Category Archives: Home Page Links

REMEMBERING ~ Thomas Fire took their home but not their spirit

It was important that Elmer, Gracie Mae and Bandito accompany them. 

REMEMBERING ~ Thomas Fire took their home but not their spirit

by James F. Gray 

Thomas Fire victims, Christopher Means (52) and his wife, Gail (54) lost their Ondulando home, but are planning to rebuild. Their first priority after the fire was to find a rental that would allow their three large rescues, all Dobermans from the Dobie and Little Paws Rescue in Filmore (also greatly affected by the fire). It took two months of commuting from their mother’s in Palm Springs to finally land at their current location in Oxnard with Elmer, Gracie Mae and Bandito accompanying them. 

However, there are many bright spots, such as the support of family, neighbors and friends, old and new, and the potential to build their dream house.

The Means hired architect and structural engineer, Mark Baker, who lives two streets away, for their reconstruction. They had met his wife and dog previously on walks around the neighborhood. The delay in getting back to the area meant a significant delay in getting started as Mr. Baker was well booked up by that time, but they couldn’t be happier with the choice.

The lot was unique, with an odd shape and many feet of fill over most of it. The city of Ventura, so far, has been fantastic, with every visit, request and even onsite consultations.

Their insurance has been wonderful, too—no issues there—they would highly recommend State Farm Insurance to anyone.

Although they have not broken ground yet, they are excited yet apprehensive about rebuilding costs, which may add an extra several hundred thousand dollars due to caissons, extra construction fees and building code changes. A new mortgage means delayed retirement, and the value of what it costs to build, plus the value of the lot could far exceed the value when complete. Being close to retirement, they are considering all options.

Still, the thought of the new home, spectacular location with amazing views, great neighbors and neighborhood, fills them with hope and excitement about the future. 

Whatever happens, they plan to retire in the Ventura area, on a nice private area with their dogs and the ocean close.       

Recently, Gail was caught in the evacuation from the Woolsey fire, having to drive through with fire on the hills. Coming up on the year anniversary of the loss has been difficult emotionally for them, as they remember the past and feel empathy for those recently whose lives have been touched with the same disaster just over the hill.


Ventura Land Trust replaces hawk nest felled during Thomas Fire

VLT rented a crane and lifted Dan into a tree. Photo by Adrienne Stephens

REMEMBERING ~ Ventura Land Trust replaces hawk nest felled during Thomas Fire

Ventura Land Trust (VLT) recently replaced a Red-tailed Hawk nest that was knocked out of a eucalyptus tree after the Thomas Fire. Knowing that Red-tailed Hawks have nested in the same tree for decades, VLT Stewardship staff rented a crane and lifted it into a tree close to the one that had been damaged. The goal was to offer the local hawks a new place to nest before breeding season kicks into full swing.

“Red-tailed Hawks generally mate for life and return year after year to the same nest or area to lay their eggs and raise their young,” said Kate Furlong, VLT Stewardship Director. “VLT is committed to wildlife habitat preservation and the goal of this project is to protect a wild place where the hawks can breed, hunt, and thrive year-round.”

The Ventura Land Trust, a nonprofit land trust operating in the Ventura region since 2003, currently manages 90 acres of permanently protected open space in the Ventura River watershed, and is in the process of purchasing another 2,100 acres of prime hillside property in Ventura. The mission of VLT is to permanently protect the land, water, wildlife, and scenic beauty of the Ventura region for current and future generations.

REMEMBERING ~ FOOD Share’s Annual CAN-tree Drive

For three days, Figueroa Plaza in Downtown Ventura was filled with hundreds of CAN-tree’s at FOOD Share’s 7th annual CAN-tree Drive. The 7th Annual CAN-tree Drive, held November 30th – December 2nd, is the most critical and largest food drive of the year. The highly unique and visual event drew crowds from all over Southern California to witness the building of an estimated 300 holiday trees – all constructed from between 600 and 800 canned goods sponsored and built by various community organizations, businesses, families, and service groups.
The day after the 2017 CAN-tree event ended, the Thomas Fire broke out. Many of the agencies and organizations that went right to work on the fire had just been at Figueroa Plaza the day before building their tree and supporting their community. This year, FOOD Share presented ‘Hero Row’ where organizations like the Ventura City and Ventura County Fire Departments, Sheriff & Police Departments, and many County agencies and more came out to build and decorate their own tree that FOOD Share is donating on their behalf

Annual Holiday Tree Lighting

On a beautiful Ventura evening the Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony returned on Friday, Novemberthe 30th with the largest light display in Ventura history. Over 20,000 bulbs lit up Mission Park and the Mission’s historical twin Norfolk Pines.
Millions (fake news) filled Mission Park, Figueroa Plaza and Main as far as the eye could see. The celebration included live entertainment from local choirs and dance groups, bounce houses for the kids , FOOD Share can trees and vendors offering food and drinks. And Santa arriving by fire truck as the snow fell.

Annual Holiday Tree Lighting


Vol. 12, No. 5 – Dec 5 – Dec 18, 2018 – Harbor Patrol Blotter


10:20am, patrol officers training with the U.S. coast guard with their Helicopter from Point Mugu conducting rescue hoisting operations.


4:43pm, received report of an injured hiker inbound on Island excursion vessel. Officers responded and assisted AMR with packaging the patient for transport to local hospital for further evaluation of a foot injury.


2:50pm, received a request for an extended parking pass at the launch ramp from a boater who is planning a few week trip to the Channel Islands. He was unable to obtain a parking permit from other local harbors for such an excursion. Harbormaster was able to accommodate the request.


6:15pm, officers working with Fish and Wildlife wardens to enforce local, state and federal laws throughout the harbor. Contacted several small vessels around the breakwall for various violations of local and state laws. A wide variety of vessels were contacted, including a Stand-Up paddler boarder who was hoop netting for lobsters just outside the harbor.














12:55pm, received a request for assistance towing a 39ft sailboat from TowBoat US. Officers responded and assisted the vessel to its slip at VIM-H.

2:20pm, received a request for assistance monitoring a large commercial fishing vessel attempting to enter the harbor in very rough conditions. Officers responded and escorted the vessel safely in to the harbor and to their slip.

1:48pm, dispatched to a water rescue at Surfer’s Point for swimmer in distress. Officers responded and assisted responding rescuing agencies with the call. The victim was safely transported to the beach without any injuries.

10:50am, contacting an individual who has his sailboat secured to the launch ramp for the last few days preparing to travel to Channel Islands harbor to his new slip. Harbormaster has been working with the individual to ensure safe transit due to the sailors admitted inexperience and rough sea conditions.

11:15am, officers contacting a homeless couple that have been disturbing the peace in the Harbor Village. Warnings for loitering were issued to the pair and they were moved along for the violation.

9:35pm, while on patrol, officers observed a vessel on radar outside the breakwall not utilizing navigation lights. Contact was made and the vessel was escorted to the Port District longdock for a safety inspection. Written warnings were issued to all three fishermen for fishing in an illegal area, within 250ft of the breakwall and the skipper was issued warning for improper navigation light display.

10:00am, Port District Harbor Patrol and Marine Safety officers preparing for the predicted storm and High surf over the next few days. Officers pulled all of the swim area and swim course buoys out of the Pierpont Basin and Harbor cove areas. Officers also were reading and watching weather briefings issued by the National Weather Service scientists.

3:35pm, dispatched to a fall victim in the Ventura Marina Community. Officers responded and assisted a tenant of the park. The incident turned out to be non-emergency and the victim sustained no injuries.

Paso Pacifico responds to viral turtle poaching video

A Paso Pacifico ranger patrols the beach near Ostional, Nicaragua, on the lookout for illegal poaching. Photo by Hal Brindley

Turtle poaching in Central America is not a new issue, but some poachers have recently become even more emboldened to carry out this illegal activity. The current political unrest in Nicaragua has only made the situation worse for endangered sea turtles, as critical resources continue to get diverted to other issues.

Ventura’s own Paso Pacifico has long been at the forefront of protecting sea turtles and their eggs, and developed the award-winning InvestEGGator decoy egg with GPS tracking in 2016 to deter poachers who use the cover of night for protection.

But a new threat emerged recently, as poachers have been seen wading into the water and carrying out nesting sea turtles in broad daylight. One poacher was even captured on video carrying a helpless sea turtle over his shoulder during a busy weekend at a beach in Nicaragua.

Soldiers typically patrol this protected beach and wildlife refuge during the nesting season, but for an unknown reason, soldiers were not present when the viral video was taken. Paso Pacifico does not have jurisdiction to patrol this particular beach, but they are stepping up efforts to increase their presence in nearby areas. Thanks to the power of social media, the Paso Pacifico team was able to quickly spread the word and generate solutions for this urgent issue.

Just days after this disturbing early-August video went viral, Paso Pacifico raised enough funds to hire two new rangers to monitor beaches in hopes of deterring illegal poaching, and the goal is to continue adding to that number. The new rangers began their assignments patrolling Nicaraguan beaches this October.

“We have been so encouraged by the response we’ve received from our dedicated supporters,” said Paso Pacifico Founder and Executive Director Dr. Sarah Otterstrom. “It’s reassuring to know that others in our community, both locally and across the globe, are as concerned about this heartbreaking behavior as we are. Thanks to the generosity of SEE Turtles for matching funds, we have more than doubled our original fundraising goal in a matter of days, but our work isn’t done. The more money we raise, the more rangers we can hire to protect these threatened sea turtles.”

Paso Pacifico already has a presence on many beaches in the Paso del Istmo region of Nicaragua, but is looking to expand their reach in light of recent events. For every $5,000 raised, Paso Pacifico is able to hire an additional turtle ranger to monitor Nicaraguan beaches.

The mission of Paso Pacifico is to restore and protect the Pacific Slope ecosystems of Mesoamerica. These habitats include the endangered dry tropical forest, mangrove wetlands, and eastern Pacific coral reefs. By working with local communities, landowners, and partner organizations, Paso Pacifico restores and protects the habitats that form building blocks for wildlife corridors. Paso Pacifico also lends its expertise to help migratory wildlife on the Central Coast of California, including threatened migratory birds and whales that over winter in Mesoamerica. Through its high-impact programs, Paso Pacifico has established itself as one of the world’s leading biodiversity conservation organizations.

Carolyn’s Natural Organic Handmade Soap

Carolyn adds her special touches of natural ingredients.

by Mira Reverente

Not all soaps are made the same. There are some that are good for you and some that may do more harm than good. Soap entrepreneur and cancer survivor Carolyn Aranda can attest to this.

Lather is the best medicine

Since being diagnosed with stage 1 uterine cancer about 30 years ago, Aranda has been particular about what she puts in her body. “I do a lot of research on scents and chemicals like parabens and sulfates. They are typically found in cosmetics, shaving and hair care products, which are absorbed by the skin,” says the Camarillo resident and mother of two grown children.

She started experimenting and making her own soaps and laundry detergents three years ago. In the process, she learned about the three ways to make soap, settling on the melt and pour method which involves melting the soap base glycerin and pouring into molds or containers. She says, “It’s the simplest and least toxic way to make soap.”

Aranda adds her special touches of natural ingredients such as goat’s milk which is great for lathering. Sometimes, she’ll add olive oil or use it separately. To add natural color, she uses blueberry or turmeric. For packaging, she also tries to use as little plastic as possible.

Sudsational and soaptastic

For the holidays, Aranda has a few holiday-themed designs up her sleeves. Think gingerbread men, snowmen, snowflakes, snow crystals and Christmas trees.

In the past, she has churned out stars for the 4th of July, pumpkins for the beginning of fall, some Halloween designs and seashells for the summer. “Others just have regular bar soaps, but I can jazz up the soaps with various interesting designs and even two-toned ones,” she says of her unique sudsational and soaptastic products.

Prices range from $5 a piece to $4 for three or more soaps. Small soaps retail for $2. Custom orders are encouraged although there is a wide variety of designs and scent combinations like lavender, lemongrass and peppermint to choose from. There are no minimums.

Raising the bar

Variety is the spice of life, and soaps apparently. Aranda is currently concocting more soap varieties and promoting gift baskets for the holidays. Think corporate and party giveaways. She’ll help you come up with a theme and put together gift baskets to match your idea, drawing upon her years in corporate America.

She also looks up to her husband for his business acumen. “He inspired me to break away from the 9 to 5 grind, pursue my interests and set up my own business,” she says.

She’s also dabbling with the idea of widening her reach and shipping internationally. Also, adding more adult themes for bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Look for her at a farmer’s market or bazaar near you soon. Soap is the limit for this solo entrepreneur!

For more information go to or call 747.231.SOAP (7627) or email

NALA to help Toys for Tots fulfill its mission

Toys for Tots will be collected until December 12.

The NALA, a boutique marketing agency headquartered in Ventura has teamed up with a plethora of clients this holiday season to help Toys for Tots fulfill its mission, which is to collect new, unwrapped toys each holiday season and distribute them as Christmas gifts to children in need. The NALA’s collective cause marketing program encourages businesses across the country to collect during this time of year.

The NALA and its sister company, STARKART, will be collecting toys for Toys for Tots from now until December 12. New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the office located at 1891 Goodyear Ave., Suite 620. Additional STARKART/NALA offices collecting include their Encino office located at 5535 Balboa Blvd., Suite 210 and their San Diego office located at 8305 Vickers Street, Suite 209.

“We have been helping small and medium-sized businesses stand out in their communities for over 30 years. Through our new collective cause marketing initiative, the hope is to not only help the business stand out, but make a bigger impact for the cause,” said Tiffani Tendell, Vice President – Communications and Business Development at the NALA, which has introduced a multitude of diverse small businesses to one of its many top-rated charity partners.

Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which distributes toys to children who may not otherwise receive a gift for Christmas. It was founded in 1947, and since its inception the Marines have distributed over 530,000,000 toys to more than 244,000,000 children across the United States.

Helping our nation’s senior heroes

There are more than 1.3 million World War II veterans over the age of 85.

According to Census data, more than 20 million Americans are veterans of foreign wars. Roughly half of those veterans (9.2 million) are aged 65 and older, including more than 1.3 million World War II veterans over the age of 85.

Though our nation’s heroes may have the gift of longevity, with more years often comes a greater strain on financial resources. If you or a loved one is a veteran, read on to learn about the variety of public and private benefits that can help you afford to remain independent, healthy, and secure.

Types of veterans’ benefits

Veterans’ benefits come in many forms—from cash grants and education assistance to home and community-based services. Eligibility for many programs depends upon the length and type of service, whether you incurred any service-related disability, and your household income. Many of the programs described below are available to veterans of all ages who qualify.

Veterans’ pensions are administered by the Veterans Administration (VA) and provide a monthly cash benefit to those 65 years of age or older or who are disabled at any age. The amount you receive depends on your income, number of dependents, and the program’s pension rate for the year of your application.

Disability payments are available to veterans who suffered an injury/disease or worsening of such a condition while on active duty. Extra compensation is available if you have very severe disabilities or limb loss, dependents, and/or a seriously disabled spouse.

Financial aid for education is also available through the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (MGIB-AD) or Post-9/11 GI Bill to help pay for tuition, books, fees, examinations, and housing expenses for graduate and undergraduate degrees, and vocational and technical training.

The Aid and Attendance (A&A) and Housebound benefits are two programs that provide financial help for veterans and surviving spouses who require the regular attendance of another person to assist in eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting. It also helps pay for care in assisted living facilities. This benefit is only available to those with a wartime service record (and their spouses) who are aged 65 and older and who also qualify for a VA basic pension.

The Choice Program can help you find health care services in your community, as an option to bypass waiting for appointments with the VA or traveling a long distance to get to a VA facility.

VA Blind Rehabilitation Services help you remain independent by providing services if you are blind or have low vision. The services can take place in an inpatient or outpatient facility or in your home, based on level of need.

Veterans’ home loans help members of the military secure mortgage loans to purchase a home. The VA administers a guaranteed mortgage loan through an approved lender. A VA loan will protect you if you end up having trouble paying your mortgage, as the VA will guarantee repayment of the loan to your lender.

Caregivers of veterans may also be eligible to receive help through programs such as:

Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) services, which enable the veteran to participate in supervised, safe activities outside of the home, giving the caregiver an opportunity to take time for self-care.

Respite care of up to 30 days per year to provide a break from their caregiving duties.

All the programs are included in, NCOA’s free and confidential online benefits screening tool.

Completing the BenefitsCheckUp® questionnaire will show whether you or a loved one are likely eligible for the programs, and provide information on where to get assistance with your application, including through the Veterans ON-line APPlication (also called VONAPP), a regional VA office, or the VA toll-free helpline at 1-800-827-1000.

Countywide Robotics Competition held in Ventura

Robots being manipulated by student designers and programmers attempting to score points in the robotics competition. Photos by Richard Lieberman

by Richard Lieberman

On Saturday, October 27, at Holy Cross school in downtown Ventura the Ventura County Office of Education sponsored a VEX Robotics competition for middle and high school students from Ventura County. There were 24 teams and more than 150 students competing. The contest is now in its fourth year.

Local Ventura County students, relying on guidance from teachers and industry specialists, have designed, and built robots. The robots have been designed to score the most possible points in qualification matches and skills challenges.

John Tarkany Coordinator at the Ventura Office of Education has been responsible for all of student competitions in Ventura County. He has had responsibility for Mock Trial, Academic Decathlon, and the Science Fair. “We saw robotics were taking off and both the engineering and programming to build them.” Tarkany said. “We started looking at various robotic competitions and there were two that stood out First Robotics and Vex Robotics.” He added.

Students in the competition are required to program a robot and drive a robot in the competition. Each robot competing costs around $2000 to build program and compete. Each team also pays a fee to come to the event.

The first 30 seconds of each match in the contest is autonomous mode where the robot is programmed to perform a function. “I have been really impressed with some of the pre-programmed tasks.” Said Tarkany. The programming requires the robots to pick up balls and throw them at a flag and knock it over for points.

Competing teams were from grade levels from six to twelfth grades. Winning teams will compete in a statewide competition in March or April of next year.