Congratulations to our friends at SAGE Publications for their recent successful office expansion! SAGE has been a treasured supporter of Casa Pacifica. Recently, they assembled and distributed 1,000 backpacks with new school supplies, for donation to underprivileged children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Susan Burgos, longtime Casa Pacifica Angel and author of the “Let’s Play with Archie” coloring book, will have a book signing from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at Mrs. Fig’s Bookworm, 93 E. Daily Drive. The book features Archie, the Casa Pacifica’s, first therapy dog, and children participating in a number of activities. Book copies are available for $5.95 for the month of August at the bookstore. All proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Casa Pacifica Center for Children and Families to support its programs and services. For more information, call 482-1384.
A dedication to help at-risk kids! As Miss California USA, Nicole worked with our Camarillo, CA based Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, assisting us in our mission to service children who have faced abuse and neglect. Nicole has continued her service to children as she serves as the volunteer marketing manager for the Michael Phelps Foundation, which provides swimming lessons to kids from underprivileged backgrounds.
Author and longtime Casa Pacifica Angel, Susan Burgos, will be signing copies of the “Let’s Play With Archie” coloring-book on August 26th between 1:30 - 3:30 pm at Mrs. Figs’ Bookworm, on 93 E. Daily Drive in Camarillo. This fun-packed 17 page coloring-book celebrates the life of Casa Pacifica’s beloved therapy dog Archibald RazzMaTazz “Archie” who brought joy, comfort and healing to hundreds of Casa Pacifica’s children and youth at the most trying times in their lives. The book features Archie in all sorts of fun situations from his everyday life. Kids and adults alike can color Archie in everything from holidays, the beach, the Stepping Stone houses and everything in-between. Mrs. Figs’ Bookworm has copies of the book available for purchase at only $5.95. All proceeds for this book are donated to Casa Pacifica.
How Casa Pacifica’s mission helps build foundations of hope!
Jeffrey Becker, a 2015 graduate of Ventura High School, will attend the culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island this fall. Jeffrey was in and out of foster care and lived at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families in Camarillo before he was adopted at age 7.
For the past two years Jeffery has worked alongside Plated Events Chef Jason Collis at the Casa Pacifica Angel’s award-winning annual Festival in June. “I was thinking about how the event helps kids like me. It meant a lot to be able to give back.” We congratulate Jeffrey on the next chapter in his life!Source: VC Star
In a single shopping trip, Austin, a 16-year-old from a foster group home in Oxnard, found everything he needed for school “and more,” he said. “I got a couple of shirts, two pants, a jacket, a hat and a backpack,” he said. “I think I’m set for school.” Like Austin, children from dozens of foster homes in Ventura County pored through aisles and racks of new and gently worn clothing, tried on new shoes, snatched up backpacks and books, and loaded up on school supplies during a special event Aug. 5 at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families in Camarillo. “This really helps them out,” said Justin Haulcy-Bateman, who brought six children from the Trinity Group Home in Oxnard. “They’re able to get items like backpacks and supplies for free, so they don’t have to spend their money on them and they can use their money for other things they might need.”
More than 250 foster children ages 10 to 18, as well as former foster wards up to age 25, were helped at the second-annual giveaway— and not just materially, said Stacey DeWitt, executive director of James Storehouse, a Newbury Park-based nonprofit that provides for the needs of children in foster care. The nonprofit hosted the backto school event at Casa Pacifica. “When they go to school, we want them to feel good about themselves,” she said. “We want them to feel successful. And we want to show them that we love them, we care for them and that they matter.” Casa Pacifica provides emergency shelter placement and residential care for children referred to the nonprofit by the county’s Human Services Agency, particularly difficult-to-place children ages 13 to 18.
To celebrate a decade in business, Victory Gymnastics Academy in Newbury Park is hosting a free family “funraiser” this month and is asking participants to bring donations of new backpacks and school supplies to benefit children at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families in Camarillo. “For a foster youth, starting school with a new backpack full of their own school supplies helps them have a more positive experience,” said Vicki Murphy, Casa Pacifica’s chief advancement officer and director of transitional youth services. “It’s the difference between being excited to go to school versus not wanting to go at all.”
The fundraiser will feature family games and activities for all ages at the academy’s 20,000-square-foot facility and demonstrations by its competitive teams. Victory also will have a free raffle of gifts and will serve cupcakes and refreshments throughout the event. “Victory Gymnastics is entering its 10th year in business, and we were looking for a way to give back to the community that has supported our business,” CEO Howard Laguna said. “Our core values at Victory focus on the overall well-being of our youth, making Casa Pacifica a natural choice for our fundraising effort.”
The event is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Fri., Aug. 26, at Victory Gymnastics, 2330 Teller Road, Newbury Park. For more information or to register, visit www.victorygymnastics.com or call (805) 376-9059.
In celebration of its 10th year in business, Victory Gymnastics Academy is hosting a free community Family Fun-Raiser, 6-8 p.m. on August 26, at 2330 Teller Road, Newbury Park, as a thank you to the community for its years of support. While entry to the event is free, Victory is asking attendees to bring donations of new school backpacks or school supplies to benefit the children at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families in Camarillo. “For a foster youth, starting school with a new backpack full of their own school supplies helps them have a more positive experience,” said Vicki Murphy, Casa Pacifica’s chief advancement officer and director of transitional youth services. “It’s the difference between being excited to go to school versus not wanting to go at all.”
The Victory event will feature two hours of family games and activities for all ages at Victory’s 20,000-square foot facility and demonstrations by its elite competitive teams. Victory also will have a free raffle of gifts throughout the event and will celebrate its 10th birthday with cupcakes and refreshments.
“The idea for a Family Fun-Raiser came about through one of our employees, Coach Dee, who, as a child, benefited from the services provided by Casa Pacifica. Victory Gymnastics is entering its tenth year in business and we were looking for a way to give back to the community that has supported our business,” said Victory Gymnastics’ CEO Howard Laguna. “Our core values at Victory focus on the overall well-being of our youth, making Casa Pacifica a natural choice for our fundraising effort.”
Dedria Brunett, better known as Coach Dee, has been a coach with Victory since 2013. A former foster youth who was adopted at age 14, Brunett has been a spokesperson for shelter, foster and homeless youth and was named Camarillo Youth Philanthropist of the Year, 2010, for her charity “Luggage for Love.” Brunett was also Miss Teen California International 2010 and Miss California International 2012.
“As a former foster youth, I know first-hand, the difficult and challenging circumstances these kids face every day,” said Brunett. “Having their own backpack not only gives them a confidence boost for school, it also provides them with a dignified way of transporting their personal effects when being relocated to another placement.”
In addition to the public event August 26, Victory will be hosting a private event for Casa Pacifica children on Saturday, August 27. Victory Gymnastics Academy offers basic, intermediate, advanced and competitive classes to children 2 years old and above. For more information or to RSVP to the Family Fun-Raiser event, visit www.victory-gymnastics.com or call 805-376-9059.
(Casa Pacifica staff member) Dominique Martinez says she was around nine and her half-brother was a year younger when she saw him for the last time. The two children were split briefly into two foster homes, then by adoption when he joined a family who didn’t want him in touch with his biological family, Martinez said. She couldn’t visit, find out where he was or say goodbye. The 24-year-old Ventura woman still remembers the loss that occurred more than a decade ago. “It was hard for me,” she said. “I got so tired of dealing with the emotions and crying. It was almost as if I didn’t have that sibling because technically, I don’t.” Under laws now in force, states must take reasonable steps to place siblings together in foster care or set up frequent visitations unless that would undermine a child’s safety or well-being. In practice, though, it appears half or more of siblings in foster care live apart. They have no clear legal right to see siblings who have been adopted, says an advocacy group for foster children. The California Youth Connection, a group made up of current and former foster youths, is pushing legislation to keep those bonds intact.
VOLUNTARY VISITS Senate Bill 1060 would require county placement agencies to convene a meeting with the child, the sibling, the prospective adoptive parent and a facilitator to decide whether to enter a voluntary visitation agreement. That would be done after parental rights are terminated and before the adoption is finalized. The bill, which is pending in the Legislature, also would require that the judge considering an adoption petition inquire whether that had been done. The adoptive and biological parents currently are offered the chance to participate in mediation to work through issues involving siblings. If an agreement is reached, it will be written into court orders regarding the adoption, said Jennie Pittman, a spokeswoman for the Ventura County Human Services Agency…..
One of a Kind Design, a new Camarillo-based paper crafting studio, will host a free paper crafting event Saturday to benefit the children of Casa Pacifica. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 4916 Verdugo Way in Camarillo. Attendees will have the opportunity to craft “good wishes” cards for children currently placed at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families in Camarillo. Participants are encouraged to bring their own photos, text, and art ideas, the business said in a news release. Those attending will also have the opportunity to learn more about designing their own personalized greeting cards and scrapbook elements from scratch. Designer Lorraine Carrillo will be on hand to assist. One of a Kind uses a new line of design and production machines called “Cricut” and Carrillo will help people learn how to use the machine to import and place design images, create multidimensional art, make precise design cuts and print. The machine works on a variety of surfaces such as card stock, fabric, poster board and vinyl. Casa Pacifica serves abused and neglected children and adolescents and offers behavioral, therapeutic, and family services to children at risk of being removed from their homes. For more information, call 586-3885 or visit 1ofakinddesignstudio.com.
James Storehouse has been providing foster children with school supplies since 2012, said Stacy DeWitt, executive director. “All of the youths that we serve are current or former foster youth. All are in need and some are well below the poverty level,” DeWitt explained. “It’s unacceptable to us that they would go to school without the things they need, especially when our community is overflowing with resources.” Children and teens in foster care often do not have the resources to buy new school supplies like their peers do, she added. “It’s our job as a community to look out for these children so they feel seen and loved and they are set up to succeed,” DeWitt said. This year, students from elementary to high school will receive new backpacks and school supplies, as well as shoes and clothing, during a back-to-school event at Casa Pacifica in Camarillo.
Reza Razzaghipour has been appointed regional president of the Pacific Coast Community Bank for Wells Fargo Bank. In this role, Razzaghipour will oversee more than 1,700 banking professionals at 118 banking stores across Ventura, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Kern, Tulare, Kings and San Benito counties. A 16-year company veteran, Razzaghipour previously served as regional president in the former Southern California region, district manager for the Valley Crossroads market in the San Fernando Valley and business area manager in the San Francisco Bay area. Razzaghipour serves on the board of Casa Pacifica Centers and also the American Red Cross of Ventura County. The Southern California native was raised and attended school in Simi Valley and still lives in the general area. He pursued his undergraduate studies internationally.
The Casa Pacifica Amigos auxiliary, volunteers who plan and participate in activities with Casa Pacifica’s children and youths, named Stefanie Wennes as its new president for 2016-17. She is also a member of Casa Pacifica’s board of directors. Wennes has volunteered with many other organizations, including the local chapter of the Boys Team Charity. Last year the auxiliary hosted events on 32 Saturdays, including day hikes, bike rides, a Pinewood Derby contest, a water day and a sports clinics. The Amigos provide experiences that the kids would normally be having if they were living at home, as well as teaching them teamwork and basic living skills, and serving as mentors and role models for the children.
Another volunteer group, the Angels, plans and hosts four kids’ parties each year in addition to serving as a major fundraising arm for Casa Pacifica, organizing and planning the Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival in spring and the Spotlight on Style Fashion Show in fall. Debbie Simpson, owner of AAA Propane Service Inc., is beginning her second year as president of The Angels. The other officers installed are Parry Weet O’Brien, Lori Silvey, Patricia Cordover, Patty Turnage, Barbara Ito, Susan Burgos, Terri Parks, Marilyn Stoddard, Cindy Jaks, Theresa Yamamoto, DeeDee Beltran, Melanie Higashi, Jewell Powell, Kathy Jeffers-Volk, Pia Dahlsten, Susan Bauer, Cindi Fredericks and Rebeca Elliott. For more information, visit www.casapacifica.org.
Cabrillo Music Theatre is teaming up with local businesses to provide the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley and other area nonprofits serving low-income youths an opportunity to experience live theater at no cost. Some 450 kids will attend Cabrillo’s production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid” at the Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. B&G Club members attending the show will come from areas from Newbury Park to Calabasas as well as from Camarillo and Moorpark. Youths from Casa Pacifica and the City of San Fernando will also attend the performance at no charge. “Participating in and experiencing live theater has been shown to help to increase leadership and confidence-building skills in youth while sparking perhaps an interest in the arts,” said Maureen Feldman, director of development and community engagement for Cabrillo Theatre. “Exposing youth to performing arts is a major part of our mission.” Local businesses help provide bus transportation and tickets for the children. For more about the program, visit www.bgcconejo.org or call (818) 706-0905.
The Who Rotary Clubs of Camarillo’s 24th Annual Care for Kids Golf Classic will be Monday at Spanish Hills Country Club. The tournament has raised more than $1.5 million for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families and the Camarillo Rotary Foundation. Register for the tournament by filling out the entry form at www.camarillorotary.org.
The Rotary Clubs of Camarillo will present its 24th annual Care for Kids Golf Classic Mon., July 18 at Spanish Hills Country Club, 999 Crestview Ave., Camarillo. This year’s event, sponsored by Advanced Motion Controls, will honor longtime tournament supporter Bill Kohagen. The format will be a fourperson Texas Scramble with a shotgun start. Trophies will be given for first, second and third place, low gross and low net, and hole-in-one prizes on all par 3s, including cars and cash. Participants’ tee packages will include Opolo wine and Foot-Joy golf shoes. An on-course lunch will be provided. The Care for Kids Golf Classic has raised over $1.5 million for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families and the Camarillo Rotary Foundation. By supporting or golfing in the tournament, participants will help over 500 Casa Pacifica children a day who’ve been moved from their homes due to abuse or neglect. To reserve a position, download the tournament brochure and entry form at www.camarillorotary.org and mail to: Care for Kids Golf Classic, P.O. Box 171, Camarillo, CA 93011. For more information about participation or opportunities to support the event, call Kevin Nunn at (805) 738-3363 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Eta Psi chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma celebrated the initiation of six new members at its June ice cream social. The chapter also installed officers for the next two years and presented four teacher scholarships. The program for 65 members included a Hawaiian gratitude dance by member Grace Tallman, a business meeting led by president Sherrill Hyink and a choice of ice cream bar treats along with chocolate-covered strawberries. The new initiates to the chapter were Judy Steinmeyer, Linda Sheridan, Janice McMahon, Elaine Morgan, Ann-Marie Matter and Jennifer Klein. The women teach in local schools or are recently retired. Receiving scholarships this year were Molly Upton, Robyn Marks, Danielle Berke and Katelyn Budroe. Scholarship funds came from member donations, basket raffles and a golf tournament organized by member Skogi Baker. A scholarship gift is also given annually to a fund for Cal Lutheran University students entering the teaching field. The officers installed were co-presidents Sherrill Hyink and Doris Warren, vice president Margaret Schwalm, secretary Jean Beaman and co-treasurers Janet Doman and Carmella Ettaro. Delta Kappa Gamma is an international organization of professional women educators. The organization promotes excellence in education and provides members with professional and personal growth opportunities, including leadership development. The Thousand Oaks chapter, Eta Psi, has over 100 members and is the largest chapter in California. Eta Psi has multiple philanthropic projects that benefit people locally and worldwide. The Comfort Crafter Committee, which meets monthly, makes fleece blankets for Casa Pacifica, as well as small pillows, hats and carry bags for cancer patients. Tiny blankets are crafted for premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Los Robles Hospital. Another project supported by the retirees in the group is Teacher in the Trenches, which gives out baskets of school supplies to members. One of the DKG International projects is Schools for Africa in partnership with UNICEF. Donations from all chapters help girls and boys get a quality education in sub-Saharan Africa. Eta Psi contributed $345 this year. The theme for this two-year period is “Start the Arts.” Eta Psi will support all areas of the arts with projects and programs connected with the community, schools and the artistic talents of chapter members. The chapter’s kickoff luncheon will be Sat., Sept. 17 at Sunset Hills Country Club. For more information, call (805) 492-3674.
Keenly aware of the physical, emotional and financial challenges soldiers and their families face during and after deployment, Ken Bauer said it is important the community rally around those in need. That’s why Bauer, a board member for the American Red Cross of Central California’s Ventura County chapter, helped spearhead the inaugural Operation: Ride for the Red last November to raise money for the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, which provides support to service members and their families. The bicycling event was an enormous undertaking, he said, but it was “extremely gratifying” to raise $26,000 for the SAF program. Bauer and his fellow chairs— Kevin Delson, Di Delson and Kris Meathrell—also found it encouraging when 98 percent of the participants who completed an online survey about the bike ride said they would do it again. “The entire day was fabulous,” Bauer said. “The reward was seeing people having a good time and, obviously, raising the money.” For his efforts, Bauer received the American Red Cross of Ventura County’s Hero Award last month during an awards ceremony at MadeWest Brewing Co. in Ventura. The Camarillo resident, along with other volunteers and community organizations, was recognized for his efforts during the May 16 ceremony. He was nominated by another volunteer. “It was a great honor,” the 66-year-old said. “The biggest compliment you can get is to be recognized by your peers.” Meathrell began working with Bauer and the Delsons as a Red Cross Central California staff member, but remained involved after retiring. The Simi Valley resident described Bauer as a “great human being” who goes above and beyond to support SAF and other Red Cross programs and activities. “There isn’t anything (Bauer) wouldn’t do, whether it be calling people or talking to businesses,” she said. “He has always been a stand-up citizen and has done his very best for his community and for the Red Cross.” Bauer, the retired vice president of human resources for an internet marketing company, said he enjoys giving back.
In addition to his Red Cross work, he is a board member for Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families and the Discovery Center of Science and Technology. He also serves on the human resources committee for the Thousand Oaks YMCA and volunteers with the Many Meals program at St. Mary Magdalen Church every Monday. Bauer said he is happy to raise money for SAF. The national program connects service members with their families back home during times of tragedy and joy and provides around-the-clock emergency financial assistance. SAF also provides counseling, guidance, information, referrals and other social services for all military personnel and their families. “We meet them when they are departing, provide service to their families when they are gone and try to reintegrate them with the community when they come back,” Bauer said. “Many of these folks, men and women, are coming back with PTSD and emotional disorders and they need a lot of help.” That’s why this Hero Award recipient and others are already planning the second Ride for the Red. The event on Sat., Nov. 12 will have a similar format as last year: Paying participants will ride 30-, 50-, or 100-mile loops with rest stops featuring water, energy drinks and snacks every 10 miles. Several volunteers will drive the courses throughout the day to respond to any issues that might arise. The routes start and end at the Red Cross’ Ventura County chapter office in Camarillo, where participants can enjoy a post-ride reception with food, drinks and live music. Riders of varying ability levels, who will share the road with corporate teams from Amgen, Blue Cross, Line 6, Drum Workshop and other companies, are encouraged to participate. Bauer said organizers expect a turnout of at least 250 riders and hope to raise at least $50,000. Active service members ride for free. “Pick up any newspaper and you’ll see that veterans have many needs upon their return,” Bauer said. “We try to provide these services to them.” To sign up or learn more about the ride, visit redcross.org/ventura. Those who wish to volunteer or donate food or supplies can contact Bauer directly at email@example.com.
The 23rd annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival on June 5 raised over $450,000 to support its programs serving Ventura and Santa Barbara counties’ abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families. In addition to samples from 75 food exhibitors as well as 185 wines and brews, the event featured performances by Benise, cover band Wes Quave, and DJ and MC Bruce Barrio. This year’s Best in Fest brewery competition winner was the LAB Brewing Company and brew master Roger Bott for the “Take Her Home Tripel” Belgian-Style Ale. The 2016 Yummie Top Chef award winners in the savory category were first place, Chef Alex Castillo of Twenty88 Gourmet Fusion; second place, Chef Nicholas Albrecht of University Village Thousand Oaks; and third place, Chef Bernardo Rodriguez of Ojai Beverage Company. The Yummie winners in the sweet category were first place, Chef Momo Galera of University Village Thousand Oaks; second place, Chef Brandon Worrell of The Cave restaurant; and third place, Patty Brown of Patty’s 805 Treats. Also, the third annual Yummie Top Chef Dinner on June 3 hosted by Pacific Western Bank and the Cassar family was themed Hollywood Vintage Glam. For more Casa Pacifica information, visit www.casapacifica.org. For festival information, go to www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com.
YUMMO! The 23rd annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival last weekend on the CSU Channel Islands campus in Camarillo netted an estimated $450,000 for the Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families. It also resulted in awards for chefs from some of the more than 20 area restaurants, caterers and other food purveyors who entered the festival’s Yummie Top Chef culinary competition. When the dust settled, the top “savory” honor went to chef Alex Castillo of Twenty88 Restaurant in Camarillo (2088 Ventura Blvd., 805-388-2088) for his hoisin and tamarind-glazed pork shank with tropical coleslaw, now a semiregular item on the menu. First place in the “sweet” category went to Momo Galera, pastry chef at University Village Thousand Oaks. Residents of the retirement community likely are clamoring for a repeat of Galera’s winning combination of chocolate mousse and mandarin marmalade, served with a miniature Pavlova and a tiny edible flower. For a full description of other winning dishes and where to get them, click on http://bit.ly/1PPfynb.
Nearly a quarter century after its debut, the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival has turned into a fundraising force to contend with, attracting more than 225 restaurants, wineries, breweries and others to help feed a sold-out crowd of roughly 4,800 people on the CSU Channel Islands campus in Camarillo. But while VIP ticket holders flowed through the gates at noon Sunday, judges for the Yummie Top Chef competition got down to serious, nice-work-if-you-can-get-it business. “It’s like a dream come true, eating all day,” joked Olivia Crouppen, an Oak Park High School grad who cooked her way into the Final 10 on the sixth season of “MasterChef.” She was joined at judges’ table by a group that included myself, Ventura County Star restaurant critic Rita Moran, chef and past Yummie winner Nic Manocchio, chef Masa Shimakawa of ONYX at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, Sarene Wallace of Edible Ojai & Ventura County, and another Gordon Ramsay survivor: Troy Glass, a Thousand Oaks High School student who made it into the Final 4 on the first season of “MasterChef Junior” in 2013.
The competition joined the festival in 2009, albeit under a different name and format. That year, former “Leave It to Beaver” star Jerry Mathers and his fellow judges went from one participating booth to the next to collect entries. (We burned a lot of calories that day.) The contest has since added a helpful crew of volunteers to coordinate the delivery of dishes, to better ensure that judges don’t know which dish was made by which chef. But it still pits self-selected chefs, restaurants and/or caterers against one another in the quest for its sauté-pan trophies, which are now awarded in “sweet” and “savory” categories. The results this year include a mix of new and familiar faces, along with some dishes available on menus now that the festival is finished for another year. In the savory division, chef Alex Castillo of Twenty88 Restaurant in Camarillo (2088 Ventura Blvd., 805-388-2088, http://twenty88.com) nabbed first place with a fall-off-the-bone, hoisin- and- tamarind-glazed pork shank served with tropical coleslaw. A previous Yummie winner, Castillo said he’d share the recipe with anyone who ordered the dish 10 times. It appeared as a dinner special the next day, and soon will be part of the regular menu, said Vince Pillard, the restaurant’s co-owner.
But you’ll need an invitation to get another taste of the first-place sweet winner. That honor went to Momo Galera, pastry chef at University Village Thousand Oaks, the retirement community next to California Lutheran University. Galera’s dish included dollops of chocolate mousse and mandarin marmalade served with a miniature vanilla bean Pavlova, or meringue, and an edible flower. The University Village team also took second with a savory dish that paired an oxtail grilled cheese sandwich with a flute of summer tomato consommé. Third place savory went to the Dark Seas slider presented by chef Bernardo Rodriguez of the Ojai Beverage Co. (655 E. Ojai Ave., 805-646-1700, http://www.ojaibevco.com), where a full-size version of the burger topped with beer-battered bits of lobster and crab is served on a squid ink-infused bun. For the second year in a row, second place in the sweet category went to sous chef Alex Montoya, executive chef Brandon Worrell and the team from The Cave inside the Ventura Wine Co. (4435 McGrath St., Suite 301, 805-642-9449, http://venturawineco.com). The prize this time was for a RumChata frozen custard topped with brown sugar-dusted churro bites — a combination that makes occasional appearances on the dessert menu. Third place “sweet” went to Yummie first-timer Patty Brown of 805 Treats (http://805treats.com) for toffee made with house-roasted almonds and Ghirardelli chocolate. Look for any — or all — of these chefs to take part in the fourth annual Yummie Top Chef Dinner when it unfolds in the VIP tent two days before next year’s festival. Until then, click on https://www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com.
SWINGING GOOD TIME — Joe Monjes and Rachael Sylvis of Camarillo dance during the 23rd annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival June 5 at CSU Channel Islands. JUST CHILLIN’— Sarah and Shawn Pritchett of Newbury Park enjoy a day of wine, beer and food tasting at the festival.
With all 4,800 available tickets to the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival sold out more than 10 days ahead of time, along with hundreds of volunteers, scores of restaurants, wineries and breweries, there isn’t room for more. Casa Pacifica CEO Steve Elson said the fundraising event Sunday, in its 23rd year at CSU Channel Islands, has reached capacity.“The event started more than 22 years ago in a grassy knoll at the Pierpont Inn, put on by the Casa Pacifica Angels Auxiliary. Since then, it’s grown to become a mainstay,” Elson said. “It’s a fundraiser and contributes a significant amount of our annual campaign each year. But it also raises community awareness. So many people who come to the festival go on to get involved with Casa Pacifica and support us in other ways.” Elson explained that Casa Pacifica offers a wide array of services to up to 4,500 children between age 6 and 18 annually in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. “These are foster youth and kids who for some reason or another we are responsible for in the public sector,” Elson said. The event Sunday helps the Camarillo nonprofit help those youth.
One of the highlights of the annual festival is the Yummie Culinary Competition where 22 area restaurants and food service establishments competed to make the best sweet or savory morsel. The winners of each year’s competition go on to create a menu for the annual Yummie dinner that precedes that annual festival the following year. The morsels were presented to a panel of seven judges. This year Masa Shimikawa, Olivia Crouppen, Troy Glass, Nic Manocchio, Sarene Wallace, Lisa McKinnon and Rita Moran tasted two rounds of nibbles to decide which one was the best in each category. The winner of the savory division in the Yummie competition was Twenty88 Gourmet Fusion, which served a pork rib with a tamarind and hoisin sauce and a tangy slaw. Chef Alex Castillo, who created the dish, explained to Yummie event host Tom Hilton that, “If you come in and buy this at our restaurant 10 times, I’ll give you the recipe.” Sara Stiteler, manager at Twenty88 in Camarillo, said that while winning first place was nice the best part of being at the festival was the good it will do. “It’s for Casa. It’s for the kids,” Stiteler said. “We do this for the community. We always hope to be No. 1. Who doesn’t like to win?” This year the winners in the sweets division was University Village in Thousand Oaks, the eating establishment for the retirement community near California Lutheran University. Pastry Chef Momo Galera created a vanilla Pavlova with chocolate mousse and a tangerine marmalade. Nicholas Albrecht, food and beverage director at University Village, said that the entire culinary staff makes an effort to create delicious, healthy food. Their summer tomato consommé with oxtail grilled cheese won second prize in the savory division. “We work on concepts that are a bit whimsical and match the season. We take something plain — like tomato soup and grilled cheese — and turn it around,” Albrecht said. First-time judge Sarene Wallace, editor of magazine “Edible Ojai & Ventura County,” said she really liked the balance of sweet and tangy, with a bit of a bite that made the Twenty88 entry stand out. She said she was also impressed by the ox tail grilled cheese sandwich. Linda and Raymond Covarrubias, of Oxnard, said they consider themselves foodies who come out each year to the festival. “It’s a worthwhile event that does a lot for our children,” Linda Covarrubias said. “And it’s a real treat.”
Thrive Dance Center is offering free hip-hop classes for special needs children every Tuesday evening with instructor Alyssa Belden. Special education advisor Elissa Spraggins of Thousand Oaks is also present to dance and assist students during the classes. “My students put a smile on my face each Tuesday. I really love to see their improvement each week,” says Belden. “I also absolutely love to play robot freeze dance. It’s a true highlight of my week.”
The Thrive Dance Center also engages in community outreach throughout each year with a beach cleanup, annual holiday food drive, free classes for Casa Pacifica children and a blanket drive for the local animal shelter. In addition, its Jolly Squad performing group tours assisted living facilities and performs at charity events as well. Thrive Dance Center is housed in a 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in Newbury Park. The center offers classes for all ages with qualified faculty in an organized, family-friendly environment. Classes include ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip hop, tap, contemporary, break dancing, turns and leaps, tumbling, acting, voice, musical theatre, flexibility, boys’ hip-hop, toddler classes and adult classes. Online registration is open and tours are available of the facility. Thrive Dance Center is at 3623 Old Conejo Road, Ste. 100, Newbury Park. For more information, visit www.thrivedancecenter.com, call (805) 375-9988 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 www.cpwinefoodbrewfest.com. 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 www.hope4kids.gesture.com.
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 email@example.com 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 www.rrshuttle.com/casapacificawinefestival.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
A 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.
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.
A 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.
Disney 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”
This 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.
TONS 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.
The 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.”
Jaden 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.
Jaden 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!
Casa 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!
Camarillo 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.
The 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 http://www.containerstore.com for more information.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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 www.bhhcalhomes.com or call (805) 496-0555.
FOOD 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 www.casapacifica.org. By Chris O’Neal and Michel Miller
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 http://www.boccefestival.com 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 festival.com. For information about Casa Pacifica, go to http://www.casapacifica.org.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
View 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.
Source: Our Ventura TV
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: www.casapacifica.org
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.”
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.
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 email@example.com. For more information on the TEACh Fund Scholarship, go to vccf.org.
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.
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.
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.
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 https://myab.co/events/B1/i/. 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 https://www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com
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 www.cpwinefoodbrewfest.com.
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 www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
While 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.”
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 casapacif.myab.co 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 www.cpwinefoodbrewfest.com 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 www.casapacifica.org or call (805) 445-7800.
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.
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.
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 www.casapacifica.org or call the development department at (805) 445-7800.
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.
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.”
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 email@example.com or visit www.cpwinefoodbrewfest.com.
The 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.
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 cpwineandfoodfestival.com.To ask about becoming a vendor or sponsor, call Julia Thiessen at 805-366-4014.
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!
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…
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.
Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival tickets are now live and available for purchase at www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com/tickets.
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.
FLASH SALE! Casa Pacifica Angels Wine Food Brew Festival tickets are NOW LIVE and available for purchase at www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com/tickets! 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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 www.casapacifica.org.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The 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
KEYT 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.
Chad 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.”
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.
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
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.
Four 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.
On 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.
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 http://www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com/tickets.
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
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
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 http://www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com/tickets. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com.
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 http://www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com/tickets.
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 email@example.com.
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
Camarillo chamber names winners of community awards
Mayor 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.