at Spanish Hills Country Club and the Food Network’s Duff Goldman.

One of the event highlights was a giant cake made to look like Archie, a 10-year-old black Newfoundland that has been working as a service dog at Casa Pacifica. The day before the festival, Hughes said, Archie had a chance to ride with a group from the foster care facility to Charm City West in Los Angeles to pick up the black dog-shaped cake created by Goldman, of the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes. “Archie the dog met Archie the cake,” Hughes said. During the festival, people were offered an opportunity to pledge $500 toward the cake, which will then be cut and shared with children at Casa Pacifica. Those who pledge money toward the cake would be invited to share a piece of cake with the children when it’s cut. Hughes said the food festival is the biggest fundraising event for Casa Pacifica each year, allowing the “crisis-care and residential treatment facility for abused, neglected or at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties,” to continue to provide services. She estimated the festival nets about $500,000 annually thanks to the support of donors in the community.

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Source: VC Star

Duff Goldman putting on dog for Casa Pacifica fundraiser

June 2, 2015

CAMARILLO, Calif. - Celebrity chef Duff Goldman is making a life-size cake of Archie the therapy dog to be auctioned off during the 22nd annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival when it takes place from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday in Camarillo. Goldman, the star of the Food Network shows “Ace of Cakes” and “Spring Baking Championship,” also will attend the festival as a judge for its Yummie Top Chef culinary competition. Proceeds from the event benefit the Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families, where Archie the Newfoundland offers comfort to residents. Nearly 200 restaurants, cafes, caterers, breweries, wineries and other purveyors will offer food and drink samples during the festival, which takes place on the grounds of the CSU Channel Islands campus. One of the booths will be dedicated to the winner of the second Best in Fest beer competition: a barrel-aged oatmeal stout from LAB Brewing Co. of Agoura Hills.

In addition to Goldman’s cake, the silent auction will feature items ranging from baskets of wine to vacation getaways. To view items and/or to register and bid on items online, click on General admission tickets for the festival are $125 in advance. They will be $150 at the gate if still available. VIP tickets are sold out. Some tickets remain available for the pre-festival Yummie Top Chef Dinner taking place at 6:30 p.m. Friday. It will feature nine courses paired to local wines and the Best in Fest beer by chefs who have previously won the competition. Tickets are $200 per person. For tickets and other information, click on

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Making It Happen: Casa Pacifica’s Volunteers Bring Perennial Sunshine to Abused Youth

June 1, 2015

The room is decked out like a ballroom, with red, pink and white balloons, ready for the prom taking place the day after. Dressed in gowns and tuxedos, teenagers look forward to this annual event capping the end of the school year. “We try to recreate one of the most anticipated events in their lives through this prom,” said Vickie Murphy, chief advancement officer at Casa Pacifica, centers for abused and neglected children and teens, based in Camarillo.

Steve Nix, dubbed “the balloon man” for his expertise in creating balloon sculptures, said he never tires of doing it year after year. Held at Casa Pacifica’s gym, countless volunteers work tirelessly to decorate and jazz up the venue. Steve Nix, dubbed “the balloon man” for his expertise in creating balloon sculptures, said he never tires of doing this year after year. “It’s just a hobby for me – making these balloon sculptures, but knowing it can make some of these kids happy, gives me immense satisfaction,” said the four-year volunteer who works at Amgen.

The teens can also expect a sit-down dinner and entertainment led by a DJ. “I think we are more excited than them sometimes,” said Oksana Zussman, a five-year volunteer and co-chair of children’s events at the facility. “I can just picture the teens beaming and those smiling faces … there’s so much love and warmth going around here.”
The balloon sculptures makes some of these kids happy, giving “the balloon man” immense satisfaction.

And there is no short supply of love and warmth at the home, which served 4,500 children, teens and their families across all programs during the 2013-2014 period. A 45-bed emergency shelter for children 0 to 18 years old sits on their 24-acre campus off of Flynn Road. There is round-the-clock staff to attend to emotionally, physically and mentally abused children and teens who are brought in from all over Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. There is a residential treatment program for older children and teens, as well as a non-public school on campus.

Heading the children’s events committee is Susan Burgos, one of Casa Pacifica’s longest-serving volunteers at 23 years and counting. “The prom, along with everything else we do, is just an attempt to restore some sense of normalcy into their lives,” said volunteer Steve Johnson, a retired engineer from Amgen. “The best part for me is being able to solve some problems with immediate, discernible impact; that I think is a good use of my engineering skills.”

Johnson has been volunteering at Casa Pacifica along with his wife Carol for the past 13 years. “We were pulled in along with this big group from Amgen,” said Carol. Heading the children’s events committee is Susan Burgos, one of Casa Pacifica’s longest-serving volunteers at 23 years and counting. “I just love coming here; everyone is so giving and caring,” she said.

The caring nature at Casa Pacifica also comes from the four-legged variety, like Otis, a 15-month-old Newfoundland. The caring nature at Casa Pacifica also comes from the four-legged variety. For the past several years, Archie, a celebrity therapy dog, has been synonymous with the non-profit group. A Newfoundland purebred who started coming to the centers since he was a puppy 10 years ago, Archie is now enjoying retirement in Murphy’s home. He even has his own website where you can purchase items that support the kids.

Archie has a distant relative by the name of Otis, a 15-month-old Newfie, who does pretty much what Archie used to do–help provide therapy to the facility’s troubled clientele. “He sits in a room with one of the therapists, providing solace to the kids,” said Murphy. “He has a very soothing presence, all 185 lbs. of him. His presence just calms them down.”

Keeping the volunteers perennially busy is another much-anticipated event, Casa Pacifica’s biggest fundraiser, the 22nd annual Casa Pacifica Wine, Food and Brew Festival on Sunday, June 7, from 1-5 p.m. Over 85 exhibitors are expected to grace the annual event held at Cal State University Channel Islands, including some distinguished chefs and top local breweries.

“We’re in the middle of a $21 million capital campaign and so far, we’ve raised $14 million,” said Murphy. “We are building out our campus and hoping to build two more cottages and replace some temporary structures.” “Our needs are changing,” Murphy said. “We are serving more children and teens so we’re ready to adapt and grow.”
For more information or to support the Wine, Food and Brew Festival

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Source: Conejo Valley Happening

Dinner by local ‘Top Chefs’ to benefit Casa Pacifica

May 29, 2015

class=CAMARILLO, Calif. - Set under a tent surrounded by sycamore trees, the second annual Yummie Top Chef Dinner will strike a note of rustic chic when it takes place at 6:30 p.m. June 5 on the CSU Channel Islands campus in Camarillo. And the dress code? Well, let’s just say that, after dining on nine courses created by at least as many local chefs trying to outdo one another, you might wish it called for your favorite pair of elastic-waist Thanksgiving pants. One way to think of the event is as an intimate, elegant appetizer for the 22nd annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brews Festival, which takes place two days later. Last year, the dinner was limited to fewer than 130 attendees, while the festival drew a crowd of about 4,400 people.

The dinner also serves as a showcase for those who have won the festival’s “sweet” and “savory” Yummie Top Chef Awards in previous years. Gabe Garcia, executive chef at Tierra Sur restaurant at Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, will participate after nabbing first place in the savory category for two years running. Also cooking will be chef Rachel Main Holst of Main Course California and chef Robin Higa of Market Broiler, the second- and third-place savory winners for 2014, respectively. Previous winner Nic Manocchio, now the chef for University Glen Corp. at CSUCI, will prepare the dinner’s fourth course featuring lamb. It will be paired with a barrel-aged oatmeal stout from LAB Brewing Co. of Agoura Hills, winner of the festival’s second annual Best in Fest Beer Competition held early this month. Other savory courses will be overseen by Jason Collis of Plated Events by Chef Jason, Andres Fernandez of 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese and Ernie Borjas, formerly of The Yacht Club of Channel Islands Harbor and now representing his own newly launched Waterfront Catering Co. Dessert will feature the combined efforts of Alison Davis of The Sugar Lab, the second-place “sweets” winner in 2014, and of previous winners Missy Drayton-Benado of Missy’s Cupcake Creations and Barry Davis of Scoops, formerly Cold Stone Creamery in Camarillo.

For dinner tickets, $200 per person, call 366-4021. For festival tickets,$125-$250, click on Proceeds from both events benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families.

Lisa McKinnon is a staff writer for The Star. Her Cafe Society column also appears Fridays in the Time Out section. For between-column updates, follow 805foodie on Twitter and Instagram and “like” the Facebook page VCS Eats. Please send email to

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Source: VC Star

Therapy dog celebrates 10 years

May 18, 2015

class=align_rightWhile guests ate cake, mingled and had a good time, Archibald RazzMaTazz was content to just lie down and let the party go on around him. Of course, when you’re the birthday boy—Archie celebrated turning 10—it’s OK to take a snooze during the party. The 185-pound Newfoundland, one of four resident therapy dogs serving Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families, nuzzled a palm or lifted his head for a scratch between the ears from time to time during the May 6 celebration. As a 10-year-old, Archie is old for his breed. He has difficulty standing, and every step he takes is labored. He recently underwent surgery to correct a defect in his legs. Old as he may be, Archie still answers the call to serve the center’s children and teen students, who may be facing emotional, social, mental or other challenges.

“They use him as a coping strategy,” said Vicki Murphy, Casa Pacifica chief advancement officer and director of transitional youth services. “They provide normalcy. No matter what’s happened, the dogs welcome them all the same.” It is this dedication that has made Archie loved as a therapy dog at Casa Pacifica, where he has served since he was a puppy. His younger colleagues, Otis, Baker and Tess, serve alongside him at the center. Yet it was Archie who was the first, garnering national attention for his gentle nature and slobbering jowls in his early years at Casa Pacifica. He has since become a mascot for the Camarillo nonprofit. Archie is quick to nuzzle his nose into a hand, snuggle his entire body onto a leg or simply lie down so a child can climb on his back or use him as a pillow. “Because he is so large, when you sit down or lay with him, he puts his paw around you,” Murphy said. “For a lot of children that have been touched inappropriately or had traumatic experiences, it’s very comforting that they can lay on him and hug him, and he hugs them back, but it’s a safe kind of touch.”

The therapy dogs Casa Pacifica uses are Newfoundlands, which belong to the working group of dog breeds. The breed is Casa Pacifica’s preferred choice because of their calm disposition and sweet temperament. The dogs are used in individual or group therapy sessions and as a source of comfort in cases where a child has just been brought into the center, Murphy said. A former classroom teacher, Murphy raised a Labrador puppy in her classroom, much to the delight of her students. When she arrived at Casa Pacifica, she decided to use dogs in her work again. “He’s not even considered a pet. He’s considered one of the family, one of the many (families) these children come to have,” said Raven Crouse, 18, a Casa Pacifica student. “Archie is the savior of children who have had hard lives. I have never seen any animal ever do that.”

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Source: Moorpark Acorn

Wine fest has become a favorite countywide

May 15, 2015

Tickets on sale for June 7 event - Casa Pacifica will present its 22nd annual Wine, Food and Brew Festival on Sun., June 7 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Cal State Channel Islands, 1 University Drive, Camarillo. The festival will have over 85 restaurants and 150 wines, brews and beverages.Prizes will be given, including Best in Fest for brew competitors and awards for the annual Yummie culinary competition between exhibitors.

The main stage will offer entertainment, including Benise, a Spanish guitar master, and Wes Quave Live. In the VIP Lounge, magician Shawn McMaster will do closeup illusions and the band Sound Effect will provide music. New this year will be a silent auction with online bidding at for those who can’t attend. Items include a 24-person event suite at the Staples Center for a November Clippers basketball game; Mexico getaways; and a catered dinner for up to 12 guests at Limoneira Ranch.

Tickets are $ 125 in advance or $150 at the door. VIP tickets are $250. Go to the website to purchase tickets. Casa Pacifica is a crisis-care and residential treatment facility for abused, neglected or at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. For details, visit or call (805) 445-7800.

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Source: Camarillo Acorn

KEYT Ch. 3 Newfoundlands Provide Comfort to Neglected or Abused Children at Casa Pacifica

May 8, 2015

KEYT Ch. 3 News - CAMARILLO, Calif. - Casa Pacifica is celebrating a very special birthday. The 10th birthday of Archie, the center’s first therapy dog. In the past decade, Archie had made an impact on the lives of hundreds of children. At 10 years old, Archie is now heading into retirement, but his legacy will not be forgotten and a new generation of Newfoundlands are now providing comfort to the children at Casa Pacifica. They are 3-year-old Baker and 18-month-old Otis. They may look like fuzzy black bears but they are actually Newfoundlands, a breed of dog nicknamed “Gentle Giant”. At about 150 pounds, these dogs can handle small hands pulling on their ears and tail. Their personality is so docile that instead of a growl or a nip they hand out slobbery kisses.

Therapist say these traits make Newfoundlands a great therapy dog at Casa Pacifica, a crisis care and treatment center for abused, neglected and at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

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Source: KEYT Channel 3 News

Casa Pacifica celebrates therapy dog Archie’s 10th

May 6, 2015

class=Archie, a New­foundland therapy dog, is honored for his years of dedication at Casa Pacifica, a Cama­rillo center for abused and ­neglected ­children. On Wednesday, board members and associates from Casa Pacifica sing “Happy Birthday” to the organization’s senior therapy dog, Archie, in honor of his 10th birthday.



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Source: VC Star

Birthday event set for lovable pooch

May 1, 2015


Casa Pacifica’s board of directors will host a celebration prior to its monthly meeting at 8:40 a.m. Wed., May 6 to honor Archie the Therapy Dog’s 10th birthday at 1722 S. Lewis Road, Camarillo. Archibald Razz-M-Tazz has been comforting residents of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families for a decade. The canine will also be recognized for his contributions to the agency and the abused, neglected and at-risk children it serves in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Several Casa Pacifica alumni will share what it meant to have Archie there to help them through tough times.The public is welcome to attend the May 6 celebration for Archie, whose actual birthday is May 4.

The famous pooch has appeared on the “Today Show,” has been featured on CBS’s “Dog Tales” show, had news pieces on local stations and national networks, and was featured in a book titled “A Letter to My Dog, Notes to Our Best Friends,” by Kimi Culp, Lisa Erspamer and Robin Layton. There is a life-size bronze statue of Archie at the Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks, which also functions as a bank for donations to support the Archie Fund. The fund covers unexpected emergency needs of Casa Pacifica’s children and families. For information about Casa Pacifica, visit or call the development department at (805) 445-7800.

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Source: Camarillo Acorn

Camarillo Acorn’s annual “Refrigerator Editorial” includes Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew

April 24, 2015

class=Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew made Camarillo Acorn’s annual “Refrigerator Editorial”! June 7: Casa Pacifica’s annual Wine, Food and Brew Festival returns to (CSU) Channel Islands. If you’ve been lucky enough to go in the past, you know how much fun it is. The day benefits the Camarillo-based shelter.



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Fostering Care

April 23, 2015

For 1,200 children seeking a foster family in Ventura County, finding a home, even temporary, is no easy feat. Only 400 volunteer family homes are available at any given time, and of those some are already hosting multiple children. Now, the Ventura County Children and Family Services under the new moniker Foster VC Kids are teaming up with local agencies to raise awareness and bring new families into the fold.

Foster VC Kids works with HOPE4Kids, a volunteer based fundraising organization, and four local agencies: Arrow Child and Family Ministries, Koinonia Family Services, Aspiranet and Casa Pacifica. While there are 400 homes able to foster children, there are several hundred additional children who live with their relatives or families and either were never removed from home and the county’s become involved, or they have already been through the system and returned home with continued monitoring, according to Tami Barnett, Foster VC Kids recruiter and HOPE4Kids founding director. Foster VC Kids’ Homes with Heart campaign is promoting a “best match” scenario for the children, which entail proximity to their original or former homes, relationships with other children and other details that would make the children’s lives better. Barnett says that in order for the program to work, however, there need to be enough homes, and currently there are not.

“We need several hundred more homes; we won’t stop until we reach that goal,” said Barnett, who also spoke of several smaller goals, including being more active in the community and increasing the number of informational sessions for prospective families. Barnett says that there is an urgent need for families who have experience with medically fragile children.

Former foster child and current Casa Pacifica Youth Advocate and Ambassador Erick Alvarez was placed into foster care at around 7 years of age, moving upward of 15 times from home to home as he grew. Now, at the age of 21, Alvarez has taken what he learned and applied it to a new generation of foster kids to help defeat what he calls their greatest challenge, hopelessness and helplessness. “When you’re in that state of mind, you are literally committing spiritual suicide,” said Alvarez. “In order to defeat or have victory over that mentality, you have to provide hope and you have to provide help.” Alvarez says that in order to overcome these challenges, he becomes the children’s shadow, doing whatever it is they do, from playing dodge ball to helping with homework. Doing so, Alvarez says, gives the children a foundation from which to build. “The more people this kid has in his life the less hopeless he’ll become,” said Alvarez, who challenges families to come forward and sign up for even a few days of foster care. “It’s only expressed through individuals and communicated through an interaction.”

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Source: VC Reporter

Casa Pacifica wine, beer fest is back

April 17, 2015

class=The Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Sun., June 7 at the Cal State Channel Islands’ campus in Camarillo. Hosted by the Barley and Van Huises families, the event will feature food samples from restaurants, caterers, bakeries and specialty shops, as well as tastes of wines, brews and specialty beverages from throughout California, music and a special VIP entrance and lounge.

Proceeds will benefit the programs and services that Casa Pacifica provides to abused, neglected, and at-risk children and their families. Significant financial support for this event comes from sponsorships, which are still available. For more information, call Casa Pacifica’s development and event coordinator, Juliana Thiessen, at (805) 366-4014, email or visit

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Source: Camarillo Acorn

County ADMHS Children’s Crisis Program Receives National Accreditation

April 16, 2015

class=align_leftThe Santa Barbara County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADMHS) SAFTY Program — Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth — has received a three-year accreditation from the American Association of Suicidology, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide. Operated throughout Santa Barbara County by Casa Pacifica, a Camarillo-based nonprofit organization contracted by ADMHS, SAFTY provides emergency and crisis field-based response for children and youth up to age 21. SAFTY staff members respond to an average of about 120 service calls per month.

“Community-based providers like Casa Pacifica and many others are essential to the Santa Barbara County system of care and recovery,” said Suzanne Grimmesey-Kirk, MFT, chief strategy officer for ADMHS. “These partnerships allow us to offer the kinds of specialized services that meet the behavioral health needs of our community.” The goal of the SAFTY program is to reduce the need for inpatient care and juvenile detention by helping families improve conflict resolution and communications skills and developing plans for managing future crises. SAFTY may be contacted by calling 888.334.2777. Behavioral health services for adults may be arranged by calling the 24/7 Access Line at 888.868.1649.

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Source: Noozhawk Santa Barbara

Deadline nears for discounted Casa Pacifica festival tickets

March 30, 2015

Tuesday is the final day to buy discounted tickets for the 22nd annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival. General admission tickets purchased on or before the deadline are $105 per person. The price will increase to $125 after the deadline. VIP tickets purchased on or before the deadline are $225 per person. The price will be $250 after the deadline. VIP tickets include access to a special parking area, early entry to the event and access to the VIP Lounge, which features its own food, beer and wine garden, music, and dance floor. The festival will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. June 7 on the CSU Channel Islands campus in Camarillo. In addition to samples from restaurants, breweries, wineries and other purveyors from throughout the Central Coast, the festival features live music and a silent auction of hundreds of items ranging from bottles of wine to luxurious vacations.

Proceeds benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families, a crisis-care and residential-treatment facility for abused, neglected and/or at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. To purchase tickets, click on ask about becoming a vendor or sponsor, call Julia Thiessen at 805-366-4014.

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Source: VC Star / Lisa McKinnon

Vote Casa Pacifica VC Star Reader’s Choice for “Best Non-Profit”

February 9, 2015

Casa Pacifica is one of the non-profit selections for “Best Non-Profit” in Ventura County Star’s annual Readers Choice ballot! Please help us to win by Voting for Casa Pacifica today! In only a few minutes you can help Casa Pacifica win Best Non Profit of Ventura County! Just click here and scroll half-way down to “Non Profit” to vote for Casa Pacifica! Then vote in nine other categories and we’ll be in!

Ballot dates are February 8th through March 22nd. Only one ballot per person, per voting period.  You are free to come back and change, add and delete anything on your ballot up until the last day of voting, March 22.  However, you must vote in a minimum of 10 categories for your ballot to be counted. Thank you for participating and supporting Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families!

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Youth Today article by Training Director James Freeman

January 30, 2015

Youth Today “What Having Certified Child- and Youth-Care Workers Means to Our Organization” by Casa Pacifica Training Director James Freeman

It was late in the evening as I drove to a training session with our overnight staff. Our 22-acre campus, surrounded by farmland, houses a residential-care program for adolescents and an emergency shelter for children of all ages who have been removed from their homes by local child-welfare authorities. As I pulled into the property, I was stopped by a young woman and her friends who stood on the long, dark road entering the facility. She had been visiting an alumni group and found her car wouldn’t start when it was time to head home. “Please tell me you have jumper cables,” she pleaded.

I knew it would make me late to the training, but as we worked on her car, we talked a bit about her experience in our programs. She had been in our emergency shelter off and on since she was 13 years old (she was now in her early 20s). “It wasn’t an easy time for me,” she said. “But the staff were really good.” I learned in our short discussion that “really good” staff were, in her way of thinking, those who showed they cared by listening and who treated her as a unique and valuable individual. read more…

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Source: Youth Today

The Acorn Agoura Hills - Group Effort

January 29, 2015

THE ACORN AGOURA HILLS - GROUP EFFORT - Above, girls from Region 5 District 3 of the National Charity League make blankets for children at Casa Pacifica during the 2015 Ticktocker Day in Camarillo on Jan. 24. At right, Oak Park residents Kathy Clarke, at left, and Kathleen Dryden, 13, fold a completed blanket during the event. Around 180 girls worked to make 400 blankets and bracelets for the children. Seven chapters of the NCL participated in the event with members coming from West L.A. all the way west to Santa Barbara.

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Source: Acorn Agoura Hills

Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Tickets Available - Best Price of 2015

January 26, 2015

Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival tickets are now live and available for purchase at
General Admission tickets are available for the best price of 2015 at $95 each until 500 are sold OR until midnight January 31st. VIP tickets are also available at best price of 2015 at $225 each until March 31st. The VIP Lounge is Presented by Wells Fargo featuring Plated Events, Malibu Family Wines and Anheuser Bush Belgium Beer Garden.

Voted both “Best Charity Event” and “Best Food & Drink Festival” of Ventura County in 2012, 2013 and 2014 the festival has become the premiere wine and food event in Ventura County. The 22nd Annual Festival will showcase the finest restaurants, caterers, bakeries and specialty shops from Santa Barbara to Conejo Valley, renowned wineries and vineyards from throughout California’s rich wine-producing regions as well as several awarded micro-breweries. The Festival is all inclusive and patrons may sample and sip as many delightful foods and beverages as they desire as often as they wish. The day also features continuous live entertainment and the largest silent auction in Ventura County.

Patrons can also watch as Executive Chefs from all over compete in “The Yummies Culinary Competition” - the action-packed culinary showdown that brings in Ventura County’s TOP restaurants and chefs. The winners are determined by a panel of Celebrity Culinary Judges comprised of television and print media personalities, food and wine editors and food and wine columnists, who select the top three entries and winners in both the “Savory” and “Sweet” categories.

All proceeds from the Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, which provides hope and help for abused, neglected or at-risk children and their families in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. Last year the Festival raised over $410,000 (net) towards the $3.0 million Casa Pacifica needed to raise in private donations. Each year, as part of its public/private partnership, Casa Pacifica must raise 10-12% of its budget to fill the gap between what it receives from government service contracts and the actual cost of providing its wide variety of high quality programs and services to the most vulnerable children in our communities and their families.

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Source: VC Star

​Festival Tickets are Now Available at a Discounted Price!

January 20, 2015

class="align_right""FLASH SALE! Casa Pacifica Angels Wine Food Brew Festival tickets are NOW LIVE and available for purchase at! GENERAL ADMISSION tickets are available for the BEST PRICE of 2015 at $95 each until 500 are sold OR until midnight January 31st! VIP tickets are also available at BEST PRICE of 2015 at $225 each until March 31st! (Note: Please refresh web page as needed to view 2015 information!) See you there! #cpwinefoodbrew

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On a chilly day, coats collected for those in need

January 10, 2015

class="align_left""WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. - It felt quite a bit like winter on Saturday in Westlake Village as the rain fell and children played in snow bundled up against the cooler temperatures. It was, in many ways, a fitting day on which to hold the annual Coats for Casa clothing drive at Three Springs Neighborhood Park, where folks could drop off donated coats, sweaters and other items for underprivileged children and families. “The fact that we’ve got some rain, it adds into the event,” said co-organizer Lydia Gabler of Keller Williams Realty. It’s the fifth year that Gabler and Rick Winters of Winters Financial Group have hosted Coats for Casa to benefit Casa Pacifica in Camarillo, which provides emergency shelter, medical and other community-based intervention for families in need and for at-risk children. In addition to inviting the public to drop off coats and other warm clothing at the park Saturday, the pair also put collection boxes at local businesses. It’s an event that has flourished since it began in 2011. Last year the drive collected 1,400 items of clothing.

“We’re just thankful for the volume of people that are coming out not just with one or two items but with bagfuls,” said Winters. “We went through every closet,” said Kim Richardson of Westlake Village as she dropped off a bundle of clothes. “They are items that are still in terrific condition. We’ve either outgrown them or we don’t have a need for them anymore and they’re going to a place where they’re going to be utilized and appreciated.” Michelle Scruggs of West Hills was one of the volunteers who helped to sort and bag the donations. “We’ve got sweatshirts, long-sleeved shirts, sweats and shoes and coats,” she said. “It looks like some people even just went to the store and bought stuff. There are things that are coming with brand new tags.” “It’s such a great thing to be a part of,” she said. Vicki Murphy from Casa Pacifica said the nonprofit serves about 560 children a day, many of whom arrive at their campus or shelters with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. “This says to them, the community hasn’t forsaken you,” said Murphy. “There are lot of people out there loving you and caring for you right now.” “This has been an enormous gift to us,” she said. “Everybody at Casa Pacifica is anticipating the arrival of the coats.” The Coats for Casa event, which provides snow for kids to play in and offers free coffee and smoothies for the adults, has been embraced by the local community.

Jack Dvir has supported the event since the start and said his sons Nathan, 6, and Noah, 10, always look forward to it. “We love it. It’s a great way for the community to gather together and do a good deed,” said Dvir. “I love snow and just playing in it and snowball fights and sledding and stuff,” said Noah as he took a breather. “I love this. It totally feels like winter today.” “I just think for me having fun and other people to have what they need is awesome,” he said.

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Source: VC Star

Community Pulls Together to Bake Cookies for Foster Children

December 31, 2014

Homemade cookies and cakes are a surefire way for folks to show love and good cheer during the holidays, but for children living in foster care facilities, the treats are especially welcome. Oak Park residents Sandy Phillips and Bev Futterman proved to foster kids that they have not been forgotten during the holidays through a yearly project called “Homemade with Love.” For the past four years, the women have rallied their community to bake cookies—by the thousands—and package them and deliver them to foster care facilities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Phillips said the idea of sharing cookies during the holidays sprang from a talk with Futterman about their love of baking. Many charitable groups donate clothes, toys and gifts to children during the holidays, but cookies gave them a novel way to bring joy to children living in foster care facilities. Phillips said this year more than 5,000 cookies were baked and packaged for the six foster care group homes: Casa Pacifica and the Rain Project in Camarillo, Vista Del Mar in Los Angeles, Five Acres in Alta Dena and Penny Lane in North Hills. “They are so excited about it,” Phillips said about the children who receive the cookies. “They really are so appreciative.” This year a local Girl Scout troop participated in baking and packaging the cookies as well. Futterman said Oak Park Girl Scout Troop 60503 baked an array of cookies for distribution. Phillips said the a community effort was extraordinary this year. “(This) could never be done without everyone’s help,” she said.

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Source: Acorn Thousand Oaks

PODS of Tri-Counties Goes the Extra Mile to Support ‘Christmas Bikes for Kids’ Drive, Dec. 20

December 18, 2014

 class=PODS of Tri-Counties has teamed up with the Village Dirtbags, a local group of mountain bike enthusiasts, to provide its moving and storage logistics for the ninth annual “Christmas Bikes for Kids” giveaway on Saturday, Dec. 20, from 10 a.m. – noon at Bicycles Unlimited, located at 660 North H St. in Lompoc. Casa Pacifica is one of several recipients of the drive!



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Source: Lompoc Record

Holiday Homes are to Behold - Simi Valley Residences Light up the Season

December 18, 2014

Acorn Thousand Oaks - CANDYCANE ARCHES - The decorated Orelli family home at 469 Highland Ave. in Simi Valley will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights between 6 and 10 p.m. for visitors to tour the house, make ornaments, donate to charity and drop off toys for children at Casa Pacifica.

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Source: Acorn Thousand Oaks

Musicians bring Christmas spirit to abused and neglected kids at Casa Pacifica

December 11, 2014

For the second year in a row, Life of a Rock Star is bringing in an array of talented and gratuitous musicians to sing to the children at Casa Pacifica as they enjoy a Christmas party in their gymnasium transformed by AMGEN. Returning musicians Ari Welkom and Katy Cappella will be donating their time along with exciting additions to the 2014 Christmas music lineup that include Scott James and LAYNE.Imagine being a young child alone without your parents at the holidays. You can make a difference.

Donate to Casa Pacifica here or fill a Casa Pacifica child’s Christmas wish and do something charitable this season to spread some holiday joy!









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Source: Music News

Casa Pacifica Fundraiser Event Raises Twice as Much as Last Year

December 11, 2014

Organizers said the benefit for Casa Pacifica raised twice as much money as last year. About $10,000 will go to Casa Pacifica in Camarillo. Since the early 1990s Casa Pacifica has helped 26,000 neglected, abused and at-risk children through its programs and residential treatment center. Guests at the Pierpont Inn Pavilion enjoyed lunch, a Cabi fashion show and a silent and live auctions plus a raffle. Many of the guests donated $40 to become Casa Pacifica angels. To donate go to

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Source: KEYT Channel 3 News

PizzaRev Event will help Casa Pacifica

November 3, 2014

PizzaRev has announced its newest location in Camarillo at 660 E. Ventura Blvd. near the Camarillo Premium Outlets will open this month. The growing build-your-own pizza shop will host a “Pizzas for a Purpose” fundraising event Thursday at the new location’s grand opening where guests are invited to “pay-what-they-want” for a custom-built, personal-sized pizza. An $8 contribution is suggested and will benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families, a nonprofit provider of children’s mental health services throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.


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Source: VC Star


September 24, 2014

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF. – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is awarding an $85,634 grant to Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families for the first year of its behavioral health workforce education and training program for professionals and paraprofessionals. For this three-year program, the recommended total federal grant support would be $312,014, pending the availability of funds and satisfactory progress.

“I am pleased that Casa Pacifica will be able to increase the number of American Psychological Association (APA) accredited internships it can offer to pre- and post-doctoral psychology students who work with foster youth,” said Brownley. “This program, which is unique to California, is one of the few residential settings for high-risk foster youth and those who have been diagnosed with major trauma or mental health needs.”

“This is fantastic news and will help us to develop a much-needed mental health workforce for Ventura County and the rest of the nation. These interns will be trained to work with vulnerable youth most at risk for complex mental health, medical and addiction problems,” said Myra Saltoun, Ph.D., Director of Campus Services at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families.

Casa Pacifica provides culturally competent mental health, primary care, and educational services for children, youth, and Transitional Aged Youth who come from diverse backgrounds. Interns work within multidisciplinary teams and learn to manage the multiple and complex issues surrounding the mental health treatment needs of severely at-risk children and adolescents who have experienced trauma in their lives. Expanding this program will positively impact the lives of many children, youth, and families through the development of capable and knowledgeable clinical psychologists. 

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First place wins in Best Non-Profit, Best Food & Drink Festival & Best Charity Event

September 18, 2014

Casa Pacifica was voted first place in the “Best Food & Drink Festival” and “Best Charity Event” categories in VC Reporter annual awards Best of Ventura County! Casa Pacifica also placed first (in a tie) in the “Best Non-Profit” category!  We are so grateful to everyone who voted and for their support of our kids!

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Source: VC Reporter

Bocce ball festival raises $20K for Camarillo nonprofit

August 17, 2014

SANTA PAULA, Calif. - With the booming voice of a sports announcer, gourmet chef Jason Collis was at it again Sunday, raising thousands of dollars for people in need. This time the recipients of his energy and largesse were the children of Casa Pacifica, a shelter and home for abused and neglected children. Calling out team names like Santa Barbarians, Collis, who studied under Wolfgang Puck, wielded a microphone to manage a full-blown bocce ball tournament that attracted hundreds of competitors.

Nearly 1,500 people attended the daylong event at Limoneira Ranch just outside Santa Paula, a turnout that raised about $20,000 for Casa Pacifica, according to Carrie Hughes, spokeswoman for the nonprofit. The event was part of a fundraising festival hosted by Collis’s Plated Events business, which holds four charitable benefits a year and maintains a busy catering schedule. Sunday’s event was a success, he said. At least 75 volunteers helped out, including many Plated Events staff members. Gourmet food trucks — and in one case a pastry hearse — also were on hand. “This is a great way to give to the community,” said Deb Dawson, pastry chef for Desserts to Die For and owner of the hearse. Portions of food truck sales were donated to Casa Pacifica, which provides counseling and shelter to 600 children and families a day at its Camarillo campus and community centers, Hughes said.

Sonja Heritage and Jim Wiggins, who run a farm nearby, attended Sunday’s event. “We’re neighbors and liked the sound of this festival” and its purpose, Wiggins said. Janisha Tye, 19, “grew up” at Casa Pacifica, she said. She plans to go to Ventura College in the fall and most likely pursue a career that involves helping foster children. On Sunday, Tye staffed a ticket booth and did other volunteer duties. “The people and staff at Casa are like a family to me,” Tye said.

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Source: VC Star

Still a voice for the voiceless

August 7, 2014

Still a voice for the voicelessThe day Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families opened its doors to abused and neglected children was one CEO Steve Elson won’t easily forget.  It was 20 years ago July 19 that the first six children arrived at the newly opened Casa Pacifica, near what is now (CSU) Channel Islands. Elson recalls the staff feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiousness. It was, after all, a new public and private venture financed by $10 million in donations, and success at that point was only imagined. It didn’t take long for staffers to realize how much Casa Pacifica was needed.  Within the first month, another 65 children who had been removed from their homes or had unmanageable behavior problems joined the original six. Elson recalls the words of one boy who said, on his second day at Casa Pacifica, “I can’t believe people care about us this much.”

FOR THE KIDS—A picture from 1994 shows the Casa Pacifica administration building under construction. The nonprofit is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and raising money for a campus expansion. Courtesy of Casa Pacifica Casa Pacifica grew out of the concern of local residents that the needs of children removed from homes by Ventura County Child Protective Services were not being met. In the beginning, the organization only worked with children who lived full time on the campus, which provided emergency shelter and offered a residential treatment program and a nonpublic, special education school. Two years later the school was opened to day students. In the early years, Casa Pacifica served about 325 children a year, all on its campus. Today, it delivers services to about 4,900 children annually throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The number of programs it offers has grown from four to 17; its staff has quadrupled to 390 and volunteers tripled to 1,250; and its budget has grown from $4.5 million to $30 million.

The need for its services doesn’t seem to abate - Casa Pacifica’s newest program is aimed at helping children who age out of the foster care system. “The biggest question we were asked over the years was, ‘What happens when they turn 18?’” said Vicki Murphy, chief advancement officer and director of alumni services. So, two years ago, two old houses that were once part of the Camarillo State Mental Hospital were deeded to Casa Pacifica. They have been rehabbed to provide housing for youths who age out of the foster system. Murphy said the residents, from 18 to 21 years old, have to attend school full time, work full time or a mix of school and work. They also pay rent and buy their own food. Murphy, who has worked at Casa Pacifica for 14 years after serving as a volunteer for two, said the organization has recently acquired a house in Ventura that will be able to house about 11 residents. >> read more

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Source: Acorn - Thousand Oaks

Casa Pacifica Helps More Than 25,000 Children Over Past 20 Years

July 25, 2014

KEYT Ch 3 News InterviewKEYT Ch. 3 VIDEO - Reporter Kelsey Gerckens interviewed CEO Dr. Steve Elson and Casa Pacifica Youth Advocate Erick Alvarez about Casa Pacifica’s 20th Anniversary. Casa Pacifica served 324 children the first year opened and now serves 5,000 children annually.

KEYT Report: A home for children separated from their parents due to abuse or neglect celebrates its 20th anniversary this July. Casa Pacifica is a sprawling facility in Camarillo. It serves children from both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. “Our primary purpose is to work with kids who are removed from home because of abuse or neglect,” said Casa Pacifica CEO Dr. Steven Elson. The first year the facility was opened they served 324 children, now they serve close to 5,000 children every year.

“We meet kids and families at the most challenging times of their lives and our goal is too try and help them through those challenges and to move into adulthood with success,” said Elson. Erick Alvarez is one of more than 25,000 children who have received help from Casa Pacifica in the last 20 years. “I was an illegitimate conception.  I was an unwanted child and through the pain, neglect and abuse I ended up in foster care at the age of 8,” said Alvarez. Alvarez says walking through the doors of Casa Pacifica forever changed his life.

“I was allowed to take a shower, then I was given a warm meal and immediately following that I was tucked into bed with clean sheets for the first time,” said Alvarez, “It was a turning point for the positive, they supported me, they gave me resources, they loved on me and it was an unconditional kind of love and that built hope and mustered this strength within me.” Ten years later Alvarez is now working at Casa Pacifica to help the kids that are in this same position he once was. “I wanted to give back and be a part of that now,” said Alvarez.

View KEYT Ch. 3 Video

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Aged out foster kids learn the ropes of adulthood at Vicki’s Place

July 12, 2014

Aged out foster kids learn the ropes of adulthood at Vicki's PlaceChad Brooks, 18, dug into his second bag of Goldfish crackers. Lizzy Clews, 19, cradled her newborn son, Ezra. Janisha Tye, 18, sat the end of the table, thumbing her smartphone. At the other end of the dining room table on this cool June evening was the chair where Michael Stevens, 18, used to sit. Stevens was asked to leave a few months before because he didn’t follow the rules of Vicki’s Place, a transitional home for young people who have “aged out” of foster care by turning 18. With “Law and Order” reruns playing on the TV in the adjoining room, Ray Franco, the program manager for Casa Pacifica “CITY” — Coaching Independence in Transitional Youth — began the regular Monday night check-in meeting. “O.K., what worked for everybody this week?” Franco asked. “Lizzy?” Clews smiled down at Ezra, looked up and said: “Ezra’s working for me.” The highlight for Brooks that week was a new video game. And for Tye, her impending graduation from high school June 11.

The Monday night meetings are part of the agreement for those in Vicki’s Place, two renovated homes on the grounds of Casa Pacifica in Camarillo designed to house selected youths who have aged out of the foster-care system. Many grew up at Casa Pacifica, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on July18. “You guys aren’t my roommates, you’re my brothers and sisters because we grew up in the system,” said Tye during one of the Monday night meetings.

Vicki’s Place is bricks and mortar, but it’s also a multipart program that is essentially extended foster care for those 18 to 21. The program is a substitute for those who don’t have a stable family to act as a safety net as they launch themselves into adulthood. “Whereas most people can go home to Mommy and Daddy, they’re really on their own when it comes to coming of age as adults,” Franco said. “It is our goal to get them out on their own as soon as they’re ready. To have their own apartment, to be responsible for their own bills so that when they do turn 21 and the support ends, they are ready.”

The need for a program like this seems evident judging by the statistics. According to a foster child advocacy group called Children’s Rights, when foster children turn 18 and strike out on their own, they are at high risk for homelessness, joblessness, illness, incarceration, welfare dependency, early childbearing and sexual and physical victimization. Various studies across the country show that 12 to 30 percent of aged out foster youth were homeless, 40 to 63 percent don’t complete high school, 40 to 60 percent of young women became pregnant within a year to a year and a half of leaving foster care and 18 to 26 percent were incarcerated. To put a dent in these statistics, California Assembly Bill 12 — the California Fostering Connections to Success Act — was passed in 2010 and went into effect in 2012. The Federal Fostering Connections to Success Act was passed in 2008 and states could participate on a voluntary basis. California’s law allows youths to remain in foster care a few years longer, and get financial assistance. As of January of 2014, youths could stay in extended foster care until age 21.

In 2012, Casa Pacifica raised enough private donations to renovate two abandoned homes and a detached garage on the property and create a yard and landscaping. “The houses had been sitting there for 17 years,” said Casa Pacifica Chief Advancement Officer Vicki Murphy, for whom “Vicki’s Place” is named. “Before that we were placing (aged out) kids in apartments in scattered sites throughout the county.” Vicki’s Place can house eight young adults at a time, as long as they agree to certain rules designed to transition them into independence. There are also accommodations for young mothers, so one of the residents can be a baby or toddler. “What makes Vicki’s Place unique is that these kids are surrounded with services,” Murphy said. “We are with them. They have a youth advocate, they have a clinician, they have a case manager.”

Download PDF that includes: The Five Agreements, Lizzy, Michael, Chad and Janisha

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Source: VC Star

Cafe Society: New events, behind-the-scenes intrigue part of Casa Pacifica food fest

June 7, 2014

If you’ve been to Tierra Sur restaurant at Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard or watched its executive chef work the grill at the annual From Field to Fork Dinner at The Walnut Grove in Moorpark, you know Gabe Garcia. More often than not, he’s the guy wearing a blue Brooklyn Dodgers cap with his black chef’s coat. The man who appeared on stage Sunday to accept Tierra Sur’s first-place award at the 21st annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival was no Gabe Garcia. He was the chef from another restaurant entirely, holding Tierra Sur’s winning, Yummie Top Chef Culinary Competition certificate over his head in triumph after an unfortunate series of events that involved language barriers and perhaps more than a dash of opportunism. (Owners of the chef’s restaurant later posted a photo of the awards ceremony on its Facebook page).

If it was difficult for the crowd of about 4,400 people to determine who won what, consider the job facing the judges as they tasted their way through the competition’s 24 entries. Celebrity judges William Bloxsom-Carter, executive chef at the Playboy Mansion, and Masa Shimakawa, master sushi chef at ONYX at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, led a panel that this year included Paul Delagnes of Bread Basket Cake Co. and Karl Holst, executive chef at Birnam Wood Golf Club. Returnees included Sarene Wallace of Edible Ojai & Ventura County and yours truly. After two rounds of judging, the first-place results were nearly identical to those of 2013.

The top “sweets” prize again went to Anastashia Chavez, who represented Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Co. of Calabasas last year and now is the pastry chef at Barrelhouse 101 in Ventura. Her entry this year was a stacked confection of cake and balsamic vinegar-infused cheesecake, held together with chocolate ganache and berry preserves spiked with red ale. Similar desserts are available on the Eat Your Beer dessert menu Chavez offers at the restaurant. As happened last year, the “savory” prize went to Garcia and Tierra Sur, this time for an elegant plating of cold-smoked hamachi served with beet butter, fresh and dried citrus, and sweet-and-sour leeks. The dish is a variation on similar combinations featured on Tierra Sur’s tapas menu. Taking second and third place in sweets, respectively, were Ali Davis, owner and pastry chef of The Sugar Lab, for miniature Key lime pies in cinnamon-graham cracker crusts, and Ernie Borjas, executive chef at The Yacht Club at Channel Islands, for his tropical take on baklava. In the savory category, second and third place went to executive chef Rachel Main of Main Course California for cherry-smoked short ribs and crisped kale, and to the team from Market Broiler for seared scallops and a pear-mixed green salad.

Yummie Top Chef Dinner
The festival netted more than $400,000 for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families. Adding to the coffers and to the schedule this year was the Yummie Top Chef Dinner, which took place May 30 in the festival’s VIP tent on the CSU Channel Islands campus in Camarillo. Featuring nine courses by 11 chefs, the dinner was not for light eaters. Tim Kilcoyne, who took first place in the inaugural Yummie competition in 2009 and now is the chef/owner of the food truck Scratch, served braised pork meatballs with mole, pickled cherries and smoked almond purée. The dish was paired with a maple brown ale called Restraint, made in Camarillo by Institution Ale Co. and the winning entry in the festival’s first Best-in-Fest Brew competition. Nic Manocchio, now the chef for University Glen Corp. at CSUCI, presented crispy wontons layered with marinated seaweed and alfalfa-smoked octopus. Luis Martinez, executive chef at C-Street Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach Hotel, countered with potato-crusted roasted salmon atop herbed baby turnips and vanilla beurre blanc. Formerly of the Pierpont Inn and Blue Stove at Nordstrom, executive chef Oscar Ledesma took time out from preparing for the opening later this month of Mastro’s Ocean Club Malibu at the former Chart House. His pho was the most interactive course of the evening: Diners poured broth from individual porcelain sake bottles into bowls of herbs, noodles and whisper-thin slices of Wagyu beef.

As the VIP tent’s resident chef and Top Chef Dinner coordinator, chef Jason Collis of Plated Events by Jason prepared spice-salted grilled flat iron steaks with fig-fennel-onion jam, served with glasses of Franknvine, a red blend from Cantara Cellars of Camarillo. Collis also served cold cucumber-yogurt soup in shot glasses with caviar lime pulp clinging to the rims. The latter proved too adventurous for one of my table mates, who mistook the pulp for fish caviar and wiped it away before taking a sip. Somewhere, a foodie angel lost its wings. Many of the same chefs would face off in the Yummie competition less than two days later, but you wouldn’t know it from the mood in the outdoor kitchen behind the tent. “I cried three times just watching the camaraderie back there,” said Carrie Hughes, director of development and public relations for Casa Pacifica. “All you heard was ‘chef, chef, chef’ as they asked each other what needed to be done. The person who did course one stayed and helped with course nine.” Attended by about 120 people this year, the Top Chef Dinner will return next year, Hughes said. Mark your calendars: The festival will make its 22nd annual appearance on June 7, 2015.

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Source: VC Star Cafe Socity by Lisa McKinnon

Casa Pacifica food and wine fest raises funds for children’s agency

June 1, 2014

Amid a campaign to raise money for a growing campus, additional services and more beds, Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families held a wine, food and brew festival Sunday at CSU Channel Islands. The event, which has become a who’s who of Ventura County food and wine culture, is a cornerstone benefit for Casa Pacifica, whose services in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have become more crucial to a growing population of foster children.

“There are more children coming into the child welfare system,” said agency CEO Steve Elson. “We’re not always able to accommodate everyone, and we have waiting lists.” Elson said the Camarillo campus is undergoing a renovation and that with a recent gift of $3 million from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, additional permanent buildings will replace temporary structures and a medical clinic and therapy services will have new office space. There will also be new space for outpatient services and a vocational training facility.

“We’re working with Haas Automation, and they’ll have a machining and equipment training facility, and we’ll also have a commercial kitchen added to train kids for culinary skills,” Elson said. The campus will also add training facilities for the 400 full- and part-time employees. The wine, food and brew festival, however, is not part of the capital campaign, instead providing money for Casa Pacifica’s annual budget of about $30 million.

“It’s our signature event,” Elson said. “It is our single largest fundraiser, and it helps heighten community awareness about the important work we do with the highest-risk children and families in our region. It has also proven to be a unique way to introduce us to folks who wind up becoming significant supporters.”

Officials said more than 4,500 people attended the festival. “It’s a real Sunday picnic atmosphere,” said Rose Petrinic, of Camarillo. “It’s festive and fun, and it’s for such a great cause it’s hard to pass it up.” “I’m here for my second year,” said Thousand Oaks resident Mark Wasserman, owner of Vinemark Winery. “Last year, though, it was only the second event I’d been at of any kind.” Wasserman said exposure for his wines is the key reason that events like this are important to him. “It’s a great way to not only sell wine, but also be part of something larger in the community,” he said.

Bill Lokker, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Camarillo, said the event is one of his favorites. “Casa Pacifica works with some of the most challenged kids in our community who need the most care and support. Being at this event helps fill in the gaps created through the year for them.”

Jim McGee, CEO of the Central Coast Region of the American Red Cross and his wife, Wendy, attended for the first time. “This is what community is all about,” he said. “People are here because they’re volunteering for an important cause and to help the most vulnerable in our community.”
Photo Troy Harvey/VC Star

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Source: VC Star

Ventura County Board of Supervisors Invest $3 Million in Casa Pacifica’s Capital Campaign

June 3, 2014

On June 3, 2014, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved a recommendation from the County Executive Officer, Michael Powers, to invest $3 million into Casa Pacifica’s campaign. The investment was in response to a request by the Casa Pacifica Board of Directors for a contribution to its $21 million capital campaign to “build out” the campus and enhance and expand both services and infrastructure.

In evaluating the request, Mr. Powers stated that County staff had “looked to the 20 year partnership with Casa Pacifica and the services provided for Ventura County” noting that Casa Pacifica has served over 18,000 children and youth and their families. Additionally, he noted that Casa Pacifica has raised more than $32 million in private funds over the past 20 years to support their important work.

After listing eight programs Casa Pacifica provides in the community, Mr. Powers stated that “the County of Ventura recognized the magnitude and the quality of the services offered by Casa Pacifica and the unique role of the emergency shelter and residential program in Ventura County. We hope that your Board’s action will motivate other members of our generous community to likewise contribute to this important capital campaign.”

The Board of Supervisors meeting was attended by many Casa Pacifica supporters. The Board of Supervisors heard from Casa Pacifica’s CEO Dr. Steve Elson and former Casa Pacifica Board Presidents William Kearney, Charles Cohen, and David Wood. They also saw the video developed especially for the campaign which left no dry eyes in the hearing room. This significant investment from Ventura County brings the capital campaign funds raised so far close to two-thirds of the $21 million goal! For more information about Casa Pacifica’s Building New Foundations of Hope Capital Campaign please call (805) 366-4011.

View the Board of Supervisors meeting video

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Source: Ventura County Board of Supervisors Website

Cafe Society: Casa Pacifica festival adds ‘brew’ to name, joins wave of beer events

May 10, 2014

Institution Ale Company Wins First Brew Competition at Casa Pacifica FestivalFour beer judges walk into a brewery ... What sounds like the opening line to a bad joke was dead-serious business as the judges in question — one of whom is ranked second nationally — gathered in the tasting room at Institution Ale Co. in Camarillo. Kevin Pratt holds an entry up to the light May 3 while judging the inaugural Best in Fest Brewery Competition organized by the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival. Pratt is a Grand Master Beer Judge V and brewmaster for the Santa Barbara Brewing Co. Lisa McKinnon/ Star staff

Their mission: choose which of the seven entries from local breweries should receive the inaugural Best in Fest Brewery Competition award presented by the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival when it takes place on June 1. They sniffed. They sipped. One cleared his palate by swishing water with the vigor of someone trying to cure gingivitis with mouthwash alone. After individual scores from the quiet-as-church first round were tallied, the judges pulled their chairs together to debate “sessionability,” or the qualities that bring someone back to a particular beverage for more. Only after reaching a unanimous decision did they learn the identity of the winner: Restraint, a maple-aged American brown ale made by ... Institution Ale Co.

“That’s how you win; host the competition,” cracked Shaun Smith, sales director for the microbrewery he and family members opened in September. But the blind tasting was just that. Organizer Curtis Taylor, a Certified Cicerone who blogs as Hop Head Said and produces a podcast called Pints & Pairings, stepped behind a closed door before pouring brews into identical plastic cups. “The next beer is entry No. 5 and it is an American IPA,” Taylor announced as volunteers carried one set of cups out to the judges.

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Doing Whatever It Takes

May 1, 2014

Doing Whatever It TakesOn a blustery Saturday afternoon, dozens of families gathered at Mission Oaks Park in Camarillo for a picnic. As some barbecued and others participated in sack races and other activities, Casa Pacifica’s Director of Community-Based Services Dr. Jody Kussin was thrilled by the turnout. “It was incredible,” said Kussin. “It was one of those days where you just go, ‘God’s in heaven and all’s right with the world.’ It was that touching.”

The Family to Family picnic brought the families of children and teenagers together for a meet-and-greet for those who have received assistance from Casa Pacifica in the form of a Wraparound service, in which teams from Casa Pacifica visit the homes of troubled children or teenagers in order to do “Whatever It Takes” (WIT) to assist the individuals in overcoming their issues. For the families attending the picnic, the Wraparound Team has been actively involved. For some of these families, and especially for the young people who receive the counseling and assistance, it can be easy to feel isolated from their communities.

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Source: VC Reporter

Casa Pacifica Wine, Food & Brew Festival Announces Pre-Festival “The Yummies Top Chef Dinner”

April 25, 2014

Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival is excited to announce the addition of a special behind-the-scenes pre-festival dinner entitled “The Yummies Top Chef Dinner” that will take place on Friday evening, May 30th as a kick-off to Casa Pacifica’s largest annual fundraising event. The one-of-a-kind dinner will bring together, for the first time ever, several of our region’s top chefs, all of whom are former winners of the festival’s annual culinary competition The Yummies Top Chef Awards. The chefs will present an incomparable nine-course feast to 150 guests. One course will be specially paired with the winning handcrafted ale from this year’s inaugural “Best in Fest” brew competition taking place prior to the Festival.

The Yummies Top Chef Dinner will take place in the VIP Lounge tent on the Festival grounds at California State University Channel Islands. In addition to dinner, guests will enjoy live music and a special cocktail stirred up specifically for the dinner by Twenty88 Restaurant & Bar. A highlight of the evening and an exclusive treat, each of the chefs participating in The Yummies Top Chef Dinner will be on hand to talk about their recipes and share some professional techniques.

Expert culinary master chefs (and their current affiliations) who will be participating include: Three-time Yummies winner Chef Nic Mannocchio of University Glen at California State University Channel Islands; Chef Jason Collis of Plated Events by Chef Jason; Chef Gabe Garcia of Tierra Sur Restaurant; Chef Tim Kilcoyne with Scratch Food Truck; and Chef Ernie Borjas of The Yacht Club of Channel Islands Harbor. A trio of delicious desserts will be provided by former Yummies Sweet category winners Barry Davis, owner of Cold stone Creamery Camarillo; pastry chef Anastasia Chavez of Barrel House 101; and Yvonne Drayton-Benado, owner of Missy’s Cupcake Creations.

If you would like to be a part of this one-of-a-kind extraordinary experience, tickets are on sale for $200 per person or seating for eight (8) guests can be purchased for $2,000. Guests will be seated long-table, family-style and dinner guests must be 21 years of age and older; seating is limited.

To purchase tickets for The Yummies Top Chef Dinner please contact Amber Landis-Stover at (805) 366-4021. All proceeds from the dinner will support Casa Pacifica’s programs serving vulnerable children and families.

The Wine, Food & Brew Festival will take place on Sunday, June 1st from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at California State University Channel Islands. General Admission tickets are on sale for $125 until sold out. Food and beverages are included in the price of admission. V.I.P tickets are available for $225 each until sold out and offer Festival-goers early admission at 12:00 noon, V.I.P parking and exclusive access to the V.I.P. Lounge presented by Wells Fargo. Casa Pacifica encourages all Festival-goers to participate responsibly. Roundtrip reservations are available thru the Roadrunner Safe Ride Program by calling (805) 389-8196, or visiting

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New therapy dog arrives at Casa Pacifica in Camarillo

April 15, 2014

Otis, a 9-week-old fuzzy black Newfoundland, was welcomed Monday as a new member of the family at Casa Pacifica in Camarillo.

The new therapy dog wagged his tail and sniffed his way through the campus as kids crowded around the newest arrival at the residential facility for abused and neglected children. Otis joins canine ambassadors, Baker and his uncle Archie, Casa Pacifica’s first therapy dog. Though his role at Casa is still being defined, Otis will provide a warm and calming presence to the staff and children who live at the center, said Josh LePore, the clinical supervisor for Casa Pacifica’s transitional housing. LePore will be caring for the dog. “He will come with me for individual and group therapies and meetings,” LePore said. “Above all, he will bring joy to the children and staff every day he is here.”

Otis was purchased and donated by Westlake Village philanthropists Anthony and Mary Tesoro and was named after Otis Chandler, for former publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Chandler’s wife, Bettina Chandler, has been a member of Casa Pacifica’s board of directors since May 1991. The Chandlers helped with the fundraising campaign to open Casa Pacifica in 1994, according to Vicki Murphy, Casa Pacifica’s chief advancement officer. Murphy said that starting with Archie, Casa began bringing in therapy dogs to help the kids feel at home. She said Casa chose Newfoundlands because they are a gentle breed and know how to interact with troubled kids without overreacting to them. “They are one of the best dogs to work with emotionally troubled youth,” said Murphy, who cares for Archie. “Otis came from a litter of six, and five are going to be therapy dogs.” At a cub-like 29 pounds, Otis is only one-sixth the size he will be as an adult.

More than a dozen children from the center’s cottages stepped outside to greet and hug the dog, whose arrival had been advertised for weeks on walls and doors via posters that read “Otis is Coming April 14th.” “One of the kids who greeted Otis commented that the pup must be really sad because he was taken from his family,” LePore said. “Another kid said he will be OK because he’s going to meet some people. Through Otis, they’re already connecting their circumstances with him and forming a bond.” Aaron Neal, a youth development specialist at the center, said the therapy dogs will make the kids feel more comfortable at Casa. “At home, we have animals and appreciate the loyalty and love that they bring,” he said. “So even though the kids here may feel on edge for not being with their own families, they know we care about them and want them to have that sense of family.”  Z Arata, a 22-year-old who transitioned out of Casa two months ago, said the dogs shaped some of the most pleasant experiences at the center. “I was 13 when Archie arrived, and I remember how quickly he became this comforting gentle giant for us kids,” she said. “Archie made Casa Pacifica feel more like a home and a family, and it’s exciting to see this puppy, who looked like Archie first did, come in here and offer that same kind of support.” Photo by Troy Harvey, Ventura County Star

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Casa Pacifica therapy dog responds well to heart surgery

February 21, 2014

A 2-year-old Newfoundland dog who works as one of three therapy dogs at Casa Pacifica in Camarillo is recovering well after undergoing surgery to save his life. Baker, a nephew of the organization’s famous black Newfoundland Archie, joined Casa Pacifica as a puppy and recently was diagnosed with a congenital defect that was causing his heart to fail. Veterinary cardiologist Mari Waterman performed open heart surgery on the dog Thursday at the Advanced Animal Care Center in Lawndale. “He’s had a pretty good response to the procedure,” she said Friday morning. Baker was 9 weeks old when he arrived at Casa Pacifica, a nonprofit that serves abused and neglected children and adolescents. Baker spends his evenings with the young adults who live in transitional housing on the organization’s Lewis Road campus and during the day he’s in the intake center where he welcomes everyone who comes through the doors.

Josh LePore, the clinical supervisor for Casa Pacifica’s transitional housing plus foster care program for 18- to 21-year-olds, says the work Baker does is priceless. “He greets all the kids who come onto campus and all the parents and social workers who come on visits,” LePore said. “A lot of our youth on campus have grown very attached to him and rain or shine, he’s there for them.” The first indications of something wrong with Baker came when he started to have severe trouble breathing. “He was gasping all the time, having trouble breathing and panting intensely over long periods of time,” LePore said. “A month or two back, it looked like he wouldn’t survive for much longer.”

Baker was diagnosed with severe pulmonic stenosis, a condition that causes the flow of blood between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery to be blocked because of a thickening and narrowing of the valve. The backup of blood caused by the heart not working properly leads to a buildup of fluid around the lungs. Casa Pacifica Chief Advancement Officer Vicki Murphy says veterinarians told them Baker could die at any moment. Like Archie, the organization’s first therapy dog and well-known ambassador, Baker is big and fluffy. He weighs 150 pounds, something Waterman said provided a significant challenge for her and her team. He’s the biggest dog she has ever operated on and the procedure lasted more than four hours and involved four veterinary cardiologists. “We used a vein to feed a balloon 4 centimeters long and about 2 1/2 centimeters wide into the heart then across the pulmonary valve and inflated it to open up the valve. It breaks up some of the fibrous tissue to relieve the pressure and get more blood flowing,” Waterman said. Waterman said 40 to 80 percent of cases respond to this type of surgery, and Baker’s prognosis is good. “This could improve him enough that he won’t need medication. It will enhance his life and that’s why we took the risk of doing this procedure,” she said.

Baker will return to Camarillo on Saturday and is expected to resume his duties Monday. “We are very grateful to the doctors, and we’re looking forward to him coming back to work,” Murphy said. “The kids are waiting for him.” The Advanced Animal Care Center discounted the cost of treatment, but Casa Pacifica still must pay thousands of dollars in medical bills. Murphy says money from will come from Archie’s Fund, which provides money for unexpected things Casa Pacifica clients need, and hopes donations from other sources may be forthcoming.  - By Rachel McGrath

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Source: VC Star

Casa Pacifica Angels Announce First Brewery Competition Held in Popular Festival

January 31, 2014

The Casa Pacifica Angels and the Zarley and Van Huisen Families announced the inclusion of the first brewery competition to be held in the 21st annual fundraiser for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families. Due to rising interest in specialty brews across the nation, this year’s Festival will hold the first-time brewery competition for micro, craft and independent brew exhibitors. All judging will take place before the event and the winner will be highlighted with special distinction during the Festival. The festival has officially been renamed Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival.

Voted both “Best Charity Event” and “Best Food & Drink Festival” of Ventura County 2013, the popular fundraiser will be held at California State University Channel Islands on Sunday, June 1st, 2014. All proceeds from the Festival benefit Casa Pacifica, which provides hope and help for abused, neglected, or at-risk children and their families in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. The Festival showcases creations of the finest restaurants, caterers, bakeries and specialty shops from Santa Barbara to Conejo Valley. The event also features many renowned wineries and vineyards from throughout California’s rich wine-producing regions, as well as several awarded breweries. Tickets will be available for purchase online beginning February 1st at General admission tickets will be on sale for a limited time at $95.00 each until midnight February 14th. VIP tickets will be on sale for $200 each also for a limited time. For additional event information contact Kristin Palos at or visit

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Source: VC Star Your News

Casa Pacifica Announces Early Festival Ticket Sales

January 30, 2014

Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families has announced early ticket sales and prices for their 21st annual fundraiser the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine & Food Festival. Voted both “Best Charity Event” and “Best Food & Drink Festival” of Ventura County 2013, the popular festival will be held at California State University Channel Islands on Sunday, June 1st, 2014. Tickets will be available for purchase online at

General admission tickets will be on sale for a limited time at $95.00 ea. until midnight February 14th. VIP tickets will be on sale for $200 each also for a limited time. The Festival showcases delectable creations of the finest restaurants, caterers, bakeries and specialty shops from Santa Barbara to Conejo Valley. The event also features many renowned wineries and vineyards from throughout California’s rich wine-producing regions, as well as several awarded breweries. All proceeds from the Festival benefit Casa Pacifica, which provides hope and help for abused, neglected, or at-risk children and their families in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.For further event information contact Kristin Palos at

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Source: VC Star Your News

Camarillo’s Casa Pacifica receives gift of blankets

January 28, 2014

A group of girls and their moms gathered for the fifth year at Casa Pacifica’s main gymnasium Saturday to make no-sew blankets for the residents of the nonprofit residential home for abused and neglected children and teens. The Ticktockers, girls age 12 to 18 who are part of the National Charity League, also stuffed bags full of baby necessities for Operation Homefront, an organization that provides necessities for expectant mothers through Fleet and Family Services at Naval Base Ventura County. About 200 girls and 75 moms and other adult club members participated Saturday in Camarillo and came from the league’s local chapters between the San Fernando Valley and Santa Maria. “It’s love expressed,” said Vicki Murphy, chief advancement officer for Casa Pacifica. “It gets bigger and better each year. The residents here see philanthropy taught in a tangible way. They get to meet with the NCL girls and talk with them, and it shows them that they are valuable, that they count.”

The National Charity League got involved with Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica five years ago when Pam Johnson, a league board member, reached out to the nonprofit residential program.  Johnson said she wanted to introduce the girls to bigger issues. The league connected with a Los Angeles vendor for the blankets and took on Casa Pacifica as a partner. “We adopted Casa Pacifica as one of our partners, and we come here quite a bit each year with gift cards or supplies, whatever we can do,” she said. Johnson described the Camarillo residential home as a “great partner,” which is enhanced by its location in the middle of the league’s district. In addition to making about 300 blankets and creating the same number of baby bags, the National Charity League members and Ticktockers heard from speaker Lauren Cook, a graduate of Foothill Technology High School in Ventura and of UCLA. Cook and her mother, Marila, were involved with the league when she was younger. She’s written a book called “The Sunny Side Up: Celebrating Happiness” and spoke to the girls about leadership qualities and creating a happy life by giving back to others. Rachel McCormick, a 17-year-old Ticktocker from the San Fernando Valley, said she’d been in National Charity League since she was 12. “I love giving back to the community I live in and this is the third year I’ve been out to Casa Pacifica,” she said. “I was really touched by knowing some of the kids here are only here temporarily and they need love just like everyone does.” McCormick said that for her 16th birthday, she had friends and family buy gifts and give donations to Casa Pacifica.

For some members, participation in the National Charity League has introduced them to other charitable efforts. Ventura resident Madelyn Sickle, a five-year member, said she has done a lot of work with Special Olympics through the league. “It’s helped create a passion for me,” she said. “I got to work with Special Olympics and was really moved by it.” Sickle has since started her own water polo tournament for Special Olympics. Stacey Stephens, district philanthropy specialist for the league, said the biggest message Saturday’s event sends is that the girls are spending time and reaching out to the kids at Casa Pacifica. “I think the girls of NCL are grateful in a couple of ways. On one hand, they’re really grateful they get to serve others who are in need and who don’t have the opportunities that they have,” she said. “On the other hand, they’re more keenly aware of the opportunities they do have.” Photo: David Yamamoto/Special to the Star

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Source: VC Star

Casa Pacifica’s Scott Mastroianni named Educator of the Year by Camarillo Chamber of Commerce

January 23, 2014

Camarillo chamber names winners of community awards
Scott MastroianniMayor Kevin Kildee named the winners of the Top 10 Community Awards selected by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Jennifer Wells, chamber president and CEO, gave Kildee the names of each winner during the public portion of the meeting and said the event has become one of her favorite jobs. “We get to celebrate these outstanding people and organizations, all of whom do amazing things,” Wells said.
The winners were:
- Sharon Hillbrant, secretary of the Ventura County Women’s Political Council, senior of the year;
- Jose Miguel Undurraga, a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Rio Mesa High School, youth of the year;
- Dale Jacobs, a board member for AYSO’s Region 68 and a chamber board member, volunteer of the year;
- Scott Matroianni, educational services director for Casa Pacifica, educator of the year;
- Deputy Joe Preciado, Camarillo Police Department, public servant of the year;
- Ventura County 99s women’s aviation club, based at Camarillo Airport, service organization of the year;
- Sharene Lewis, owner of Pi Design in Camarillo, entrepreneur of the year;
- Spanish Hills Country Club, business of the year;
- Priscilla Van Gundy, co-owner of Van Gundy Jewelers, woman of the year; and
- Al Lowe, owner of Al Lowe Construction and active in the Camarillo Noontime Rotary Club, man of the year.

The awards celebration and dinner will be from 6-9 p.m. March 28 at Spanish Hills Country Club.“We sell out every year,” Wells said, adding that the chamber expects about 200 people to attend. Pat McCollum, chamber board member and leader of the awards event, said the chamber seeks nominations from the community each year.“That’s the hardest part, honestly,” said McCollum, who owns Your Mechanic in Camarillo. “We try to get as much feedback as we can.” Preciado was at the board meeting after he received a phone call from Cmdr. Guy Stewart. “The commander told me if I had a chance to swing by the meeting, which I thought was odd,” Preciado said. “I was really surprised, and I’m honored, of course.” Preciado served as a youth services officer and led a program providing resources for homeless people in Camarillo.

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Source: VC Star

Coats for a cause

January 2, 2014

Lydia Gable of Keller Williams Realty and Rick Winters of Financial Group will host their fourth annual Coats-for-Casa charity event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat., Jan. 18 at Three Springs Park, 3000 Three Springs Drive, Westlake Village. This family event will feature complimentary snow play, coffee, smoothies and winter crafts. Attendees are invited to bring gently used winter clothes of all sizes, including coats, sweaters, hoodies, mittens/gloves, winter hats and scarves to benefit Casa Pacifica in Camarillo. Casa Pacifica provides emergency shelter, medical and other community-based interventions for families in need and for at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Last year, more than 1,000 coats and sweaters were donated. For those who cannot attend but would like to donate, call Lydia Gable at (818) 383- 4335 or Rick Winters at (805) 497-1717.

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Source: Acorn Newspaper Agoura Hills

Life of a Rockstar to Perfom at Casa Pacifica Dec. 13th

December 13, 2014

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Source: LOAR

Annual Children’s Holiday Party

December 11, 2014

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Fostering hope

November 27, 2013

Camarillo’s Casa Pacifica youth share their stories of struggle and survival
Fostering HopeOn a Wednesday afternoon, a 4-year-old little girl had just been admitted into the crisis care emergency shelter, along with her 2-week-old brother. She had come in with a broken nose — her father had hit her in the face and both she and her brother were taken to Casa Pacifica in Camarillo. Their home and parents were apparently deemed unsafe by Child Protective Services. This was an exceptionally hard day for Casa Pacifica employees (not to mention the children). While they often see cases of neglect, that kind of violent abuse is rare. But thankfully for both children, there was a safe place for them to go. Twenty years ago, however, Casa Pacifica wasn’t anything more than an idea of certain caring individuals in Ventura County who felt children in the area were lacking services after they had been taken by Child Protective Services. And so, with successful public-private partnerships and $10 million from fundraising, Casa Pacifica went under construction in 1993 and in July 1994 opened its doors to neglected, abused and the most at-risk youth in the area. Since then, Casa Pacifica has continued to broaden its scope of services, from emergency shelter and housing for transitional youth to onsite nonpublic education for children who aren’t able to continue with regular public education and in-home services for at-risk youth, even delivering services to families in Santa Barbara. Casa Pacifica serves local youth on its nearly $24 million annual operating budget, reaching 400 children and their families each day, and approximately 4,000 unique children every year.

With the growing population comes a bigger need for services to address neglect and other concerns for children. In order to meet these challenges, Casa Pacifica launched a $21 million capital fundraising campaign this year to improve and enhance services onsite, including adding new cottages, housing for transition-age foster youth, a therapeutic activities building, vocational education and training space, classrooms and a site for clinical services. Temporary buildings will also be replaced with new state-of-the-art treatment facilities. Currently, Casa Pacifica has raised $9 million and the goal is to reach $21 million by the summer and break ground in July 2014its 20th anniversary. While donations will clearly help in raising funds for the capital campaign, the need for volunteers to participate in any number of activities on campus and with the youth is ongoing and prominent. To get involved, email or call (805) 445-7800. Along with each child who receives services, there is also a story to tell. One current resident and two former residents who are all now in Casa Pacifica’s Coaching Independence in Transition-age Youth program (CITY program) came forward to share their stories of struggle and survival and Casa Pacifica’s role in their lives. (Continued - Due to the sensitive nature of their stories, the writers asked only that their first names be used.)

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Source: VC Reporter by Michael Sullivan

Herdt: Former foster kids still connect with special shelter

October 29, 2013

Until three years ago, California had a cold-turkey policy for dealing with foster children upon their 18th birthday. At best, these kids who had no family support to help usher them into adulthood might get a birthday cake, a handshake and a heartfelt wish that they have a good life.That changed with the passage of a state law, AB 12, which established a transitional period during which foster children can continue to receive living assistance for another three years as long as they are working and attending college or training for a career.

How important is it to have that sort of softer landing into adulthood? Last week, I had the chance to put that question to a trio of experts: three young women who proudly assert their status as alumni of Casa Pacifica, a nonprofit residential treatment center in Camarillo for abused or neglected children. All were too old to have benefited from the new law, but all had been blessed by having maintained connections with a place that had been their home in times of childhood crises. Cristina Miranda, 26, is a graduate of California State University Channel Islands and now a graduate student at California Lutheran University. She is in the process of reconciling with her biological family, but her enduring familial connection is to the place that sheltered her when she was 15. “Once you’ve been a part of the Casa Pacifica family, you will always be part of Casa Pacifica,” she told me. “You come back for the holidays.” Z Aratta, 22, attends Oxnard College and also holds down a job at Chipotle restaurant. She is living at a transitional home on the Casa Pacifica campus, where she spent time when she was 12 and again at 17. She drifted away before returning. “I had to do my own thing, but eventually I would come back,” she said. “They love you. This was one of the best decisions I’ve made.” When Dominique Martinez, 21, first arrived at Casa Pacifica she was 12, and refused to unpack. Her foster parents had dropped her there, saying they’d be back in a day or two. They never returned. Now Martinez, who wants to pursue a degree in psychology and whose “dream is to work for the FBI,” works with children who live in the same shelter cottage where she once lived. “I had a lot of issues trusting people when I moved here,” she says. “The first people I started trusting were here.”

At a conference not long ago, Executive Director Steve Elson was on a panel of shelter-home administrators who were asked to list outcome metrics that they might use to measure their programs’ success. Most cited educational attainment measurements such as high school graduation rates. Elson had a different vision. “I think the way to really measure success would be an active, strong, giving alumni association,” he told them. Elson notes that Casa Pacifica started its transitional program, using private donations, well before the state decided to begin providing support. “We said these kids are our responsibility. We’ve got to do something.” As part of a $21 million capital campaign launched this month to modernize and expand its campus, Casa Pacifica hopes to build two new transitional homes that would provide beds for 16 additional young adults. Those alumni who do have a chance to succeed, Elson knows, need all the help they can get — in part because not all troubled kids emerge from adolescence with such a chance. He notes that Casa Pacifica, now in its 19th year, has counted among its clients the children of children who had previously passed through its doors, the products of unbroken cycles of family dysfunction. Elson has seen his alumni not only in parent counseling centers, but also on street corners, panhandling for money. “It is not a perfect story,” he says. Yet, there is also this: a group of young people in their 20s and 30s who have started a Facebook page for former Casa Pacifica kids. And then there are people such as Cristina Miranda. After leaving the shelter, Miranda graduated from public high school, powered through community college by chasing after classes at all three Ventura County campuses, got her bachelor’s degree, began work on a master’s degree in public policy and made plans to become a lawyer to work in the area of child welfare. Five years ago, Miranda also gave birth to a daughter. Her child’s name is Faith.

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Source: The Republic and VC Star

Help Casa Pacifica Win $50,000 Grant

October 24, 2013

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Source: Twitter News

Editorial: Plan for growth can help children at times of crisis

October 21, 2013

Some of the most vulnerable children in Ventura County find life-changing help when they arrive at Casa Pacifica. Whether they were abused or neglected, come from a family in crisis or are emotionally disturbed, their situation improves dramatically at Casa Pacifica. Situated in a rural area near Camarillo, the residential care and treatment center provides many services including emergency shelter, mental health treatment, a primary care clinic, a school and a variety of community-based interventions to thousands of children and their families each year. Now, seeing an increasing need for Casa Pacifica’s services, leaders of the nonprofit organization plan to greatly enlarge its facilities on South Lewis Road in the next few years. First, they’re collecting funds in a capital campaign to pay for the expansion. They’ve raised about $9 million toward their goal of $21 million. That sum, they say, will be enough to add eight buildings and enlarge or renovate two others. The new space, totaling nearly 60,000 square feet, will house children and accommodate various services and activities, including one program not currently available in the county — treating teens for substance abuse.

The expansion also will add two buildings to house foster youths when, at age 18, they leave the foster-care system and start living on their own as independent young adults. Dozens of teens attempt that transition each year in Ventura County, and many need a helping hand to succeed at it. This will be the largest project at Casa Pacifica since it opened in 1994. The new buildings will serve a growing number of children in need, which officials trace partly to the state of the economy, the county’s poverty rate, substance abuse by parents and other factors. Casa Pacifica’s leaders hope the construction will start next year and reach its completion by early 2016. In our view, the capital campaign and the expansion are worthwhile undertakings for this beneficial institution, which other California counties see as a model of what can be done for at-risk youngsters. We hope Casa Pacifica receives a strong outpouring of support from the community in recognition of the good works the center performs for vulnerable children and their families.

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Source: VC Star

Camarillo children’s agency celebrates Founders Day

October 20, 2013

More than 300 people looked back on and ahead to the future of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families on Sunday during the nonprofit’s Founders Day event. At the Carl Lowthorp Field of Dreams on the organization’s campus on Lewis Road in Camarillo, leaders past and present reflected on the support the nonprofit has given to abused and neglected children since it opened in 1994. Casa Pacifica board member Sean Baker also announced a $21 million capital campaign to expand the organization’s campus. The project will mark the first permanent expansion at the campus said Baker, co-chairman of the committee responsible for the fundraising effort. “It’s not only time, but well past due,” he said. Casa Pacifica serves more than 500 children each day on and off campus in Camarillo, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.

Last year, the nonprofit served one of every 85 children in Ventura County, Baker said. But it has increasingly had to turn children away. In the past three months, 11 of 55 children referred to the group’s s residential treatment program were admitted. “We are turning away children from the emergency shelter because it is full and a number of community-based programs currently have waiting lists,” he said. “This despite the fact that our fundraising efforts are robust.” Casa Pacifica has raised nearly $9 million, and construction is set to start next summer, officials said. The proposed plan would add eight buildings and two classrooms for about 16 more students. About 32 new beds would be available for teens undergoing substance abuse treatment and 18- to 21-year-olds moving out of foster care.

Ventura County Executive Officer Michael Powers said he was proud that the county and Casa Pacifica have partnered to help youths become self-sufficient and strive for excellence. One example is 26-year-old Cristina Miranda, he said. Miranda, a youth advocate at the facility, entered Casa Pacifica 11 years ago where the nonprofit “shed light on one of the darkest experiences of my life,” she said at the presentation. A graduate of California Lutheran University, Miranda spoke of many other youths who have overcome adversity because of the program.

Organization CEO Steve Elson recognized its roughly 20 founders as well as past board presidents and other people instrumental in its success. He emphasized the importance of expanding services to children and the relationships Casa Pacifica provides them to help them overcome the stressful situations that followed them onto the campus. “These youth have faced seemingly intractable experiences that rival those of our war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. Casa Pacifica board member Reza Razzaghipour, the regional president of the Pacific Coast Division of Wells Fargo, gave the organization a $500,000 check. “One of every five children this year have gotten services from Casa,” he said. “But we have a lot of work ahead because for every kid who is admitted, four are turned away. We can’t be happy about that. But I’m really excited about this capital campaign.”

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Source: VC Star

Casa Pacifica plans $21 million fundraising effort for expansion

October 19, 2013

Vicky Murphy and her staff are accustomed to working in tight quarters.They make do with limited storage space and cozy offices amid the never-ending coming and going of children and teens who walk through their doors each week at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families.It’s a setup that worked fine in the campus’ beginning nearly 20 years ago. Casa’s space issues — compounded by its willingness to take youths during their most difficult times from abuse, neglect or complex emotional and behavioral issues — have driven the organization to outgrow its campus. On Sunday, the organization will announce a $21 million capital campaign fundraising effort at Casa Pacifica’s Founders Day event. The nonprofit already has raised close to $9 million and construction is expected to begin next summer, CEO Steven Elson said. Elson noted that officials designed the facility at 1722 S. Lewis Road in Camarillo for the needs of the time, knowing it eventually would have to be expanded.

“The present buildings are just too small for what we need to accomplish,” Elson said. “I think this really will enable us to meet the growing needs of the community.” The fundraising campaign would help increase by 50 percent the number of children and youths who could be served annually on and off campus, officials said. Casa Pacifica’s 24-acre campus now includes seven residential units, nine classrooms, a library, a fully equipped music room, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a student store, play fields, counseling rooms, training and conference space, a medical clinic and administrative offices. The planned project would add eight buildings and two classrooms for about 16 more students. The new buildings would replace modular buildings. They would be used for therapeutic activities, training, substance-abuse treatment for teens and clinical services for children enrolled in campus programs. About 32 new beds would be available for teens undergoing substance-abuse treatment and 18- to 21-year-olds transitioning out of foster care.

Those in transition age are considered at risk because they are moving from state custody or foster care to living independently. This population has increased about 60 percent in Ventura County, which puts more strain on organizations that provide assistance, according to Elson. Casa Pacifica also is one of the few places in the county that accept single mothers and men into their transition-age program. This makes the need to expand services that much more critical, officials said.

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Source: VC Star

Girl Scouts stock Casa Pacifica shelves

September 26, 2013

SHARING THE LOVE OF READING Members and parents of Girl Scout Troop 60772 including, from left, Rena, Morgan, Santana, Alienna, Michelle, Sami, Talia, Sara, Isabella and Suzie, collected books from Conejo Valley residents and donated them to Casa Pacifica (Centers for Children & Families) in Camarillo, which helps neglected and abused children. The Scouts were given a tour of the facilities and learned about the services provided by Casa Pacifica. Troop 60772 is based out of Thousand Oaks.

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Source: Acorn Thousand Oaks

Spotlight On Style Fashion Show Sold Out

September 25, 2013

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Source: Twitter

Triple Awarded in Best Of Categories by VC Reporter Readers

September 19, 2013

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Source: Twitter

Wells Fargo 2013 Community Support

September 18, 2013

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Source: Twitter

Save The Date! Road To Independence

September 12, 2013

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Source: Twitter

Fashion show to benefit Casa Pacifica

September 12, 2013

The Casa Pacifica Angels and hosts Susan and Ken Bauer will present the 12th annual Spotlight on Style Fashion Show on Sat., Oct. 5 at the Four Seasons Hotel, Two Dole Drive, Westlake Village. All proceeds will benefit Casa Pacifica’s therapeutic programs and services to vulnerable children and families in the area. Carin Holmenas Productions, in collaboration with Elizabeth Mason Couture and the Paper Bag Princess in Beverly Hills, will present “Fashion Icons of the 20th Century” featuring vintage couture from design houses such as Chanel, Dior, Valentino and Versace.

A champagne reception will open the festivities as guests peruse boutiques featuring vendors such as jewelry designer Vasant of Vasant Designs and Bloom Honey, a local vendor offering all-natural honey.The silent auction includes getaways for two to Hale Lani on the North Shore of Oahu; a one-week stay in a private home on Hollywood Shores beach; two-night stay for pets in a luxury suite at the Barkley Pet Hotel in Westlake Village; and a weekend retreat for two at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village with champagne, breakfast and dinner. Meathead Movers employees will greet and direct guests as well as serve during the three-course gourmet luncheon catered by the Four Seasons’ kitchen.

An array of confections by local sweet shops will be served for dessert.Event tickets are $125 each and are advanced purchase only; no tickets will be sold at the door. For tickets, call Marilyn Stoddard, Spotlight on Style co-chair, at (805) 390-7124 or Kristin Palos, Casa Pacifica event specialist, at (805) 366-4014. For more information, go to or call the Development Department at (805) 445-7800.

Famed Therapy Dog in Camarillo gets website

August 14, 2013

Famed Therapy Dog in Camarillo gets websiteAt nearly 7 feet long and 185 pounds heavy, it’s hard to miss him as he lumbers into the room. As soon as he enters, the change is apparent. “Archie! Archie!” the kids scream at the top of their lungs when they see him enter. “Archie is here!” The 8-year-old Newfoundland dog is a behemoth to behold, but is the gentlest of giants when it comes to the children who have become his family at the Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families. Archibald “Archie” RazzMaTazz has spent nearly his entire life at Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica, a 24-acre crisis care and residential treatment facility for abused, neglected and at-risk kids. It houses nearly 200 at-risk youths and provides a number of programs, including academic education, clinical therapy and recreational activities.

Archie has gained fame not just at Casa Pacifica but also in the national media. The fame has allowed Archie and Casa Pacifica to further help the children in their care through the recent launch of Archie’s website and the eponymous Archie Fund, a donation service through which Archie and Casa Pacifica can provide further assistance to residents in a number of ways. “People donate money for Archie to care for his children,” said Vicki Murphy, chief advancement officer at Casa Pacifica and Archie’s primary caretaker. Murphy said the money is used to pay for things that can’t be covered by the normal budget. The Archie Fund has been able to use donations from his fans to pay for services such as a soccer camp, travel expenses for trips, medical fees not covered by insurance, public school costs and family-finding projects.

Archie was brought to Casa Pacifica at 9 weeks of age to provide a comforting presence to young residents, many of whom come from broken homes and are struggling to find their way through an uncertain future. Archie quickly became a national celebrity. After he needed multiple surgeries for his hip and legs, the staff at Casa Pacifica decided to host a fundraiser to generate the required funds. Media were able to pick up on the story, which led to a widely recognized news syndicate doing a segment on Archie. The story soon thrust Archie into the national spotlight, with appearances on the “Today” show and KCAL-TV news as well as being featured on TV series and in books. Archie was awarded by Ventura County with his own holiday and a statue at Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks.

“We didn’t set out for him to become famous at all,” Murphy said. “It was just a by-product.” A collage of Archie over the years adorns a wall outside the office of Vicki Murphy, chief advancement officer at Casa Pacifica and caretaker of the Newfoundland. She said he has brought awareness to Casa Pacifica in a different way. “It’s difficult sometimes to talk about the mental issues of kids or about abuse, but it’s easy to talk about Archie,” Murphy said. “So many people have come to visit Casa Pacifica and have gotten involved with the agency that otherwise never would have.”

Casa Pacifica Chief Executive Officer Steven Elson described Archie’s relationship with children as instinctual, a sentiment echoed by many other staff members who described a number of behaviors that Archie has learned, or arguably has always known, in a similar way. They say Archie knows to lie down next to a child having a bad day. They say he welcomes frightened newcomers. He roughhouses with kids who need to get out some aggression. All the while, he never barks, growls or runs away. “He is a terrific asset to us here at Casa Pacifica,” Elson said. “He is just amazing with the kids.”

Source: VC Star

Dancing with Our Community Stars and Charity Fundraiser 2013

July 31, 2013

This past Sunday six community stars strut their stuff across the dance floor to raise much-needed funds for their charity of choice. The salsa-dance contest was patterned after ABC’s hit TV show, ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ The contest featured three men and three women who were paired up with some of the region’s best dance instructors to learn salsa moves and routines that were performed in front of the audience at the Festival this past Sunday, the 28th of July at Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard. Since its inception, the contest has raised over $300,000 for local charities. The 2013 contest sponsors are Ventura County Credit Union, Republic Services of Oxnard and Sugar Beets Restaurant and Bar.

The dancers competed for the coveted ‘Judge’s Choice Award’ for the best routine, while also competing for the ‘People’s Choice Award’, which was awarded to the star who raises the most money for their charity. Mary Pinto Casillas took first place among the women, and Juan Gonzalez won in the men’s category. Margie Cochrane, Regional Publisher/CRO for the Ventura County Star, danced for Casa Pacifica with instructor, Jesse ‘Chuy’ Rodriguez.

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Music Academy Hosts Youth Outreach Day

July 25, 2013

Music Academy Hosts Youth Outreach DayMontecito Bank & Trust’s Annual Music Program Hits Hahn Hall - Montecito Bank & Trust and the Music Academy of the West partnered to host the second annual musical outreach program “Up Close and Musical” for children at the Music Academy’s Hahn Hall. 300 children, age 7 to 18, from Casa Pacifica, United Way and the Boys and Girls Club were were in attendance. Janet Garufis, president and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust, said the event “opens up a world of possibilities” for introducing children to both the Music Academy campus and the prospect of becoming a professional musician.

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Source: Santa Barbara Independent

Nice swing

July 19, 2013

WHACK—Brenden Borck, 10, of Camarillo tees off on the 10th hole during The Rotary Club of Camarillo’s 21st annual Care for Kids Golf Classic at Spanish Hills Golf and Country Club in Camarillo on July 15. The tournament raised funds for the Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica, a shelter for emotionally and physically abused children.





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Source: MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

Saturday’s Hope4Kids 5K run/walk promotes foster child adoption

June 20, 2013

A 13-year-old girl wishes to be adopted by a loving family. “I would love to have a big family, with a mom, dad, brothers and sisters who will play with me,” she wrote. “I really love animals and hope that my family has a dog. I especially want a family that likes to do outdoor activities like I do.” The girl is one of 13 children, some with special needs, who hope to find adoptive homes at the inaugural HOPE4Kids 5K Run/Walk and Ventura County’s first adoption and foster fair this Sat., June 22, at California Lutheran University’s Kingsmen Park, 60 W. Olsen Road in Thousand Oaks. The 5K run and walk will start at 8:30 a.m.; a one-mile run for kids will start at 9:45 a.m. The fair will follow at the finish line and will also include a silent auction, vendor booths, food trucks and a free kids’ zone. Event organizers Tamalani Barnett and Dawn Groom are also trying to raise $15,000 to help foster youth programs pay for sports equipment, camps, musical instruments, driver’s education courses and other expenses. Barnett is a lawyer for foster youth in Los Angeles County and a member of the Living Oaks Community Church, one of the event’s sponsors. “There is a foster home crisis. There are many more children who need homes,” said Barnett, who has a ministry at Living Oaks that raises awareness about the need.

There are more than 1,000 children in the local foster care system and 150 kids waiting to be adopted, the attorney said. About 100 more kids are placed in foster care each month. Yet there are only 265 foster homes in the county. An estimated 50 foster kids turn 18 and leave the system each year. “I was drawn to helping these kids,” Bar- nett said. “Our church wanted to reach out to the community and unite the community for this cause.” Barnett said this is the first adoption fair in the county that will feature children who need homes. Photos and biographies of the kids, ages 5 to 16, will be distributed. Prospective adoptive parents may initiate the process of adopting one of the 13 children. Social workers will also be available to answer questions about adoption and foster care. Barnett said the 13 kids were chosen because they are on the adoption track and not trying to reunite with their parents or need an adoptive family in order to terminate their parents’ legal guardianship. And older kids are usually more difficult to place because of their age. After the adoption process, which includes training courses, background checks and a home study, county employees and the children will choose their adoptive families. “We would like to dispel the rumor that this is hard to do,” she said. Kids who do not find homes go to places such as Camarillobased Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, which serves Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Some kids are sent as far away as Kern County, which is difficult for them, Barnett said.

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Source: Acorn Thousand Oaks

Casa Pacifica’s Famous Therapy Dog Archie Gets His Own Website

June 12, 2013

Casa PacificaAmanda, alone and afraid, begins to cry. She’s just arrived at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families, brought by a child protective services social worker after her parents were arrested for running drugs. Amanda is only nine. Suddenly a large, furry friend lumbers through the door and sits down next to her. As she cuddles up next to him, her fear subsides as she sits and chats with her newfound canine friend. This is a tale of Archie, Casa Pacifica’s first therapy dog.

Casa Pacifica is excited to announce the launch of Archie the Casa Pacifica Therapy Dog’s website. Casa Pacifica’s first therapeutic dog, “Archibald RazzMaTazz” is a Newfoundland dog that was chosen for the breed’s reputation of being gentle and comforting with children. Archie’s website features photos and information about Archie and the youth and will soon include an online store that offers Archie related products. The site also offers visitors the opportunity to donate to Archie’s Fund which supports extraordinary expenses such as travel for families to visit residential youths, a gym membership for an overweight diabetic youth or additional expenses for high school seniors such as drivers training and class rings. The new website can be viewed at and Archie’s Facebook page viewed at Archie the Casa Pacifica Therapy Dog. Archie’s arrival was greeted with much fanfare and press including a large article in the Los Angeles Times, a news spot on the Today Show and he was featured in a television segment on “Dog Tales” that aired in October 2009. On June 2nd, 2009 the Board of Supervisors of Ventura County proclaimed it “Archie Day”. Archie also had a statue created by sculptor Robert Cunningham that was commissioned by former Casa Pacifica Board Member Ed Hogan and is currently on display at the Gardens of the Worlds on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Thousand Oaks, CA. Archie was recently selected as one of the featured dogs in a book launched last fall entitled “A Letter to My Dog”, a heartfelt ode from celebrity dog lovers to their companions created by Oprah producers Lisa Erspamer and Kimi Culp and renown photographer Robin Layton. This past March he was one of the star attractions at the Beverly Hills book signing.

Archie’s role at Casa Pacifica came about when staff recognized how therapeutic an on-campus pet could be for many of the youth. His primary mission is to provide warm hugs, a listening ear, and to be a gentle presence when children are in need. Many of the youth say they love to talk to Archie because he does not interrupt, they love to care for him and he makes them laugh. Some of Casa Pacifica’s youth from abusive backgrounds have experienced for the first time what it would be like to have a pet with Archie and even called years after leaving Casa Pacifica to check up on his welfare. In spring 2012 Archie was joined by two more donated Newfoundlands, Tess and Baker, who split their time servicing residents of the new Stepping Stone Houses for emancipated youths and visiting youngsters on campus during school hours.

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Source: VC Star Your News

Casa Pacifica Wine and Food Fest celebrates 20th year

June 6, 2013

A sold-out crowd of more than 4,000 guests enjoyed an afternoon of wine, food and music at last weekend’s Casa Pacific Wine and Food Festival, a must-do event each year on the Camarillo social calendar. Organizers expect the June 2 wine and food fest on the campus of California State University Channel Islands raised $400,000 on behalf of the Camarillo based charity. “It will be close to that, if not over,” said Carrie Hughes, Casa Pacifica spokesperson. “We got a lot of positive feedback, and everyone enjoyed the day.” Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families provides help for abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It relies on the annual festival to help meet its $2.6-million annual donations goal. With individual tickets costing up to $200, the afternoon didn’t come cheaply. But the cause is worth it, said Camille Sindell, an Oak Park resident and wine connoisseur who has attended the festival for the past four years. “It’s friends and families coming together for a good purpose,” said Sindell, who was accompanied by her husband, Gary. Each year the couple favors the booths offering Southern and Cajun cooking. “The food and drink are absolutely amazing,” Sindell said. This year the festival celebrated its 20th year.

“We’ve come a long way, and our service to the families and children in need has really grown,” said Steve Elson, Casa Pacifica’s CEO. “This year we’re especially proud,” he said.

From its beginning at the Ventura Pierpont Inn in 1994 until today, the festival has grown to become Ventura County’s premier wine and food gathering. More than 85 food vendors participated in this year’s festival. Featured were some of the top restaurants, caterers and bakeries from the Conejo Valley to Santa Barbara. And helping to wash down all the good eats were more than 150 wine and beer vendors. Winning the Yummie Top Chef award in the savory category was chef Gabe Garcia of Tierra Sur restaurant with his house-made pastrami and corn beef. First-place winner in the Yummie Sweet category was head pastry chef Anastasia Chavez of Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewery Company with a spice cake infused with Dunkelweizen brew, layered with a burnt-butter spiced frosting, and garnished with a beer toffee infused with Abbey Dubbel beer. It’s a mouthful, but delicious, too.

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Casa Pacifica Wine & Food Festival marks 20th anniversary

June 3, 2013

The signs along Lewis Road leading to the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine & Food Festival on CSU Channel Island’s campus said it all: “Event sold out.” The fundraiser celebrating wine and food marked its 20th anniversary Sunday with more than 4,000 people in attendance and sponsors from companies and organizations around the county. VIP guests who paid $200 a ticket lined up as early as 10 a.m. for a noon entry and a chance to sample the wares of hundreds of food, wine and beer vendors and bid on silent auction items. General admission tickets were $125 and those holding them were allowed to enter at 1 p.m. Steve Elson, CEO of Casa Pacifica, a home for abused and neglected children near Camarillo, said the event has grown from its humble beginnings and is its largest fundraiser of the year. “It’s surpassed the Angels Ball, which used to be our largest fundraising event of the year to become our premiere event. It’s grown enormously since the first one in 1994 in the back of the Pierpont Inn.” Elson said he’s grateful to CSUCI for the use of the quad area. “It sends the right message and emulates what we want to do. Not only has the event grown, but we have, too. We’re serving more and more children in the community, more now that live on the Casa Pacifica campus,” Elson said. “We’re about kids and families and the university helps us spread that message.”

Sonny Grenier, owner of Skating Plus in Ventura, was the operations co-chair for the festival. “To see all these people from the community who support this cause and care about the kids we serve is really heartwarming,” Grenier said. “These kids are dealt such bad hands and for these people to give back and to show they care is really amazing.” Bob Cress came from Newport Beach for the festival. “Any time you can eat and drink great food and wine and give to such a good cause and a wonderful charity, it’s great,” Cress said.  Alyssa Lovato of Sweet Arleen’s bakery in Westlake Village said the baker made more than 2,000 cupcakes for the event, starting at 3 a.m. “We brought our port wine chocolate cupcakes as well as vanilla with candied orange.” Martha Zweifel, of Thousand Oaks, has volunteered at the fundraiser for the past two years. “My daughter grew up with a friend who came through Casa Pacifica and so we’re glad to be a part of it. The food, the wine, it’s all so great.” Vincent Pillard, owner of Twenty 88 restaurant in Camarillo, said the event is a must for area eateries. “It’s a chance to come out and see everyone,” he said. “It’s the event you want to be at because you learn what your neighbors are doing and they learn about you. It’s developed a life of its own.” This year the VIP tent included the Ventura Cigar Company, which offered cigar samples to a long line of interested patrons. 

Elson said the community support has been fantastic. “We couldn’t do what we do without this community and they’ve really embraced us and they’ve embraced these kids, too.”

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Source: VC Star

VC Reporter Pics of the Week

May 30, 2013

VC Reporter Pics of the WeekCASA PACIFICA ANGELS WINE AND FOOD FESTIVAL Sunday, June 2, 1-5 p.m. The annual event is one of the most popular festivals in the tri-county area, attracting thousands of food lovers, music aficionados, wine and beer connoisseurs, and raises money to benefit the programs and services of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families. The event will offer continuous live entertainment, the largest silent auction in Ventura County, and mouth-watering food throughout the day. General Admission tickets are on sale for $125 each. Food and beverages are included in the price of admission. California State University, Channel Islands, One University Drive, Camarillo. For tickets and more information, visit

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Source: VC Reporter

© 2016 Casa PacifIca Centers for Children & Families. Artwork created by the youth of Casa Pacifica info
  • California Alliance of child and family services – Accredited Member
  • WASC – Accredited Member
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  • Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers – Accredited Member
  • American Association of Suicidology – Accredited Member