Category Archives: This ‘n’ That

“We are so excited about re-opening the Gardens”

A large gathering attended the grand opening for the Botanical Gardens.

The Ventura Botanical Gardens (VBG) held its grand reopening on Saturday, November 3. The Gardens have been closed nearly one year since the Thomas Fire. The fire swept through the entire 109 acres of the park; very few plants were spared.

Now many of the original plants are showing signs of recovery, and many new specimens have been planted. Fire-damaged walkways were repaired or rebuilt. A new hand-hewn rock staircase is now in place and the long-awaited Merewether Welcome Center is open.

Funded through the generosity of Mike and Loretta Merewether and designed by architect Martha Picciotti, the Center includes a check-in kiosk, an information center, educational space, a stage, a community gathering area, storage and a much-needed restroom.

A limited morning event, attended by hundreds was held including a ribbon cutting with Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere, along with a Welcome Center dedication. At noon, the Gardens opened to the public.

“We are so excited about re-opening the Gardens,” states Barbara Brown, VBG President, who also lost her home in the Thomas Fire. “This will be a very bright moment for a community that has struggled through a very difficult year. “

“With the regrowth and expanded plantings needed after the Thomas fire, it has become clear that ongoing financial sustainability is critical for the maintenance, operation and expansion of the Gardens,” said Joe Cahill, Executive Director. “We are implementing a membership fee, but we want visitors to enjoy the Gardens affordably, so we’ve kept the annual fee to $45 per year, or for those who aren’t members, $7 per day, children 18 and under, are free. For those who can’t afford the low annual membership, EBT cards will be accepted.”

Mike Merewether told the gathering “It was a joy to see this become a reality and thanks to all for their support.  We are so glad to be here to see it come to fruition. It feels more like Spring than Fall – a time of new beginnings.”

“The Welcome center will be an exciting place for learning, volunteering and connecting with one another and Nature. It is a testament to a good public private partnership. It is significant to me that it is exactly 100 years after the Grant family donated the land for Grant Park to the City.”

“With growth of garden and Welcome Center, comes a need for more Staff.  Thus far we have managed with a small staff and many volunteers. As Fundraising Campaign Chair, I would be remiss in not mentioning that we have many opportunities and need for financial support / naming opportunities ranging from the new stage behind us, to flower beds, trees or even steps.”

The Welcome Center was designed by Architect Martha Picciotti who stated “It’s with great pleasure that I am here today, celebrating with all of you the culmination of one of many seeds that have been planted since my involvement, beginning in 2008 with this wonderful organization and group of people. I especially want to thank the Cities Jeff Lambert and Dave Ward, without whom this would not have been possible. “

“From Joe Cahill I came to understand the importance of creating a welcome center. It had to be affordable and easy to build, as funds were limited. I was always interested in shipping container design and I met Matt Roberts, who would be selling and outfitting shipping containers in Camarillo. Matt volunteered to take over as project manager for the build out. Not only did he provide the shipping containers at cost, Matt donated hundreds of hours.”

The opening of the welcome center represents many people coming together. Major donors like the Meriwether’s, Matt, Noah Greer and Nicole Horn, who designed and supervised the installation of the entry gates, platform and landscaping, Ken Luci who donated his electrical expertise and Dave Schaub, a local builder for supervising the foundation.”

“Today my heart is full of gratitude and love for all of the wonderful people who have made the welcome center and botanical gardens possible.”

To find out visiting information and more, visit and on Facebook.

People are dismayed at the racism, gun violence and hate speech becoming prevalent

Many hundreds remembered the many victims of hate and re-affirmed their belief at Temple Beth Torah. Photos by Bernie Goldstein

by Rabbi Lisa Hochberg-Miller

On Friday, Nov. 2, at Temple Beth Torah, prayers, songs, words of healing, and unity in response to the violence in a Pittsburgh synagogue were expressed. Ventura clergy, civic leaders and people of good faith, remembered the many victims of hate, re-affirmed our belief in goodness and humanity, and welcome this Shabbat, a day of peace.

The outpouring of anger and grief at the massacre of 11 people in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27 tells us that people of all faiths are as dismayed at the racism, gun violence, and hate speech that is becoming “hate d’jour” in our country.

It can be a church, a mosque, a temple, a synagogue, a pre-school, a nightclub, a high school—and it has been all these, multiple times now– because hate, when fanned by fear, so easily becomes violence.

My people is a people acquainted with Anti-Semitism. I am asked, why do people hate Jews, and I can only respond, why do people hate? We know the traditional stereotypes of Jews plied by anti-Semites. But our contemporary political world coupled with social media has fanned anti-Semitism, from a radical left bent on delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist, to right-wing nationalists who see Jews as foreign invaders.

Our college campuses are exactly where alt-right groups go to recruit young people and spread hateful ideology. We have watched the internet become a cesspool of filth, with language and visuals that are so repugnant that we can’t even describe them. There were almost 3 million anti-Semitic tweets in the year before the last election. FBI and Anti-Defamation League Statistics tells us the facts of this growing hate and the violence it begets: anti-Semitic incidents rose almost 60% in 2016, more than any other religious minority.

We are not the only victims of hatred and racism- Anti-Muslim crimes are up 19%, and in racially motivated hate crimes, African Americans were targeted in 3,489 race crimes, about half of race crimes in 2016. The neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville in August 2017 didn’t come out of nowhere. It was the expression of this hate: Noe-Nazi chants of “Jews will not replace us”, the beating of a black man DeAndre Harris, the plowing of a car into civilians, taking the life of Heather Heyer. There are almost 1,000 hate groups that exist in America, and many that describe themselves as militias. Fear, and inflammatory speech, coupled with high powered assault weapons. Is this our vision of America? Our years of complacency must be over.

It is enough to lose 11 innocent people for being in prayer on a Shabbat morning. It is incomprehensible that Vicki Jones and Maurice Stallard should go to their Kentucky Kroger’s to buy food for their families and be murdered for being black. I am left with no words that a prayer service at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston should have welcomed a white racist three years ago into their circle and then have 9 members including the pastor murdered by him, in his hopes of starting a race war. And the list goes on and on, especially when we widen the circle from racial and religious intolerance, to political intolerance, gender intolerance and general hate. Marjorie Stoneman High School, the Pulse nightclub, Las Vegas concert venues, where does mass violence end?

Our Jewish community grieves these recent deaths, and all these deaths, as do good people across this country and the world. After each massacre we hope that things will change. If we have learned anything, it is not to be complacent. There can be no co-existence with racism, or anti-Semitism, in this country or anywhere. There is no political future for a country that sees every else as “the other” and to be feared. We are better than this. These murders, and the climate that allows this violent culture to thrive, is tearing at the fabric of our country and our democracy. Like the mourner’s ribbons worn by the family members in Pittsburgh to signify that someone had been torn out of their lives, something is being torn out of the heart of decent America. Judaism teaches that we are to turn grief into good deeds. It is time, again, to speak out, for the country we want to live in.

Temple Beth Torah is located at 7620 Foothill Road.

Ten bed shelter provides a safe place to live

Typically a ribbon cutting ceremony is to announce the opening of a new business. Photos by Michael Gordon

On Nov. 25, a ribbon cutting was held at the Turning Point Foundation Our Place Safe Haven located at 536 E. Thompson.

Safe Haven is the first stop on the road to recovery for mental health issues and homelessness. This 10 bed shelter provides a safe place to live where basic needs are met and the most vulnerable receive mental health treatment, assistance establishing a stable source of income, and help obtaining transitional housing with the goal of permanent housing.  Drop in services include hot meals, showers, laundry facilities, phone messages and mail delivery and case management.

We asked Jason Meek, Executive Director for the Turning Point Foundation “why, after being open for many years did they have a ribbon cutting?”

He answered “Typically a ribbon cutting ceremony is to announce the opening of a new business. So why then would Turning Point have this kind of ceremony for a program that has been in existence since the 90’s? The simple answer is this: It is symbolic. The new renovation provided Turning Point additional capacity to shelter and deliver vital services to our community’s most vulnerable members.  It demonstrates that we hear their concerns and are deeply committed to addressing their needs.” 805-652-000.

Research on an ancient Sea Cow

During a lecture on Thursday, November 8, Dr. Jonathan Hoffman with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (SBNMH) will discuss the research plans for a significant sea cow fossil discovered on Santa Rosa Island in 2017.

The sea cow fossil is one of the oldest of its kind found on the west coast of North America, with an estimated age of 20-25 million years old. It is the first sea cow fossil discovered on the Channel Islands and it may represent a new species.

Hoffman will provide an understanding of how the sea cow specimen was deposited on Santa Rosa Island, its discovery, and the efforts to protect the specimen from scouring winds and winter rains, as well as the requisite need for excavation to prevent its loss due to erosion.

The many challenges encountered during the excavation process will be highlighted, along with the scientific studies planned by various researchers and institutions and what they hope to learn about the environment in which sea cows lived.

Hoffman received his Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Wyoming. His dissertation focused on using fossilized mammal teeth as tools to recreate ancient landscapes. Hoffman is currently the Dibblee Collection Manager of Earth Science and is responsible for the SBMNH’s geology and paleontology collections. He is responsible for curating the material that the SBMNH acquires from Channel Islands National Park and sharing it with the public.

The From Shore to Sea lecture series is sponsored by Channel Islands National Park to further the understanding of current research on the Channel Islands and surrounding marine waters. The lectures take place at 7:00 pm on the second Thursday of each month, February through April and September through November, at the Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, in Ventura Harbor. The programs are free and open to the public.

Channel Islands National Park was set aside, in part, for protection of its amazing paleontological resources, which are important for their educational and scientific research value. This work was specially authorized under a scientific research and collecting permit. It is illegal to disturb or collect fossils or any other objects without a permit. Members of the public can help us protect these resources by leaving them in place and notifying a park ranger.

About Sea Cows

Sea cows, or sirenians (which includes modern manatees and dugongs), are torpedo-shaped aquatic mammals that live in shallow waters and grow to be massive in size, up to 13 feet in length. In some parts of the world, their fossil records date back to 50 million years ago.

At one time, there were over a dozen different genera of sirenians, a name derived from the mermaids of Greek mythology. The cause of their decline is unclear, but may be linked to changes in food availability and environmental and oceanographic conditions.

Their modern relatives include three manatee species in the western hemisphere and the dugong, found in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and the east coast of Africa. The dugong is the closest living relative to the sea cow from Santa Rosa Island. The last remaining dugong on the west coast of North America, the Stellar’s sea cow, was hunted to extinction in the 1760s.

FIRST 5 Ventura County selects Interface Children & Family Services as new place-based service provider

First 5 , provides early childhood education, health and family support services.

First 5 Ventura County (F5VC) is pleased to announce its new strategic partnership with Interface Children & Family Services, to provide essential programs and services for Ventura County’s nearly 60,000 children prenatal – 5 and their families. Families seeking resources and more information may visit

Since our inception nearly 20 years ago, First 5 Ventura County Neighborhoods for Learning (NfLs) have been a cornerstone in the community, providing early childhood education, health and family support services.” said First 5 Ventura County Executive Director Petra Puls. “We are excited to partner with Interface Children & Family Services to ensure that families have the support they need to give their young children prenatal to age 5 a strong foundation for success in school and life.”

Interface Children & Family Services was selected through a comprehensive review process to implement F5VC’s redesigned place-based Neighborhood for Learning (NfL) initiative. The expanded partnership with Interface Children & Family Services allows F5VC to continue making a positive impact on the lives of Ventura County children and families through valuable programs, resources and community partnerships that support early childhood development.

Interface will be responsible for providing Parent and Child Together Classes and Family Support Services such as case management and Triple P Parent Education, throughout Ventura County. Interface plans to partner with the Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) to address the needs of Mixtec families and New Dawn for the Triple P Positive Parenting Program. “We’re delighted to have First 5 Ventura’s confidence to implement the redesigned place-based NfL model. We’re looking forward to the partnership – we share an intense passion for improving futures for young families and their little ones. We are honored to partner with NfL’s, to learn from their trusted and successful histories in their local communities, and to do our part to bring everyone together for the critical work of strengthening young children and families,” said Interface Executive Director Erik Sternad.

First 5’s primary revenue source is from California’s Proposition 10 tobacco tax, which is distributed to county First 5 Commissions to fund early childhood programs. In light of revenues continuing to decrease annually with Californians smoking less, the F5VC Commission has carefully contemplated how to best utilize its limited funds. The redesigned Neighborhoods for Learning initiative gives F5VC the ability to implement a cost-efficient model that meets the needs of the local community and relies on sustainable investments and innovative partnerships. “We recognize that we must work differently moving forward to achieve maximum impact with limited dollars,” said Puls.

November Audubon events

November 11:  8:30 a.m. Ormond Beach
Adele Fergusson (805) 415-4304 and Cynthia Hartley
Join us at this excellent coastal location, where we will look for a variety of waterfowl, such as Willets, Whimbrels, Black necked Stilts, Black bellied Plovers and other interesting birds. We will also look for Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Peregrine Falcon, and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers

November 13:  7:30 a.m. Lake Sherwood
Mary Hansen (805) 390-4586 or, and Kay Regester
We will walk the lake, target species are Canyon Wren, Purple Finches, ducks of various kinds during the winter, and the California Thrasher are pretty cooperative. Coopers Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks breed here as do Common Ravens.  If we are lucky we may see a Bittern.  Please contact Mary no later than November 12.  This walk is limited to 15 as we are walking on the road…we have no sidewalks.

November 13: Program  7:30 pm  Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill Road, Ventura
Community-Centered Solutions for Conservation of Endangered Birds By Dr. Sara Otterstrom.
This program integrates science, international collaborations, and landscape restoration in efforts to protect the endangered Southwest Willow Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and other vulnerable migratory species.  It is also transforming the way people see birds in that region by teaching kids how to watch and enjoy birds, and introducing a slingshot for binoculars exchange program.  These efforts highlight the ecological connectivity between California and Central America and the importance of protecting birds throughout their lifecycle.
Dr. Sarah Otterstrom is the Executive Director of Paso Pacifico. She holds a Ph.D. in Ecology from UC Davis and is a 2015 Ashoka Fellow. Sarah is a conservation scientist with over 20 years of experience in Central America. 

November 17:  8:00 a.m. Krotona Institute
Jesse Grantham
Krotona Institute is a theosophical study center, with acres of beautiful grounds, including grasslands, pines, oaks, and ornamental plants with lot of water features.   Field Sparrow was seen here last winter, but hasn’t shown up this year.   Also, a good place to discover raptors flying over.  We might get lucky with a Black Vulture or Zone-tailed Hawk.

November 25:   8:30 a.m. Canada Larga
Kay Regester (805) 258-1025
We will walk and drive the canyon. Always a great walk! Some birds we may see are Western Bluebirds, Loggerhead Shrike, sparrows, swallows, Red-tailed Hawks & perhaps a barn owl.

Dedicated athlete Ross Hoffman writes rapid recovery book

“One of my main reasons for staying in shape is to keep up with my grandchildren.”

Ross Hoffman, president and CEO of Hoffman & Associates, has released his book “Back and Better, 37 Rapid Recovery Exercises I Use When Injured or Bedridden.”

The print copies are available at $29.95 on Amazon. The book is printed spiral bound to make it easier to reference during use.

All my life I’ve been an athlete. What that means for me is that I pay special attention to my body, because it is the key to my performance,” said Hoffman, who recently suffered two accidents with resulting injuries, which required surgery in 2016 for a double meniscus tear and in 2017 for a broken shoulder socket. “I also pay special attention to my mind, because no matter how well I train my body, if my mind isn’t envisioning what I need to do, my body won’t be able to respond.”

After the 2017 surgery, lying in his hospital room, Hoffman wondered what he could do to expedite his recovery, not wanting to just lie there until he was released to go home. He was concerned that any inactivity could lead to negative results, his recovery time might take longer and his body might start to atrophy.

I started developing a group of exercises that I could successfully perform while still in my bed lying down. These exercises helped me in my personal recovery program,” noted Hoffman. “I want to share what exercises I performed to help myself and how I benefited. This book is based solely on my experience and is not a recommendation to anyone at any time.”

Hoffman played college baseball at UCLA as their starting first-baseman and clean-up hitter. After graduating, he was drafted by the Montreal Expos, who turned him into a pitcher.

I’ve channeled my love of sports into participating in tennis and triathlons and then later into playing golf,” concluded Hoffman. “Now I’m over 70 years of age and one of my main reasons for staying in shape is to keep up with my grandchildren.”

Candlelight Vigil for Victims of Hate

Photos by Bernie Goldstein

On Nov, 3, from 5-7 pm a Candlelight Vigil for Victims of Hate was held at Mission Park.

The Vigil was held by Indivisible Ventura, one of 6,000 grassroots Indivisible groups across the country.

Music and speeches calling for understanding and peace were presented to the very enthusiastic crowd.

Those attending were inspired by Martin Luther King who said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The selection committee sought a person who needed a little help to “shine”

JR Luna, Rita Luna and this year’s Wheels to Shine Recipient Cheyanne Dominguez. Photo by Journey Zephyr-Wade Hak.

Concours Motors’ owner Gerardo “JR” Luna created “Wheels To Shine” in 2017. His team purchased a 2000 Volkswagen Golf and restored and rebuilt it to donate to a deserving person .

The selection committee sought an outstanding person who needed a little help to “shine,” and would use the car to give back to Ventura.  Last year, the car was awarded to Marina Limon Porter, a local insurance agent and hard-working mother of one.

She is actively involved with Step Up Ventura—an organization that provides therapeutic services and access to childcare and preschool for children ages zero to five who are affected by or at risk of homelessness.

In Concours Motors’ second annual giveaway, Cheyanne Dominguez was awarded a Volkswagen Beetle 2000. At 20, Cheyanne has endured significant challenges, including losing her father, Oscar, to homicide.  Currently, Cheyenne dedicates a tremendous amount of time to helping others—she is a leader at her church’s youth group, where she mentors middle school and high school-aged girls. She prepares meals and serves them to the homeless, at Catholic Charities on Ventura Avenue. This year, she helped raise enough money to fund a trip to Uganda, where her team facilitated seminars about reproductive health.

Financial restriction and a lack of reliable transportations hindered Cheyanne’s ability to further her education; having a car will ensure that Cheyenne can eventually transfer to a four-year university and pursue a career in government, to work toward causes including ending homelessness and support families affected by violence. JR Luna says, “If we can give a car away every year, and we’re in business for another 25 years, we can change 25 lives. That’s pretty impactful.”