Growing up in a children’s home in Arkansas, Dr. Steve Elson never thought he would be involved in any endeavor resembling a children’s home. But after receiving his doctorate in psychology at Michigan State University, he was sidetracked from his career goal in academia to get “real-world” clinical experience first-hand. It happened to be at a children’s residential facility in Connecticut. Once there, he never looked back. He realized that working with children/youth and their families was his calling.
Steve soon gravitated into management and eventually moved to California as executive director of a similar agency in Pasadena. Now, as CEO of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, he oversees a program that resembles a “children’s home” - a residential treatment center located on Casa Pacifica’s 25-acre campus in Camarillo.
Hired while the campus was under construction in 1994, Steve pursed all necessary licenses and staff to operate as Ventura County’s emergency shelter. The campus also includes a health clinic, residential treatment center, and non-public special-education school. Serving about 350 children and youth that first year, Casa Pacifica’s array of services has grown to include a full continuum of care offered through 17 different programs - from residential treatment to in-home and schoolbased behavioral/mental-health services. They have offices in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, and Camarillo and touch the lives of one out of every l 00 children and youth in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties - more than 3,500 annually.
Under Steve’s leadership, Casa Pacifica has become the largest agency on California’s Central Coast serving children and youth with severe emotional and behavioral challenges and their families. All programs are nationally accredited and have received state and national recognition or innovation/excellence. The training institute includes a pre-doctoral internship program approved by the APA and provides consultation to agencies country-wide, training over 2,000 providers annually. In January 2018, Casa Pacifica is co-hosting an International Conference of Child & Youth Care Workers including speakers from 10 countries.
Under construction is a new cottage for youth with substance abuse/mental-health issues. The culmination of a $16.6 million capital campaign, it includes a multipurpose building for vocational education, training, and conference space along with clinical and administrative offices. A leader in the field, Steve has published a number of papers/articles, is active in public policy efforts benefiting children in foster care and other public service systems, and has served as president of five different state and national organizations.
The Lydia Gable Realty Group and Rick Winters of Winters Financial Group will host their eighth annual Coats for Casa Pacifica charity event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat., Jan. 13 at Three Springs Park in Westlake Village.
The family-friendly day will feature 30 tons of snow for sledding and playing in, along with free coffee and smoothies, and kids’ crafts.
Attendees can bring new or gently used winter clothes of all sizes, including coats, sweaters, hoodies, mittens, gloves, winter hats and scarves, to benefit the children and youths of Casa Pacifica in Camarillo, which provides emergency shelter, medical assessment and treatment, and other services to children removed from their homes for abuse and neglect.
Last year, over 2,500 articles of winter clothing were donated. To date, over 10,000 items have been donated and distributed.
The event will take place rain or shine. If the weather is threatening, updates will be posted on coatsforcasapacifica.com and on Facebook.
An equestrian show in Camarillo jumped in to provide some relief for victims and first responders of the Thomas fire, the largest in California history.
“Odysseo,” which opened Nov. 12 and continues through Jan. 28, hosted a free 55-minute condensed version of its regular show on Dec. 21 for fire victims and first-responders. Also invited were foster kids from Camarillo’s Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families and children from area Boys & Girls Clubs.
Camarillo, CA – On Friday, December 1st, longtime Casa Pacifica supporter Pat Bostrom donated and decorated a beautiful Holiday Cheerfor the Casa Pacifica youth to enjoy. Pat was joined by friends, Arlene and Sharon to help spread the holiday spirit. The decorated Christmas tree is located in the Intake Department where the youth check in and out every time they leave or come back to campus. The hundreds of family visits that will occur over the month will also enjoy the beautiful tree in the Intake Department which adds a warm holiday element, brings a sense of normalcy, and helps make the family visits feel extra special. The tree is perfectly positioned in the bay window of Intake and when lit at night, can be viewed from the quad for all the youth to see.
We want to thank Pat for all the time and effort she spent planning and purchasing items for the tree to make it absolutely perfect for our youth. Supporters like Pat who take the time to do extra special projects like the Christmas tree, help Casa Pacifica feel a little bit more like home for our youth during the holidays – which are a time of joy for many, but are often the hardest time of year for our youth. “While decorating, one of the little girls walked through Intake, stopped in awe and said she had never had a Christmas tree before. It is so rewarding to do things like this!” said Pat of her time spent decorating at Casa Pacifica.
Pat and her husband Herb, have been supporting Casa Pacifica since 2010. They are active donors and frequent supporters of our Spotlight on Style Fashion Show. Most recently they have been involved in the Building New Foundations of Hope Capital Campaign which involves a two building expansion on Casa Pacifica’s Camarillo Campus. In addition to their annual support, Pat and Herb are hosting a Christmas party and have asked the attendees to bring a Christmas gift for Casa Pacifica children.
This year’s sixth annual Shop With a Cop shopping spree, co-sponsored by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and the department’s foundation, was the biggest yet, organizer Dep. Mario Molina said, providing a record 164 children with $150 each in Target merchandise, plus a pair of shoes of their choice.
Lindsay, a 12-year veteran who participated in Shop With a Cop for the third time this year, said he’s nominated “some amazing kids” to the program in the past, including one girl who insisted on using her shopping money to buy presents for her brothers and sisters who otherwise wouldn’t get Christmas presents.
“After she bought the presents, we went out and bought her some toys just for her,” the deputy said.
This year Lindsay, the school resource officer at Rancho Campana High School in Camarillo, nominated Aiko Trahan, 16, a junior at Rancho Campana, who the deputy met while working at the campus.
“A lot of times people call these kids disadvantaged, but that’s not really the right word. They’re deserving kids,” he said. “I met Aiko at school. I ended up meeting her family. She’s just a really good kid, and I wanted to bless her with this.”
For her part, Aiko said she wanted to spend some of her $150 on presents for kids at Casa Pacifica, a shelter for foster children.
“The kids there have really been through a lot, so I want to help them in some small way,” she said.
It’s going to be a great show for a worthy cause. The 7th annual Toy Drive, sponsored by the Ventura County Blues Society, is happening Saturday at Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo. All proceeds will benefit Casa Pacifica, a place that provides hope and help for families and children — many in such dire circumstances that even Dick Cheney might cry.
Here are the facts according to Blues Society founder/performer Michael John: “This is our annual deal, where all the proceeds go to Casa Pacifica. One year, they gave us a tour and it just broke my heart, but they’re definitely doing something positive.
“So, we’ve got several bands and several special guests — it’s gonna be a good thing, man. It’s 20 bucks at the door or a brand new unwrapped toy worth 20 bucks or more, or, which many people are doing — they’re doing both — bringing a gift then dropping off some cash. And, like I said, 100 percent of the proceeds go to Casa Pacifica. It all started with my wife. Casa Pacifica was always been near and dear to her heart, and so we’ve just been doing it ever since, and we just show up with five or six SUVs full of toys and we give them a nice check, too. We’ve got Guy (Martin) and Alastair (Greene), Debbie Davies and Deb Ryder — everybody donates their time which is very cool.”
For six weeks, two teams from the Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families have raced to see which could raise the most funds before Giving Tuesday, an international movement launched in 2012 by the New York-based Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact. Now, the stakes have been raised as CEO Dr. Steve Elson will walk the plank as a reward for one of the two teams.
The teams, one comprising staff of Casa Pacifica’s Development Agency and the other one comprising all other staff members, both have a goal of raising $10,000 by midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 28. If the Development Agency wins, Elson is saved from a dunking in a water tank during Casa’s employee town hall in December. If the staff wins, however, Elson will explore the contents of Davey Jones’ locker.
Casa Pacifica must raise up to 12 percent of its annual budget through donations to fill in the gap between expected revenue and government service contracts. As of Friday, Nov. 17, just under $4,000 had been raised.
Aera Energy provided support to Casa Pacifica families in need during the holidays by providing complete Thanksgiving meals.
Aera and its employees continued a Thanksgiving tradition started last year to assemble boxes filled with everything a family of six needs to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Employees donated funds to purchase canned and dry goods along with an aluminum turkey roasting pan and pie pan for 61 families. The company topped off each box with a turkey, bread, fresh vegetables and whipped topping for the pumpkin pie.
“We’re excited to support this program,” said Michele Newell, Aera Energy spokesperson. “Giving to the community through charitable causes and employee involvement are a focus for Aera — it’s part of what we’re founded upon; it’s in our DNA — and we look forward to making this an ongoing tradition.”
Produce Anytime, a Casa Pacifica supporter, donated employee time and a refrigerated truck to pick up the donation of turkeys and trimmings and deliver it to Casa Pacifica on Wednesday. Then Aera employees, Casa Pacifica employees and clients were to fill the boxes with food. Recipients will include Casa Pacifica alumni and their families, young adults in the agency’s Transitional Youth Services program who live in the community, and families receiving Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica’s community-based services.
Over the past six weeks, Casa Pacifica has held a staff competition to see who can get more donors, with the development department versus the rest of the agency.
If the development department wins, Elson is saved from dunk tank doom. If the agency team wins, he is going to make a splash at the next Casa Pacifica employee town hall.
The campaign goal is to raise $10,000 by midnight on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28.
The community can also participate in the contest. To donate for either team, go to the website tinyurl.com/cpgivingtuesday or call Karisa Lim, development and public relations coordinator, at (805) 366-4021.
Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families is trying to send CEO Steve Elson to the dunk tank for the grand finale of the Giving Tuesday campaign.
Over the past six weeks, Casa Pacifica has held a staff competition to see who can get more donors—the development department or the rest of the agency. If the development department wins, Elson is saved from dunk-tank doom. If the agency team wins, he is going to make a splash at the next Casa Pacifica employee town hall.
The campaign goal is to raise $10,000 by midnight on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28.
The community can also participate in the contest. To donate for either team, go to tinyurl.com/cpgivingtuesday or call Karisa Lim, development and public relations coordinator, at (805) 366-4021.
The Twisted Oak is definitely on the cutting edge of culinary and beverage creativity in the area, a veritable fun house of bites and treats.
It’s a good place to hang out and have a good time,” Walker said.
Twisted Oaks’ newest burger, the PB&J, a must-try for adventurous foodies, is inspired by one of America’s sandwich staples. It features peanut butter, blackberry bacon jam, house-made potato chips and applewood-smoked bacon. It tastes much better than mere words can express.
A longtime favorite of guests, and one of mine as well, is a dinner appetizer of sweet pork belly chunks, perfectly cooked and glazed bites drizzled with toasted sesame aioli and topped with pickled honeydew and micro celery. Yum!
And as exciting as the menu is on the culinary side of Twisted Oak, the beverage offerings are equally spectacular.
Voted CraftBeer.com’s best bar in California as well as one of its Great American Beer bars in 2016, Twisted Oak is proud of its local honors as well, including being a two-time winner of Casa Pacifica’s Best in Fest brewery competition.
The Conejo Valley chapter of National Charity League will host the 36th annual NCL Ball Fri., Nov. 24 in the Grand Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village.
At the ball, 14 young women will be honored for their philanthropic and league service in NCL.
Collectively, the 2017 NCL class has contributed over 4,000 community service hours to local organizations.
National Charity League is a nonprofit organization of mothers and daughters in grades seven through 12 who take part in community service in chapters throughout the United States.
The Conejo Valley chapter supports 21 local philanthropies including Therapeutic Recreation, Manna Conejo Valley food bank, Casa Pacifica, Many Mansions, Senior Concerns, Los Robles Hospital and Operation Gratitude. The chapter also provides scholarships to high school graduates.
The 2017 debutantes are Perianne Hixson Bingham, Olivia Amber Coto, Alanna Gabrielle Hurd, Sarah Renee Lavin, Katelyn MacKenna Lee, Elizabeth May Takara Lippel, Morgan Taylor Melito, Victoria Kay Miles, Alexandrea Elizabeth Parmele, Caitlin Erin Ryan, Katelyn Nicole Sand, Emily Ann Schultz, Jeanette Marie Simanek and Grace Carolyn Smith.
Comprised of 24 individuals, the board of directors offer experience and expertise in a wide range of areas and include: lawyers; law enforcement with the Ventura County’s Sheriff Office; representatives from banks, investment and insurance services; persons in the medical field, construction, agricultural management and equipment rentals; the retired superintendent of the Moorpark Unified School District; and community advocates.
H. Edward Elson, M.D. A retired physician, Elson practiced internal medicine of the kidney. He practiced in Oxnard and held affiliations at hospitals in Oxnard, Camarillo and Ventura.
Eric Shain is the vice president of production finance for Disney ABC Television Group. He is a certified public accountant and has worked for Disney in some financial/accounting capacity since 2001. Shain oversees the internal and external financial aspects of development and production of both shortform and long-form original programming for Disney Channel, Disney XD, Freeform and Disney Jr.
Bart Stern is president of Ventura Investment Co., an investment and real estate firm based in Camarillo with offices in Nevada and Arizona. The company specializes in the purchase, management and disposition of apartment communities and commercial properties in the western United States.
Jeffrey Tillman is the western director of business development for Crowe Horwath LLP, Los Angeles, which is one of the largest accounting firms in the U.S. and the leading member of Crowe Horwath International, a global accounting firm.
Tillman is also the president emeritus of ACG 101, a branch of the Association for Corporate Growth.
Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families is a crisiscare and residential treatment facility for abused, neglected or at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Seven people will be honored as part of National Philanthropy Day at 11:30 a.m. Tues., Nov. 14 at the Fess Parker Double Tree Resort in Santa Barbara. The event is presented by the Santa Barbara and Ventura counties chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
This year’s National Philanthropy Day honorees for Ventura County are William Rolland for Philanthropist of the Year and Eloise and Chuck Cohen for Volunteers of the Year. Rolland and the Cohens live in Thousand Oaks.
Eloise Olson Cohen is a graduate of Cal Lutheran University and Philips Graduate Institute and has been a resident of Thousand Oaks since 1963. She had a career in private practice at the Family Counseling Center of the Oaks, and she is the assistant director of the Harold Stoner Clark Lectures at CLU. In addition to working with CLU’s development committee of the Center for Nonprofit Management, she is a member of the Casa Pacific Angels, Angels of the Arts and Ascension Lutheran Church.
Chuck Cohen graduated from UCLA with bachelor’s and law degrees and has practiced law in Thousand Oaks since 1961. He is a partner with Cohen Begun & Deck LLP in Westlake Village.
Cohen served on the Water Bond Committee which brought Metropolitan Water to the Conejo Valley and resulted in the incorporation of the City of Thousand Oaks. He has also served as a city planning commissioner, councilman and mayor. He is past president of the Ventura County Bar Association, Conejo/Las Virgenes Future Foundation and Casa Pacifica, and was named chair emeritus of the Conejo Valley Optimist Club. He is a board member of the McCrea Ranch Foundation, Casa Pacifica, KCLU-FM and Cal State Channel Islands, and serves on the advisory committee for Community Conscience. The Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce named him Man of the Year in 1990 for his service to the community. He received the Guardian Angel Award from Casa Pacifica and was named King of Mardi Gras in 2012 by Community Conscience.
November is National Adoption Month, and Foster VC Kids is sharing a heartwarming story in hopes of inspiring adoptions in Ventura County.
Victor Pulido and Pedro Virgen completed foster parent certification in 2014, moving one step closer to fulfilling a dream of raising a family together. The couple received their license on a Friday, and the following Tuesday the couple were foster parents of two.
Since then, Pulido and Virgen have fostered 15 children from newborn to teenager.
This year, Pulido and Virgen have completed the process to adopt a child of their own, a 6-month-old named Mattias, all the while fostering a 16-year-old girl from Casa Pacifica in Camarillo.
The county currently has 900 foster children and youth waiting for a foster home. Foster VC Kids says that the children most in need of support are youth over 9 years of age, infants and children with medical needs and separated siblings.
Pulido and Virgen urge others to become foster parents.
“Transforming the lives of children and families is incredible, giving them the feeling that they do have a future.”
For more information about Foster VC Kids, visit www.fostervckids.org.
California State Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin attended Casa Pacifica’s Board of Directors meeting on Wed., November 1st. She discussed issues pertinent to the programs and services #CasaPacifica provides. She also provided a cybersecurity guide and an update on bills AB 531 and AB 1022, which she authored to further secure California’s valuable network from cyber criminals.
Casa Pacifica is grateful to Assemblymember Irwin for her participation, and ongoing support to help us provide help and hope to our region’s most vulnerable children and youth. #thankyou #jaquiirwin #cybersecurity
The all-volunteer collective donor group, the Women’s Fund, gathered on September 26th to hear presentations by their most recent grant recipients, including Casa Pacifica. Over the course of nearly a year, its Research Committee conducts in-depth research on nonprofit programs and projects and submits a ballot of finalists to the general membership for a vote on the ultimate grantees. The Women’s Fund, by pooling its members donations and engaging in rigorous research of the community’s needs, is able to identify and fund critical projects such as these. #CasaPacifica is deeply grateful to expand rapid mobile crisis weekend response for children and youth experiencing a mental health emergency. A much needed program in the community, this will enable us to service many crisis. Thank you #WomensFund for your gracious support!
Pictured: AHA! Programs Coordinator and Facilitator Melissa Lowenstein, Noah’s Anchorage Executive Director Valerie Kissell, Casa Pacifica Director of Community Services Thomas Sodergren, Harding University Partnership School Principal Veronica Binkley, St. Vincent’s President/CEO Rosa Paredes, Peoples’ Self Help Housing President/CEO John Fowler, Santa Barbara Unified School District Community of Schools Coordinator Patricia Madrigal, and Domestic Violence Solutions Executive Director Charles Anderson.
The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara will host the Site Visit Kick-Off, 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, at The Fess Parker. The annual event, now in its 13th year, features progress reports from the local nonprofits that received $485,000 in Women’s Fund grants this past spring.
Grantees will describe to Women’s Fund members and their guests the impact the grants have had on their organization and their clients.
The eight 2016-17 grantees are: Accelerated Reader Program, AHA!–Attitude. Harmony. Achievement, Casa Pacifica, Channel Island YMCA – Noah’s Anchorage, PEAC–Program for Effective Access to College, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, St. Vincent’s, and Domestic Violence Solutions.
After the Sept. 26 Kick-Off, Women’s Fund members and guests will have the opportunity to visit the 2016-17 grantees to see first-hand how Women’s Fund grants are changing lives. These visits will be available on a first-come basis between October and early December.
Donating some $6.1 million to the community since 2004, the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara is a volunteer-driven collective donor group that enables women to combine charitable dollars into significant grants focused on critical needs of women, children and families in south Santa Barbara County.
The Women’s Fund has grown from 68 members in 2004 to nearly 750 in 2017.
For more information, visit the Women’s Fund website www.womensfundsb.org.
The Ventura County Leadership Academy has announced members of its new class. Marika Collins, Casa Pacifica’s special projects and public policy officer, will participate in this yearlong academy alongside representatives from Ventura Co. Government, VC Public Health, American Red Cross, Ventura Co. Sheriff Department, Naval Base VC, CSU Channel Islands, FOOD Share and many more.
Representatives will participate in interactive sessions that address issues and forecasts for our region, from education, public safety, health care, economic development, arts and culture, agriculture and housing to critical issues presented by leaders in their fields of expertise. One of the sessions takes place in Sacramento, where participants will receive a detailed overview of the legislative process and opportunity to meet with government officials.
Officials at the Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families in Camarillo learned a week ago that they had received the license after what Elson called an arduous approval process including several inspections by state officials. He said the program is up and running, making Casa Pacifica one of the first agencies in the state to implement the reform.
Among the elements are twice-monthly meetings involving staff, youth and their significant others to discuss ways to find permanent homes. Assessments based on brain science will be conducted to help youths develop positive relationships and change their behavior, Elson said. Two programs will operate under the license at the Casa Pacifica center outside Camarillo. One allows 25 kids to stay for up to 45 days. Staff members will collaborate with county social workers to deliver the assessment and counseling the children need to move into family-based care, Elson said.
The other program will admit children who need treatment for up to six months to move into family-based care successfully, he said. Operators of small group homes are also attempting to become licensed to operate short-term residential therapeutic programs.That is a high bar for the organizations that may lack the staff and administrative structure to meet state requirements, county officials said. It’s a national priority to lower the rate at which children are placed in group care. Ventura County and California both had a lower proportion of children in group care in statistics quoted last year than the U.S. average. Placements of Ventura County foster youth in group homes have decreased by a quarter over the past year. The number dropped from 57 in June 2016 to 43 in June 2017, according to the Ventura County Human Services Agency.
The Care For Kids Golf Classic took place at Spanish Hills Country Club on July 17 to benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families and the Camarillo Rotary Foundation.
Hosted by the Rotary Clubs of Camarillo and title sponsor Advanced Motion Controls, the tournament honorees were David Nichols and Richard Quinn of Opolo Vineyards. This was the 25th anniversary of the event, which has raised more than $1.5 million over the years for Casa Pacifica and the foundation.
The next Care For Kids Golf Classic will take place Mon., July 16, 2018.
For its second year, Cabrillo Music Theatre has launched the Adopt-A-Bus campaign that brings the community together to sponsor buses to take at-risk/ in-need children to attend a live theater show at no cost to the kids.
This year, the regional theater company joined with several Boys & Girls Clubs, Safe Passages and Casa Pacifica to accommodate six buses and bring more than 300 children to the July 19 matinee performance of “Peter Pan.”
For more information or to buy tickets to future shows, visit www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.
For a second year, Cabrillo Music Theatre has launched its “Adopt-A-Bus” campaign to sponsor buses to transport at-risk/at-need children to attend a live theater performance. This year, the regional theater company has partnered with several Boys & Girls Clubs, Safe Passages and Casa Pacifica to accommodate six buses bringing a total of over 300 children to its July 19 matinee performance of “Peter Pan.”
“The companies that sponsored these buses are really the ones that deserve all of the recognition,” said Cindy Murray, secretary of the board of Cabrillo. “They provide the sponsorship for these children, who might not otherwise have access, to attend the performance at no cost, and we’re so grateful for their support and their help in bringing the arts to children in our community.”
Each of this year’s sponsors contributed to cover one bus. In addition to Cabrillo Music Theatre board members, sponsors include ColourPop, Alderman Bushe Interiors, Ron and Claudia de la Pena, James Engel and The Sleep Shoppe. In exchange for their sponsorship, each sponsor will receive recognition from the stage, a signed cast photo, two complimentary orchestra seats to “Peter Pan” and a VIP pre-show event. Following Peter Pan, which runs for 10 performances from July 14-23, Cabrillo Music Theatre will begin its 2017-18 season in October, featuring “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Nonprofit Cabrillo Music Theatre is the resident professional theatre production company of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.
To buy tickets or to learn more about Cabrillo Music Theatre, visit http://www.cabrillomusictheatre.com.
The Rotary Clubs of Camarillo will host the 25th annual Care For Kids Golf Classic Mon., July 17 at Spanish Hills Country Club, 999 Crestview Ave., Camarillo.
Golfers of all skill levels can participate in a day of challenging golf in shotgun format to benefit Casa Pacifica and other Rotary charities. In addition to the gross and net play competition, each golfer will receive a tee package and the option to compete in long-drive and on-course “Closest to the Hole” contests. Afterward, players will have a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception and awards dinner in the clubhouse, along with an opportunity drawing and a live auction. Over 25 years of hosting this event, the Rotary Clubs of Camarillo has donated more than $1.5 million in support of vulnerable children and families in Ventura County.
There are still openings for single players or foursomes. To sign up or for more information, call Anna Coulson at (805) 366-4023 or email email@example.com. For more event information, visit www.casapacifica.org.
The Rotary Clubs of Camarillo will host the 25th annual Care For Kids Golf Classic on July 17 at Spanish Hills Country Club. The event benefits Casa Pacifica and other Rotary charities. The annual event has raised more than $1.5 million in support of the vulnerable children and families of Ventura County. Cost to play is $395. To sign up, contact Anna Coulson at 366-4023, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ventura Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Group and Ambassadors recently participated in the fourth annual YPG Challenge, a contest in which members compete to collect donations for local nonprofits.
This year’s challenge directed thousands of linen donations to temporary and transitional housing organizations and crowned the Young Professionals Group as the winning team. The Young Professionals Group is made up of members between ages of 21 and 40 who are interested in creating positive changes in self and the community.
“The YPG challenge is a great way to give back to our community and bring people together for some fun competition,” said Shelby Bishop, chair of the Young Professionals Group. “Events like these spice up the efforts and motivate us to make a difference where we live and work.”
Thousands of linen items were collected and delivered to local nonprofits including Turning Point Foundation, The City Center, Project Understanding and Tender Life Maternity Home, Ventura Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Casa Pacifica, Lighthouse for Women and Children, and Family Promise. DKN hotels, parent company of Ventura’s Pierpont Inn, donated thousands of linens and pillows. Comfort Inn Ventura Beach and Crowne Plaza also donated items to the challenge. In related news, Young Professionals Group hosted the food tent for the American Cancer Society’s Ventura’s Relay for Life and were recognized by members of the community for their efforts.
Recognizing that the family is the foundation of our community, we believe that children who live in nurturing, stable environments will mature into healthy, productive members of society.
On Wednesday, June 28th, from 6:30p – 8:30p, Casa Pacifica will be hosting a “Resource Parent Orientation.” Marcie Kullback, Program Coordinator of Casa Pacifica’s Intensive Treatment Foster Care Parenting Program, will inform guests and future resource parents about the importance of – and huge need for – foster families, how to become a resource parent, and more.
For more information about Casa Pacifica’s Foster Parenting, contact Marcie Kullback at (805) 366-4355, or visit https://www.casapacifica.org/programs_services/Foster_Parenting.
On June 14, Camarillo Rotary gave Vocational Service Awards recognizing business leaders in the community that honor the principles of Rotary’s 4 Way Test, an ethical guide for making decisions.
Award recipients were invited to a luncheon where they spoke about their business values and their work in the community. The honored business leaders this year were:
Steve Elson and Carrie Hughes, of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families.
Eric Harrison, of United Way of Ventura County.
Debbie Carpenter, of Camarillo Travel.
Kevin Kildee, of Bob Kildee Clothing.
Audrey Walzer and Christi Harman, of the Camarillo Yoga Center.
Rotary’s 4 Way Test asks the following questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Rotary recognizes business leaders in the community that honor the principles of Rotary’s 4 Way Test, an ethical guide for making decisions – Is it the Truth? Is it Fair to all concerned? Will it build Goodwill? Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?
Members of Camarillo Rotary nominated local businesses that exemplify this model. Five businesses were selected for recognition and invited to a luncheon where they spoke about their business values and their work in the community. The five honored this year are:
Steve Elson and Carrie Hughes of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families.
Eric Harrison of United Way of Ventura County.
Debbie Carpenter of Camarillo Travel.
Kevin Kildee of Bob Kildee Clothing.
Audrey Walzer and Christi Harman of the Camarillo Yoga Center.
Wine, food and brew fest nets $450K for shelter
The 24th annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival took place June 4. Although a final number is still being determined, the estimate is that the festival raised over $450,000 net toward the $3-million budget gap Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families must raise each year to support its programs serving Ventura and Santa Barbara counties’ abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families. The live entertainment on the main stage featured performances by Benise and the multi-decade cover band Wes Quave. Guests danced to the music. DJ Bruce Barrios served as the master of ceremonies and DJ. Guests in the VIP Lounge listened and danced to the band Sound Effect.
In addition, festivalgoers placed bids on theme baskets in the silent auction through an online/mobile bidding system. With 75 food exhibitors and 150 wines and brews from throughout the Central Coast, guests were treated to a huge sample of sweet and savory dishes, desserts, wines, brews and specialty drinks from restaurants, caterers, bakeries and specialty shops. This year’s Best in Fest brewery competition winner was Maibock- Hells Bock from Enegren Brewing Company in Moorpark. The seventh annual Yummie culinary competition showcased exhibiting chefs’ entries in either a savory or sweet category. They were judged on flavor, presentation, innovation and quality. Rachel Hollis, founder of lifestyle website The Chic Site, author of the fiction series “The Girls” and Hollywood event planner, served as the emcee for the competition.
The Yummie panel of judges included Eric Kopelow, vice president and corporate executive chef of NBC Universal Studios Hollywood; Masa Shimakawa, chef de cuisine of ONYX at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village; Olivia Crouppen, “Master- Chef” competitor and fashion stylist; Julia San Bartolome, founding executive pastry chef for Sweet Arleen’s and Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” winner; Rita Moran, Ventura County Star food critic; and Nic Manocchio, chef of University Auxiliary Services for Cal State Channel Islands. The 2017 Yummie Top Chef first-place award winner in the Savory category was Chef Alex Castillo of Twenty88 Gourmet Fusion for his Cuban Skewer of marinated shrimp with andouille sausage and plantain over yucca root and charred corn al ajillo, jicama and watercress slaw with roasted pasilla cilantro drizzle.
Second-place winner was Chef Ernest Romero of J Wolf Catering for his Pork Belly Banh Mi made of crispy smoked pork belly on French bread, topped with a Vietnamese-inspired slaw. Winning third place in the Savory category was Chef Sandra Cordero of Gasolina Cafe for her Sandia Y Tomate Gazpacho: chilled watermelon and tomato soup with basil oil croquetas New Orleans made of Morcilla sausage croqueta with lemon aioli. The first-place Yummie winner in the Sweet category was Chef Michael Aviles of University Village Thousand Oaks for his S’mor For Now, a Swiss chocolate truffle rolled in chili-dusted graham cracker crumbs covered by toasted marshmallow fluff. Second place went to Chef Alex Montoya of The Cave for his Strawberry Jalapeno Margarita Anti-Griddle Frozen Custard Pie with tequila-whipped cream and sea salt and a strawberry, jalapeno, shortbread cookie crust with tequilla, cream, and sea salt. Placing third in the Sweet category was Chef Alison Davis of Sugar Lab Bake Shop for her choux pastry filled with peanut butter caramel cream dipped in caramel glaze and chocolate ganache, then garnished with candied peanuts.
The fourth annual Yummie Top Chef Dinner, featuring a speakeasy theme, took place in the VIP Lounge before the festival. The room was decorated in a Roaring Twenties theme. Hosted by the Cassar family, the seven-course dinner was prepared by master chefs who were previous winners of the Yummie Culinary Competition. Each course was paired with a local wine, with one course paired with Enegren’s Maibock brew winner. Each chef and winemaker shared inside information about their creation with dinner guests as their course was served. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean served as master of ceremonies for the evening. Roadrunner Shuttle and Limousine provided a Safe Ride Program for guests to travel to and from their homes. For more information about the festival, go to www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com.
FOODIE EVENT DOESN’T DISAPPOINT
If you were lucky enough to score tickets to the 24th annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival on Sunday, before they sold out, then you were among thousands who enjoyed a day of gluttony with no guilt. It’s a great cause, after all. Those who had the patience to wait in line and the good fortune to have VIP tickets were ushered through the Mastro’s Steakhouse entrance, featuring Champagne with a strawberry on the glass rim and steak tartare. (It should come as no surprise that Mastro’s was the east county winner in the 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards for steak house.) Also at the event on Sunday, Alex Castillo of Twenty88 Gourmet Fusion was awarded the first-place Yummie Award for savory with his “Cuban skewer” and chef Michael Aviles of University Village Thousand Oaks won first place in sweets for his “s’mor for now” chocolate truffles. To find out the other winners and for complete coverage of the festival, check out the Ventura County Star’s story, video and photo gallery HERE.
Thousands of attendees packed the grounds of CSU Channel Islands to taste food, desserts, beer and wine from hundreds of local and visiting vendors. Some vendors and chefs participated in the Yummie Top Chef Culinary Competition for bragging rights and prizes.The event, which had sold-out all of its general admission and VIP tickets by Friday, is the largest fundraiser for Casa Pacifica, a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services to children and adolescents from around central and southern California including residential treatment. Cindi Fredrick, a member of the Angels, the volunteer group responsible for organizing the festival, said the organization was hoping to raise about $450,000 from the event. About $1 million is needed to complete a substance abuse housing project for Casa Pacifica, she said.
“It’s going great,” Fredrick said, as swarms of attendees passed by with filled wine and beer glasses. Crowds were greeted with strawberries and champagne upon entering the festival before walking onto a broad lawn filled with rows upon rows of vendors. Attendees could hardly walk anywhere before catching sight of something tempting.
El Rey Cantina, a Camarillo restaurant represented at the festival by new owner Laina Jensen and El Rey’s head chef, offered tacos that prompted a line to form. Jensen, during a short intermission from taco making, noted the amount of work it took to participate in the event. “It’s a lot of prep work,” she said, pointing to about 50 pounds of pork meat and hundreds of tortillas for their al pastor tacos. Jensen said she’s happy to help the Camarillo nonprofit because of the work it accomplishes. “It’s a good organization,” she said. “We’re happy to do it and we’ll continue to do it.”
The Moorpark-based brewery Enegren Brewing Company, whose “Maibock” was honored as Best in Fest Brew, also drew crowds. Ryan Allen, Enegren’s master brewer, poured glass after glass of golden beer and called the experience “surreal.” However, he too remained cognizant of the festival’s purpose. “We love that (Casa Pacifica) takes care of kids,” Allen said. “It’s an honor to be a part (of the festival).” The festival’s beneficiaries were never far out of mind, even for those working the hardest.
The angels were certainly smiling down on the Casa Pacifica staff and volunteers of the 24th Annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine Food & Brew Festival 2017!
What started out as a cold, drizzly morning, turned into blue skies and sunshine just as the very first VIP guest walked through the gate. They were greeted by Casa Pacifica volunteers Lori Silvey and Christina with glasses filled with champagne and blueberries, topped off with a huge home-grown Oxnard strawberry. The record breaking sold-out crowd of more than 5,000 was treated to 75 of Ventura County’s most delicious culinary delicacies paired with a selection of fine wine from wineries who came from as far away as Napa and Sonomoa Valley and beer from local micro-breweries. VIP guests danced to the music of Instone while enjoying special desserts created by Jana Richardson and Vanessa, owners of “Delicious Artistry”. J’s Crab Bisque served in a sour dough bowl by Chef Jason of Plated Events was a festival favorite.
On the main stage, DJ Bruce Barrios announced the “Yummie” awards presented for best Sweet, best Savory and best Brew of the day. Wes Quave Live continued the celebration throughout the rest of the day. It was not only an afternoon of fun, food, wine and beer. The Casa Pacifica Angels Wine Food & Brew Festival annual is the largest fundraiser for Casa Pacifica, a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services to children and adolescents from around central and southern California including residential treatment. A Casa Pacifica spokesperson said support from the thousands who attended the event will go toward the organization’s Building New Foundations of Hope capital campaign goal of rising $1.6M to build a new residential substance abuse treatment facility in the Ventura County and Santa Barbara County that will be focused specifically on youth struggling with substance abuse.
2017 Yummie award winners
First Place: Chef Alex Castillo of Twenty88 Gourmet Fusion for his “Cuban skewer”
Second Place: Chef Ernest Romero of J Wolf Catering & BBQ for his “Pork belly banh mi”
Third Place: Chef/Owner Sandra Cordero of Gasolina for her “sandia y tomate gazpacho”
First Place: Chef Michael Aviles of University Village Thousand Oaks for his “s’mor for now” chocolate truffles
Second Place: Chef Alex Montoya of The Cave for his “Strawberry jalapeno margarita anti-griddle” frozen custard pie
Third Place: Chef Alison Davis of Sugar Lab Bake Shop for her choux pastry filled with peanut butter caramel cream
Popular event expected to sell out; proceeds to benefit Casa Pacifica
The Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival returns to California State University Channel Islands Sun., June 4. The popular event brings together hundreds of wineries, restaurants and breweries for an afternoon of sampling and fun. Live music and a silent auction highlight the event. The festivities begin tonight, June 2, with the fourth annual Yummie Top Chef Dinner. Ventura County’s top chefs will once again be brought together to create a one-of-a-kind dinner for the evening. Past Yummies culinary competition winners will create a special seven-course dinner paired with award-winning wines and the beer competition’s “Best in Fest” winner.
All proceeds from the Wine, Food & Brew Festival benefit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, which serves abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Last year the festival netted more than $450,000— money which goes toward the $3 million Casa Pacifica needs to raise each year. General admission tickets, $150 each, are still on sale, but the event is expected to sell out. To purchase, visit www.cpwineandfoodfestival.com. Doors open at noon for VIP ticketholders and 1 p.m. for general admission guests. The event ends at 5 p.m.
Some of Ventura County’s top chefs donated their services this evening for Casa Pacifica’s ‘Yummie Top Chef’ fundraiser.
Friday night’s speakeasy themed event featured seven courses paired with award winning wines.Tickets were $200 and all the money goes straight to Casa Pacifica. A home for abused and neglected children in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. “This is the event of the year for sure. All the chefs come together in Ventura County. It is a lot of fun, a great cause, and really we are just having a great time, as you can see look at everybody they are having a blast,” said Chef John Paolone of Café Firenze. Friday night’s event was just the appetizer for Casa Pacifica’s fundraising weekend.
The main event Casa Pacifica’s 24th annual Wine, Food, and Brew Festival will take place this Sunday at Cal State University Channel Islands.
On May 8, 345 members and guests of the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara gathered for the 13th annual Presentation of Grants Reception at the Fess Parker Doubletree hotel. Grants totaling $485,000 were distributed to area nonprofits for eight programs including a $75,000 grant to Casa Pacifica to expand rapid mobile crisis weekend response for children and youth experiencing a mental health emergency.
An all-volunteer, collective donor group with about 750 members, the Women’s Fund combines the donations of its members into significant grants focused on the critical needs of women, children and families in south Santa Barbara County. Over the course of nearly a year, its Research Committee conducts in-depth research of programs of area nonprofits and submits a ballot of finalists to the general membership for a vote on the ultimate grantees. Steering Committee Co-chair Laurie Tumbler shared how “we contribute to the Women’s Fund because we want to make a difference and collectively, that difference is larger than what most of us can do on our own.” She reiterated the organization’s mantra, “We are changing lives together.
FMC will donate 1 percent of sales, up to $75,000, from its Coastal California territory to Casa Pacifica from now through September, the company said.
Casa Pacifica’s mission is to provide hope and help for abused, neglected or at-risk children and their families. Services include emergency shelter care, education, health services, residential treatment care, behavioral therapy, a Families Forward program for Latino families and more. Services are delivered in homes, in the communities and from its campus in Camarillo. The program serves more than 4,500 children and their families a year.
FMC is encouraging its retail and farm customers to make their own donations to Casa Pacifica. To learn more and to donate, visit https://www.casapacifica.org/ways_to_give/fmc.
“It started out small — just an occasional drink at a party or a cigarette offered by one of the cool kids. But that was in eighth grade. By 10th grade, I was skipping class to smoke marijuana at a friend’s house. And by the time my peers were going to prom, I had dropped out of school and was severely addicted to cocaine. I couldn’t hold down a job, I had destroyed relationships with almost everyone I loved, and I felt sick and nervous all the time. But all I cared about was the high. More than anything I wish someone had intervened, somehow made me see the light, before it went so far.” — Anonymous
The anonymous name attached to this story could easily be filled in by any number of our community’s children. In a California Department of Education survey of Ventura County middle school and high school students, more than 30 percent admitted to having used alcohol or illegal drugs within the past month. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost 70 percent of high school students have tried alcohol and 50 percent have taken an illegal drug by the time they reach 12th grade. And it doesn’t always stop at one-time experimentation — according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 1 in 20 U.S. adolescents needed treatment for substance abuse in the past year.
Despite these staggering statistics, there is not currently a local, publicly funded residential substance abuse treatment facility in the Ventura County and Santa Barbara County communities that is focused specifically on youth struggling with substance abuse — potentially leaving these vulnerable children without access to much-needed help, hope and support. This is a serious and unacceptable problem, and Casa Pacifica has made it our mission to implement a solution.
Through our Building New Foundations of Hope capital campaign, we are raising funds to construct two new residential substance abuse treatment cottages — with eight beds each — on our campus. Once complete, these facilities will allow us to offer the 24/7 care and attention our community’s afflicted youth need to heal their bodies and regain control of their lives.
A report by the Child Welfare League of America states that substance abuse is estimated to be a factor in approximately 75 percent of foster care placements. And according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 60 percent of youth who enter substance abuse treatment also have psychiatric disorders. Given Casa Pacifica’s background and expertise providing life-changing guidance to children facing abuse and neglect, family crises and complex emotional and behavioral issues, we believe our campus is a natural fit for these essential substance abuse treatment facilities.
Our planned residential substance abuse treatment program incorporates key advances related to neuroscience, adolescent development and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. These concepts are applied through specific evidence-based practices, including the Matrix Model, craving identification and management, motivational interviewing, and dialectical behavior therapy. This highly structured program provides a range of individual and group therapies, along with recreation, education, peer support and psychiatric services. Families will also be engaged through family therapy sessions, multifamily groups and psycho-education, helping them move from fear and confusion to hope and confidence about the future.
By the end of a 30-90 day stay at our residential substance abuse treatment facilities, youth will have been given the resources and treatment necessary to emerge with: (1) full detoxification from the physical effects of substance abuse, (2) increased self-awareness and the ability to apply an individualized plan for preventing future relapses, (3) strengthened family relationships, (4) educational support and (5) connections to a comprehensive array of services and support in the community.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 52,400 people died from drug overdoses in 2015. But our community’s children don’t have to add to that number. At Casa Pacifica, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to provide youth struggling with substance abuse the hope and help they need to make lasting, positive changes in their lives — and we encourage you to join us.
To find out more about how you can help us make a difference, please visit www.hopeforcasapacifica.org. We also invite you to visit our campus to learn more about our programs and witness the impact we’re making in the lives of our community’s children firsthand. If you’d like to arrange a tour, please contact Carrie Hughes at email@example.com or 805-366-4011.
Steve Elson, Ph.D., is the CEO of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families.
As the original executive pastry chef for Sweet Arleen’s in the Westlake Plaza shopping center, Julia San Bartolome helped push the Thousand Oaks bakery to victory three of the four times it appeared on the Food Network show “Cupcake Wars” — a three-peat performance touted in the windows and on the food truck that was added to the business in 2011. After leaving the bakery for a new job nearly two years ago, San Bartolome is back. And this time, she owns the place.
“It was an opportunity that, once it was there, I couldn’t see it going any other way,” said San Bartolome, who this month became co-owner of Sweet Arleen’s with her parents, Barb and Roberto Sanchez. They bought the business from founding owner Arleen Scavone, who decided late last year that she wanted to move to Rhode Island with husband Joe Scavone to be closer to their first grandchild. Roberto Sanchez, a retired peace officer who still works elsewhere on a part-time basis, will serve as general manager. Barb Sanchez, office manager for an urgent care center in Ventura, will act as creative director. “My mom is the reason I’m a baker. Growing up, she gave me the option of doing chores or baking stuff. Guess which one I picked,” San Bartolome said with a laugh.
Born in Oxnard, San Bartolome graduated from St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura before moving on to the culinary arts program at Santa Barbara City College. She focused on pastry at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, then moved back to Ventura County to take the job at Sweet Arleen’s before its debut in 2009. Her initial interview with Scavone was held at a nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf because the bakery was still a florist shop at the time, San Bartolome recalled. A mortgage services consultant and avid home cook turned bakery owner, Scavone asked San Bartolome for her advice on equipment purchases and kitchen design — and then acted on it. “She immediately trusted me and treated me like I was one of her banking colleagues. I saw that I had an opportunity to learn from a real-life, gold-standard professional. And I knew that I needed it,” San Bartolome said. Food Network came calling soon after they opened the doors. Scavone and San Bartolome scored their first “Cupcake Wars” victory in a 2010 episode that challenged them to create a series of film festival-themed treats. The results included a buttermilk pound cake cupcake flecked with peanut brittle, rolled in popcorn and topped with vanilla buttercream. A year later, they triumphed again with a Tony Awards-themed cupcake using raspberries, port wine, creme fraiche and chocolate mousse.
In 2013, San Bartolome worked solo to represent Sweet Arleen’s in a battle-of-the-assistants episode that saw her take first place with four cupcakes inspired by the Blue Man Group. Today, a screen above the cupcakes display case shows the episodes on a continuous loop. “It set us apart in the community and gave us the confidence to keep going,” San Bartolome said of the reality-TV experience. After seeing Sweet Arleen’s through a franchise expansion that has since been discontinued, San Bartolome left her post as the bakery’s corporate pastry chef to work instead as pastry specialist in the Ventura/Santa Barbara region for The Chef’s Warehouse, a specialty food products distributor in the U.S. and Canada. She plans to keep working for the company as a sales representative in addition to her post as corporate pastry chef for Sweet Arleen’s. “People have asked if I’m going to change the name. Absolutely not. Not after working all these years to help get this name out there,” San Bartolome said, laughing again.
She and Scavone remain close, typically texting one another every few days. Before the business changed hands, Scavone welcomed San Bartolome back to use the bakery’s kitchen for special projects, including making the California Poppy-decorated cake seen on the cover of the 15th anniversary edition of Edible Ojai & Ventura County. San Bartolome hopes to pay the mentorship favor forward by making the kitchen available to others looking for a place to hone their skills.She also plans to make gradual additions to the shop’s offerings, which already include sweet and savory bread puddings. She wants to bring back items like peanut brittle, to expand the business to include wedding and other special-occasion cakes and, more immediately, to swap in some new-and-improved ingredients without changing the recipes — or the jumbo size — of the bakery’s existing cupcakes ($3.50-$3.95 each).
“I like to say we’re not changing, but we are improving some things,” she said.
Sweet Arleen’s is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays (960 S. Westlake Blvd., Suite 4, 805-373-7373, http://www.sweetarleens.com).
Wearing a tie and a hardhat, (founding Casa Pacifica board member) William Kearney walked across a dirt plot at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, where work is underway on two new residential cottages for teens with drug and alcohol addictions. “I know for a fact that none of the people involved in that initial meeting (30 years ago in 1987), nor any of us who joined later, had any idea what Casa Pacifica would evolve into,” Kearney. Since Casa Pacifica opened in 1994, nearly 40,000 children have received services at its 24-acre campus on Lewis Road just south of Camarillo.
Funded entirely through private donations, the cottages are part of a $16.6-million project at Casa Pacifica that includes a new job training center and renovated administration building that will have a special visiting area for parents to reunite with their children. Casa Pacifica’s new treatment program will serve about 200 teens a year who receive government assistance, CEO Dr. Steve Elson said.“The treatment method that we’ll be using in the cottages has an 80 percent success rate in programs where it’s currently in use.”
KEYT NewsChannel 3 attended Casa Pacifica’s Groundbreaking on Wednesday, April 5th, as we broke ground to begin our eagerly awaited Expansion Project. The first new buildings will be drug and alcohol treatment cottages for our at-risk kids.
The state-of-the-art Expansion Project will enable us to offer new programs that address a wider variety of needs, successfully meet the increased demand for our services, develop two new cottages (16 beds) for youth with significant substance abuse, as well as increase the number of children and families we serve by at least 50 percent! These new centers will be the FIRST of their kind on the Central Coast for adolescents.
Our Expansion Project was made possible by the dedication and donations of many people who support Casa Pacifica’s next steps to help change the lives of young people who desperately need it. Learn how you can help too at http://www.hopeforcasapacifica.org.
A long-sought residential substance abuse treatment center should be completed outside Camarillo by this winter and in less than a year could be treating youths with addictions to substances ranging from alcohol to opioids, project leaders said Wednesday. Site work on the two-cottage center with 16 bedrooms began in January as part of an expansion of Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families and was celebrated in a groundbreaking ceremony. “The need for this facility is huge,” (Dr. Steve) Elson said of the Casa Pacifica plan, citing a recent survey of youths who live on a 24-acre campus that currently provides services including psychiatric services, therapy and crisis care. “Over 90 percent had some sort of alcohol and drug issue that was a factor in their placement here.”
Speakers at the groundbreaking paid tribute to Casa Pacifica’s path and a construction fundraising project that was first discussed four years ago and now has garnered $16.1 million in gifts and pledges, about $500,000 shy of the amount needed for an initial construction phase that includes the cottages, a training center, an expanded clinic and a therapy area. On Wednesday, speakers thanked the community for contributions. A choir from Pacific Palisades Charter High School Choir sang the lyric, “and the world will be a better place.”
FROM LUNCHROOM TO WARDROBE— Lia Robbins, a student at Westlake High School, walks down the runway in a dress made of CapriSun juice containers during the Glitter, Glue and Sparkle Fashion Show at CReATE Studio March 25 in Westlake Village. The outfit comes with a matching purse.
The event, organized by Glamour Party Girls and the studio, was a fundraiser for Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica. All the outfits worn were made by hand using a variety of pre-used materials.
The 24th annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food and Brew Festival will have a new host this year. Mission Produce will join returning hosts the Zarley and Van Huisen families; Nevers, Palazzo, Packard, Wildermuth & Wynner, PC; and the Conico Oil/ MacValley Oil Company.
This year’s fundraiser will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Sun., June 4 at the Cal State Channel Islands campus in Camarillo. Funds raised will benefit the campus- and community-based programs and services Casa Pacifica provides to abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families. The weekend will kick off with the fourth annual Yummie Top Chef Dinner, hosted by the Cassar family, on Fri., June 2 in the VIP tent. Tickets are available for both the Wine, Food and Brew Festival and Yummie Top Chef Dinner at www.cpwinefoodbrewfest.com.
The festival is still accepting sponsors and exhibitors. For more information, call Juliana Thiessen, Casa Pacifica’s development and event coordinator, at (805) 366- 4014, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the sponsor page at the above website.
Casa Pacifica broke ground on Phase 1 construction plans for its “Building New Foundations of Hope” capital campaign on Jan. 10. The nonprofit crisis-care and residential treatment facility for at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties will expand the permanent structures on its campus for the first time since the organization opened its doors in 1994.
The project aims to make improvements and enhancements to the campus after evaluating growing community needs to have a centralized location for outpatient services, expanding the health clinic’s medical and psychiatric facilities, and expanding individual, group and family therapy meeting space. For more information about the campaign or to donate, visit www.hopeforcasapacifica.org or call the development department at (805) 445-7800.
The purpose of the drive was to hire 100 unemployed people to work during November and December and to provide each associate the opportunity to earn a week or more worth of pay to support their families during the holidays. After Pay It Forward, the Ventura County Express Offices had placed 33 associates with 22 companies. With every individual hired during the program, Express pledged to donate $50 to Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, a nonprofit that provides assistance for abused, neglected, or at-risk children and their families. Express presented a check for $1,650 to Casa Pacifica on Feb. 16. In appreciation of the valued business Express receives from its clients, Express also makes a donation for livestock to World Vision during December. “Casa Pacifica and World Vision are charities that we want to continue working with to show our commitment in supporting our local communities, as well as communities in other countries. We have received a high volume of positive responses from our clients and associates based on our efforts to give back to those less fortunate than ourselves,” said Neil McMillan, owner of the Ventura County Express offices. The Ventura County Express Employment Professionals franchise began operation in 2006 and serves the professional finance and accounting, administrative and industrial areas with temporary help and direct0hire employees in a variety of fields. Express has offices in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard.
Aided by a presidential initiative, the Casa Pacifica agency has doubled admissions to a program that prepares psychologists to work with abused, neglected and emotionally troubled youth. Brian Bantel, 33, is a member of this year’s class. The intern from Arizona plans to specialize in the treatment of children who have been traumatized by abuse and neglect, a specialty of the Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families. “I do best with a trauma population or a lot of conduct-related aggressive behaviors,” Bantel said after a session last week with a 6-year-old boy at the agency’s main campus in the Camarillo area.
Casa Pacifica is expanding the nationally accredited internship program with a $300,000 grant issued under President Barack Obama’s “Now is the Time” plan. The president introduced the plan in January 2013, a month after the mass shooting of first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Congress balked at the gun control measures Obama proposed but supported the move to expand the mental health workforce. By 2014 more than $30 million had been approved to train thousands of new mental health specialists. Program Director Robert Kretz said Casa Pacifica is a natural for funding because of its focus on abused, neglected and at-risk youth in broad-based programs. Clients run the gamut from preschoolers to school-aged youth to young adults preparing for independence from the foster care system. The agency offers residential treatment, parent-child therapy, an emergency shelter for foster youth, a school for youth with serious behavioral problems, medical care and other services.
The Shoppes at Westlake Village host the city’s 35th anniversary celebration Dec. 11, featuring a special holiday singalong. Above, the Westlake Village Inn carolers join in “Frosty the Snowman.” Above left, Santa gets a visit from the Morrales sisters: 3-year-old Monica on Santa’s lap and 6-year-old twins Sarah, left, and Emma. Far left, Kallie Gustafan tries her hand at decorating a cupcake during the celebration. The event also had a fountain display, balloon artist, tree lighting, a toy drive for Casa Pacifica and a canned food drive for Manna, as well as a holiday trolley and lots of shopping opportunities for the guests.
Total Grants Awarded in 2016 Exceed $111 Million
LOS ANGELES, Dec 15, 2016—The board of directors of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced today that it approved 27 grants totaling $35.7 million during the fourth quarter of 2016, which brings the amount of grants awarded for 2016 to more than $111 million, which surpasses the amount of grants awarded in 2015. The Foundation also approved a new strategic approach for the Hilton Foundation’s Children Affected by HIV and AIDS program area, which will officially commence on January 1, 2017. Over the past year, the Foundation has been working to reflect on lessons learned together with partners and stakeholders in order to make modifications to its grantmaking strategy for the Children Affected by HIV and AIDS Strategic Initiative. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were used as a guiding framework and determined how best to contribute the Foundation’s relatively limited philanthropic dollars to this ambitious call to action. Over the next five years, the Foundation’s Young Children Affected by HIV and AIDS program area will field test approaches to delivering effective, quality programming that has the potential to improve developmental outcomes for young children (0-5 years) affected by HIV and AIDS in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. The objectives will be to:
“We are pleased to end the year with an announcement of $35.7 million in funds to organizations all over the world,” said Peter Laugharn, president and CEO of the Hilton Foundation. “We are confident that the new strategy for our Children Affected by HIV and AIDS program area will strengthen the work of our partners with the ultimate goal of improving developmental outcomes for all young children affected by HIV and AIDS in five key countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.” Grants in the fourth quarter of 2016 were awarded to a total of 27 organizations spanning across the Hilton Foundation’s priority areas, including organizations serving the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people both in the U.S. and internationally. Following are a few of the grants awarded in the fourth quarter of 2016:
Avoidable Blindness – Three grants were awarded to organizations working towards elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in Mali and Niger. The Carter Center was granted $5.1 million, and $5.975 million was awarded to Helen Keller International for this effort. Sightsavers, Inc. was awarded $650,000 to contribute to the elimination of trachoma in Mali.
Foster Youth – The John Burton Foundation received $600,000 to strengthen the high school to college transition process for foster youth in Los Angeles County. Additionally, the National Center for Youth Law was granted $1.6 million to support the development of a collective impact campaign that will increase access to reproductive and sexual health care, and information to significantly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies among foster youth in Los Angeles County. Finally, $1 million was awarded to the New York Foundling for educational support for foster youth from eighth grade through college through the Road to Success Program.
Homelessness – Brilliant Corners received a grant in the amount of $1.2 million to support capacity-building and strategic planning to ensure the continued expansion and implementation of Los Angeles County’s Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool. Corporation for Supportive Housing was awarded $3 million to invest in the Just In Reach Pay For Success program, a partnership with the Los Angeles County Health Agency to connect frequent users of the homeless system and Los Angeles County Jail with permanent supportive housing. $300,000 was awarded to Housing California to support the development of a coordinated, cross-sector policy effort aimed at increasing state funding for permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals in California.
Substance Use Prevention – School-Based Health Alliance was awarded $1 million to support a second phase of work to implement youth Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) in school-based health clinics. The Addiction Medicine Foundation received a grant in the amount of $1 million to continue efforts to increase the number of physicians trained in prevention and early intervention and addiction medicine.
Finally, a grant in the amount of $900,000 was awarded to Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families to support the Building New Foundations of Hope capital campaign, and Wild Salmon Center was granted $700,000 to support the North Pacific Salmon Stronghold Initiative ($500,000) and to provide general operating support ($200,000).
A warm coat to ward off the winter chill is out of reach for many youngsters in Ventura County. That’s why Ventura Rotary members collect thousands of used coats every year, have them cleaned by Four Seasons Cleaners, then give them away. The club will continue to collect them through Dec. 31. The Coats for Kids program is in its 13th year. “It brightens the kids’ faces to see the coats,” said Sonny Shah of Four Seasons Cleaners. “I only do about 5,000 coats a year, but I’d like to do 50,000.” Shah brought the concept with him from Long Beach, where he lived before moving to Ventura. “It makes your day to see these kids,” he said. “It gives me satisfaction to have done something for the community.” Kristin Taylor of the Ventura Rotary said 51 collection sites are set up in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Volunteers pick up the coats, then take them to Four Seasons Cleaners. Most are distributed in response to requests.“I get up to 30 calls a day from people who can’t afford to even pay $2 at the thrift store for a coat,” Taylor said. “Every year, the demand gets greater.”
Many of the coats go to youngsters at Casa Pacifica, which offers help for abused and neglected children; area Boys & Girls Clubs; and church groups. Others are distributed during a holiday party put on each year at the Ventura Unified School District headquarters in Ventura.
The staff of Stewart Title (Insurance) in Ventura fulfilled the wish lists of seven children from Casa Pacifica in Camarillo. The group also donated more than 100 pounds of toiletry items such as shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and deodorant for the children in need this holiday season.
“There is a definite need to bring some cheer to these children,” said Scott Mazza, vice president/senior sales manager. “I am so proud of the staff here at Stewart for coming together to give in a big way to brighten the hopes for these kids during the holidays.”
Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families is a crisis-care and residential treatment facility for abused, neglected or at-risk children in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. For more information about Casa Pacifica, visit www.casapacifica.org.
A statewide survey two years ago found that about a third of Ventura County ninth-graders had tried alcohol at some point in their lives — a depressing but not surprising number. More shocking was the 6 percent of Ventura County ninth-graders who said they had used heroin, and 13 percent who had abused painkillers, tranquilizers or sedatives.
So we were glad to learn last week that Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families is breaking ground this month or next on a new residential treatment center for young people with drug problems. We realize, however, that much more needs to be done to address the shortage of treatment options for young substance abusers in our community.
The nonprofit Casa Pacifica, which has a long and solid track record of helping troubled youth in Ventura County, currently operates a 28-bed residential treatment program for boys and girls ages 11 through 17 (many of them from foster homes) with severe emotional and behavioral problems, including substance abuse. They typically receive nine months to a year of housing, schooling and 24-hour professional care. Casa says more than 85 percent of all the young people it serves meet their treatment goals.
Its new facility, being built as part of an expansion of its existing site near Camarillo, will be the only one of its kind in the county focusing entirely on substance abuse. Casa is replacing 12,000 square feet of temporary structures with 46,000 square feet of permanent facilities. The $16.6 million expansion, funded through private donations, will include two cottages with 16 beds to treat young people abusing drugs or alcohol.
A job training center, new administration building and expanded health care clinic also are planned in the first phase of construction, which should be finished late next year. The second phase will feature a new therapeutic activities center and clinical building.
Partly because of a lack of funding, Ventura County has been without a residential drug treatment center for the youth population at large since one moved out of Santa Paula several years ago, officials say. But now that is changing, thanks to new Medicaid and Medi-Cal spending flexibility.
The Ventura County Behavioral Health Department and Probation Agency are developing new inpatient drug and alcohol efforts, including substance abuse and mental health residential programs for young people on probation. They hope to begin some programs within months.
This continued sense of urgency, coupled with the loosening of state and federal purse strings, is a welcome sight, especially for parents with limited means and options for getting their addicted sons and daughters into a comprehensive treatment program. Hopefully, the day is not too far away when they won’t have to leave our county for residential treatment.
Escalating concerns about teens using heroin, prescription opioids, meth and alcohol mean a residential treatment center for youths will be built outside Camarillo, becoming the only such facility in Ventura County though other programs are on the way. Construction on a treatment center for at least 16 patients will begin this month or early January, said officials of the nonprofit Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families. The facility should be completed late in 2017.
A 2014 statewide survey showed 6 percent of Ventura County ninth-graders had used heroin in their lifetime and 13 percent had abused painkillers, tranquilizers or sedatives. About 34 percent of ninth-graders said they had used alcohol at some point. The rate of abuse for prescription pills and alcohol actually declined, according to the survey.
“Alcohol is the biggest,” said Steve Elson, assessing the substance abuse problems of some of the foster children cared for at the 24-acre Casa Pacifica campus. The nonprofit provides psychological treatment, therapeutic services and crisis care.
Elson, Casa Pacifica’s CEO, said the centerpiece of the organization’s planned $16.6 million expansion is a two-cottage treatment center with eight rooms in each cottage. It’s likely the facility will be available to people in the community as well as kids already in Casa Pacifica’s programs.
In honor of the City of Westlake Village turning 35 on Sun., Dec. 11, the city and the Shoppes at Westlake Village will host a Holiday Sing-along at 4 p.m., and a fountain display and tree lighting at about 5:15 p.m. in the Fountain Courtyard in front of Jeannine’s gourmet food hall.
The event will also have a toy drive for Casa Pacifica and a canned food drive for Manna, with drop-off times from 3 to 6 p.m.
View Casa Pacifica’s Kids Wishes website at www.cpkidswishes.org
Source: The Acorn
With help from Aera Energy, Golden State Water Co. and the Casa Pacifica Angels auxiliary, Casa Pacifica was able to distribute 86 Thanksgiving dinners to families in its community-based programs, youths living in the agency’s transitional housing and Casa Pacifica alumni.
On Nov. 18, Golden State employees delivered 52 turkeys to the doorstep of Casa Pacifica. Golden State Water is partnering with elected officials and community leaders throughout the state during November to distribute more than 8,000 turkeys through the Operation Gobble effort.
“We appreciate this partnership with Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families, and are proud of the impact the Operation Gobble program has had in our communities,” said Ronald Moore, Golden State Water’s Operation Gobble project leader.
Golden State Water Co. turkeys were paired with a donation of three more turkeys and a supply of all the items needed to complete a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu provided by the Casa Pacifica Angels.
On Monday, Produce Available, a Casa Pacifica supporter, donated the use of employees and a refrigerated truck to pick up a donation of 31 turkeys and perishable trimmings on behalf of Aera Energy and deliver it to Casa Pacifica.
Aera Energy employees also arrived at Casa Pacifica with 31 boxes filled with everything a family of six needs to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Employees donated canned and dry goods (flour, canned yams, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix and more) along with an aluminum turkey roasting pan and pie pan, for the 31 families. Along with providing the turkeys, the company topped off each box with bread, fresh vegetables and whipped topping for the pumpkin pie.
“We’re excited to support this program,” said Michele Newell, Aera Energy spokeswoman. “Giving to the community through charitable causes and employee involvement are a focus for Aera — it’s part of what we’re founded upon, it’s in our DNA — and we look forward to making this an ongoing tradition.”
Casa Pacifica employees spent the next two days delivering all the Thanksgiving dinners.
Camarillo-based Casa Pacifica supports children and families through residential treatment, foster care and other services in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
On Monday, November 21st, Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families was honored to be one of the recipients of Montecito Bank & Trust’s annual Community Dividends Awards. These awards are given to celebrate the impressive accomplishments and dedication of organizations whose mission is to make our communities a better place to live and work.
We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Montecito Bank & Trust for all they have done over the years for the children and families of Casa Pacifica. We’re so grateful!
Aera Energy, Ventura County’s largest onshore oil producer, donated 31 thanksgiving boxes to Casa Pacifica on Monday! Each box includes everything you need to feed a family of six. The boxes will be handed out by our Casa Pacifica staff to families and young adults who receive services.
“Food insecurity is a major problem in our community. Basically we have a complete meal for 31 families at Casa Pacifica, which is a great organization and we love supporting the work that they do,” said Michele Newell of Aera Energy.
It’s a good show with some good music at a good price for a good cause. That would be the Ventura Blues Society’s Annual Toy Drive benefit concert for the children and families of Casa Pacifica, happening all day Saturday at the Channel Islands Studio in Camarillo with the music starting at high noon. It’s also a good time to check in with Hot Roux, that busy local blues band with the singing drummer, Jerry McWhorter, and that rockstar bass player, Brent Harding, happily slumming while he’s not on tour with Social Distortion.
There’s not so many bands with singing drummers — the Band, Genesis, the Eagles and Jellyfish come to mind — but McWhorter has expanded his horizons beyond his seat with the best view in the house. Along with his wife, Jan, McWhorter runs Hi Hat Entertainment, which has been bringing blues bands to Ventura for years, continuing a local tradition that goes back to the Blue Monday gigs back in the nifty ‘90s.
Tell me about this fundraiser for Casa Pacifica. You guys have done this one before, I would assume?
Yeah, Hi Hat has helped to produce the show and we played it a couple of years ago. We did one or two of them at Yolie’s. Michael John of the Ventura Blues Society has been doing this one for many years.
Santa Barbara County: Sharon and David Bradford, philanthropists of the year; Carol Kallman, volunteer of the year; Paloma Angel, youth in philanthropy. Ventura County: Keets and Hugh Cassar, philanthropists of the year; Tina and Andy Killion, volunteers of the year; Interface Children & Family Services’ Youth Advisory Board, youth in philanthropy. Lynette Muscio, fundraiser of the year. Said Elaine K. Mah Best, president, AFP Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties Chapter: “One of the most amazing things about living in our community is the generosity of those who live here. The people of our community truly care. They are dedicated and compassionate.Celebration and Awards Luncheon recognizing all of the honorees and celebrating National Philanthropy Day will be held 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Ventura Beach Marriott. The chapter also will be celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families participated in last weekend’s Out of the Darkness walk to fight suicide. Held Saturday at Constitution Park in Camarillo, the event raised more than $33,000 to fund local suicide prevention programs and drew more than 600 participants, most of them walking on behalf of a suicide victim they knew.
Ventura County voters voted Casa Pacifica the first placed winner in three categories in the VC Reporter’s annual “Best of Ventura County” 2016: 1. Nonprofit Organization 2. Food and Drink Festival 3. Charity. View categories at: https://www.vcreporter.com/2016/09/14/best-of-ventura-county-2016-food-drink/
Casa Pacifica this week kicked off a public donations campaign to complete a $16.6-million project to build new living quarters for the growing number of children in the county with drug abuse and addiction problems. The crisis center, new to the Camarillobased nonprofit that helps about 4,000 young people from throughout the Central Coast each year, has about $13 million for phase one of the expansion project at its 24-acre campus in Camarillo. But another $3 million is still needed to build the two new residential cottages, totaling 30,000 square feet. Each cottage will have eight beds but would have enough room to add more beds later without needing additional construction. Over the past two years especially, Casa Pacifica CEO Steven Elson said, administrators have seen an increase in drug dependent and addicted children. “Especially foster kids,” Elson said. “We’re seeing this a lot more in the county lately There are a lot of reasons why. It could be as a form of distraction from what’s going on within the family. It could be their way of blocking out the pain.” Officials formally launched the public outreach campaign for donations Tuesday evening during a reception at Twenty88 Restaurant and Martini Lounge in Camarillo. The project is the first phase of a two- part expansion and remodeling plan at Casa Pacifica that will cost about $21 million to complete, Elson said. That might seem like asking a lot, he said, but there’s precedent when it comes to community donations to support Casa Pacifica. “When Casa Pacifica first opened in the early 1990s, it was a $10 million (fundraising) campaign. At the time, that was the biggest fundraising effort ever by a nonprofit in the county, and a lot of people thought you could never raise that amount in Ventura County,” he said. “We broke the glass ceiling.” Since then, residents, businesses and other private donors around the county have contributed some $40 million to sustain the nonprofit in its work helping the county’s foster children and those who’ve been neglected and abused, he said. The most recent plans also call for building a new training facility for staff, where foster children also could receive job training, as well as a remodel of the agency’s administrative center. “We want to consolidate all the administrative functions under one roof,” Elson said. Casa Pacifica administrators hope to hold a true groundbreaking for phase one by November. Construction would take about 18 months to complete, he estimated. Further down the road, the nonprofit will start the second phase of the expansion, which involves constructing 36,000 square feet of new buildings to replace several trailers that house clinical staff and therapeutic activities like group counseling and support group sessions, he said. That phase will cost an estimated $4.4 million. “The bottom line is the community has been a major part of our success. Without the community, we couldn’t be able to do what we do,” Elson said. “Every nickel we get goes into the services we provide. We’ve been able to do a lot of good with that money.”
Source: Thousand Oaks Acorn
Casa Pacifica this week kicked off a public donations campaign to complete the first phase of a $21-million expansion and remodeling project.
Phase one, which will cost $16.6 million to complete, will include new living quarters for the growing number of children in the county with drug abuse and addiction problems.
The Camarillo-based nonprofit that helps about 4,000 young people throughout the Central Coast each year has about $13 million for phase one of the project at its 24-acre campus in Camarillo, but another $3 million is needed. This portion of the project will include the new dorms, a new training facility and the renovation of the nonprofit’s administration building. Two new residential cottages, totaling 30,000 square feet, will have eight beds each, but there is enough room for additional beds later without the need for further construction.
Over the past two years especially, Casa Pacifica CEO Steven Elson said, administrators have seen an increase in drug-dependent and addicted children.“Especially foster kids,” Elson said.“We’re seeing this a lot more in the county lately There are a lot of reasons why. It could be as a form of distraction from what’s going on within the family. It could be their way of blocking out the pain.”
Officials formally launched the public outreach campaign for donations Tuesday evening during a reception at Twenty88 Restaurant and Martini Lounge in Camarillo. With the cost of completing the two-part expansion of Casa Pacifica estimated at $21 million, Elson acknowledged it might seem like a lot to ask of potential donors. But there’s precedent when it comes to community donations to support Casa Pacifica, the CEO said. “When Casa Pacifica first opened in the early 1990s, it was a $10-million (fundraising) campaign. “At the time, that was the biggest fundraising effort ever by a nonprofit in the county, and a lot of people thought you could never raise that amount in Ventura County,” Elson said. “We broke the glass ceiling.” Since then, residents, businesses and other private donors around the county have contributed some $40 million to sustain the nonprofit in its work helping the county’s foster children and those who’ve been neglected and abused, he said.
The most recent plans also call for building a new training facility for staff, where foster children also could receive job training, and a remodel of the agency’s administrative center. “We want to consolidate all the administrative functions under one roof,” Elson said. Casa Pacifica officials hope to hold a true groundbreaking for phase one by November. Construction would take about 18 months to complete, he estimated. Farther down the road, the nonprofit will start the second phase of the expansion, which involves constructing 36,000 square feet of new buildings to replace several trailers that house clinical staff and therapeutic activities like group counseling and support group sessions, Elson said. That phase will cost an estimated $4.4 million.
“The bottom line is the community has been a major part of our success. Without the community, we couldn’t be able to do what we do,” Elson said. “Every nickel we get goes into the services we provide. We’ve been able to do a lot of good with that money.” Learn about Casa Pacifica’s expansion plans and how you can help at: http://www.hopeforcasapacifica.org/whyitmatters/
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!
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.victory-gymnastics.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 https://www.casapacifica.org/volunteer/amigos.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.