Category Archives: This ‘n’ That

Visit Ventura honored

Visit Ventura has been awarded gold and silver.

Visit Ventura is honored to receive gold and silver awards from Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) in the 61st annual Adrian Awards, the largest and most prestigious global travel marketing competition.

Visit Ventura has been awarded gold for their “Pit-Stop Serenades to Celebrate Awesome Moms” public relations campaign orchestrated in partnership with dude. be nice. The campaign celebrated three moms whose endless support illustrates the community spirit behind Ventura’s sunny disposition, starring a backdrop of three iconic Ventura locations. Families led unknowing moms to pre-staged locations where busloads of well-wishers unloaded in flash mob style to sing moms their favorite songs. With the help of generous partners, moms also received Ventura staycations, reiterating the message that Ventura is the perfect holiday destination. Watch the video here.

Visit Ventura is also honored to receive a silver award for their “Destination Storytelling Through Music” marketing campaign orchestrated in partnership with Sound Off Films and singer/songwriter Haley Grigaitis. Upon finding the song ‘Pierpont’, Visit Ventura sought to partner with the singer/songwriter and a local production team to create a shareable music video featuring Ventura landmarks and cameos of well-known locals. The goal was to add a musical element to Ventura’s brand identity that would resonate with new audiences and develop a stronger sense of identity for existing audiences. Watch the video here.

“Our team is honored to be among the top tourism industry organizations to receive Adrian Awards for travel marketing excellence and ever-grateful to have a board of directors and community partners that trust our vision to bring kooky ideas to life,” said Visit Ventura President & CEO Marlyss Auster.

Out of over 1,100 entries submitted this year, Visit Ventura’s work was judged to be exceptional by expert hospitality, travel, tourism, and media professionals. Judges were asked to evaluate each entry based on its own merit and success in achieving its objectives. At least three judges reviewed each entry.

To date 7 countries and 49 states responded by providing quilts

Volunteer Staci Brown and Kat Merrick proudly display one of the quilts available for those affected by recent tragedies.

On December 4, 2017 the Thomas Fire and mudslides devastated Ventura and Montecito. Watching this devastation unfold the Ventura Modern Quilt Guild(MQG)

and “superbuzzy” Fabrics & Craft Supplies Store decided to help by creating quilts for those affected. To date 7 countries and 49 states responded by helping in the quilting efforts and over 400 quilts were delivered to the Modern Quilting Guilds headquarters in Ventura.

Seeing the need for help in distributing the quilts to those affected they contacted Kat Merrick Founder of Totally Local VC’s Local Love Project for help.

On Thursday, March 8, the Modern Quilting Guild, Mission San Buena Ventura, The Jewish Federation of Ventura County and Totally Local VC’s Local Love Project hosted a Pop Up Shop to distribute quilts along with other donated houseware items. The event took place in the Parish Hall at the Mission.

Besides the handmade quilts the Jewish Federation donated sheet sets, Totally Local VC’s Local Love Project donated many items as did FOOD Share.

Scott Griffin, Ventura MQG VP and Kelly Stevens, Ventura MQG founding member and owner of superbuzzy, each began projects to bring comfort and loving warmth to the fire and slide victims. As the fire spread northwards, these efforts were coordinated to answer the quilt needs of victims in both Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

When founder Kat Merrick created Totally Local VC ( over 9 years ago she and her team made a solid commitment to our community. When she lost her home in the Thomas Fire her commitment to helping others became even stronger.

She stated “Our goal is to activate members of our community in the aftermath of a traumatic event within Ventura County and the 805 to provide relief and support to those affected by disaster or in a time of need. We work to solve immediate needs for those impacted by either a disaster in our community or those in need as well as provide the necessary items to help our neighbors as they work to restore their lives.”

Ventura Family YMCA gives to employees who lost homes

Dana is one of the staff who received $1,000.00.

At the YMCA Campaign Report Night on Feb. 23, four employees who lost their home from the Thomas Fire received $1000 from the Ventura Family YMCA. The $4000 was donated from San Francisco YMCA’s emergency relief fund.

Every year, the San Francisco Y donates to a fund to support YMCAs that have experienced disasters or have other dire needs. “When the Director of Human Resources heard about the fires in the Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, he gathered the team together and they determined, right away, that they wanted to support the work that Ventura YMCA was doing to help those impacted by the fire,” said Margo Byrne, Chief Operations Officer of the Channel Islands YMCA.

The Ventura Y has elected to keep the names of the four employees anonymous. At the report night, one of the employees shared her story about how the YMCA helped her during the Thomas Fire. The Y staff member explained that they didn’t take anything when they initially evacuated with her four children. “We were up to the left of Ventura High School so we weren’t that concerned.”

When her neighbors started evacuating, she and her family left to her father’s house. When they arrived, she asked her father to take her back to the house to pick up a few items. They returned to find her whole street on fire, and they left with nothing.

The morning after her house had burned down, Amy Bailey Jurewicz, Executive Director for the Ventura Family YMCA, was the first to check on her. The employee stated, “I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt if the Y had not offered the childcare that they did, I would not have made it through this.”

At the end of the night, Amber Stevens, Associate Executive Director at the Ventura Family YMCA, stated, “We have amazing staff here. It’s nice to be able to say we can help when we hear our staff is in trouble.” The Y also paid all of their employees for hours while the facility was closed during the fires.

Information about the Ventura Family YMCA, visit or call 642.2131.

“Pig with no name” to return for St. Patrick’s Day Parade

When the Ventura Elks Lodge’s 30th annual County Ventura St. Patrick’s Day Parade makes its march up Main St., it will feature a new green pig.

As Ventura history can report, Shamhock – the giant inflatable green pig who’d been a mainstay of the parade for 26 of its 29 years – collapsed last year along the parade route, right in front of the judges’ viewing stand.

To parade committee chairman Tim O’Neil, who’d “fathered” the pig back in the 1980s, it was a devastating loss. “He died right there in front of me,” said O’Neil, who announces the parade every year.

Now, the parade committee is thrilled to announce that, using the dead pig’s “DNA” (i.e. fabric) along with copious photos, they’ve been able to create a new exact identical pig, who will debut at this year’s parade!

The resilient pig plays right into the “Ventura Strong” theme of the milestone parade, which will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 17, at the San Buenaventura Mission on Main St., and will proceed along Main to Ash Street.

The true heroes of the “Ventura Strong” movement are the parade’s grand marshals: the incredible first responders who worked tirelessly to suppress the raging Thomas Fire and to help its victims.

To honor them, the parade committee encourages all spectators to bring homemade signs thanking the first responders for their remarkable efforts and courage. We really want them to feel the love.

Also joining the parade this year will be Irish Belles Cameryn Boggio-Shean of Ventura High and Jonyssa Carrillo of El Camino High. For the first time in the eight-year history of its Irish Belle program, the parade committee has selected two winners to share the honor. Both Cameryn and Jonyssa are seniors at their Ventura high schools.

Presented each year by the Elks Club’s Ventura Lodge No. 1430, the popular St. Patrick’s Day parade draws thousands of spectators, and dozens of entries.

The judges who will select winning entries this year are Nicole Ipach of California State University, Channel Islands; Ventura Unified School District Superintendent David Creswell; parade committee member James Lockwood, Sue Georgino of Georgino Development and the Elks Club’s Connie Stahl.

Dozens of sponsors support the annual parade, including many who have given generously every year for decades.

Amgen Tour auction benefitting American Red Cross Disaster Relief

Amgen Tour of California fans around the world look forward to the race in part to see California’s natural landscapes and breathtaking vistas in person or via the worldwide race broadcast. Over the past year, parts of beautiful California suffered massive devastation due to the wildfires that engulfed parts of Northern and Southern California, and mudslides in response to heavy rain in some areas shortly after.

An Amgen Tour of California online auction benefitting American Red Cross Disaster Relief is launching to help with continued disaster relief efforts, and will be open indefinitely with new items being added periodically. Bidding for the current list of products below will end on March 30. Race fans – and California fans – can bid on exclusive items from merchandise signed by pro cyclist all-stars to behind-the-scenes race experiences to help people affected by disasters. 100 % of the proceeds from the Amgen Tour of California auction organized by Staples Center Foundation support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. More details at or at

Items will be added up to race time in May, and initially include these and much more:

Signed Marcel Kittel Team Katusha Jersey , Cavendish Dimension Data Jersey, TAG Heuer Best Young Rider Jersey, Amgen Leader Jersey (by last year’s race champ George Bennett),2017 LTD Ed. Jersey (by George Bennett, Peter Sagan & Rob Britton),Visit California Sprint Jersey (by 7-time winner Peter Sagan),Lexus KOM Signed Jersey (by 2017 classification winner Daniel Jaramillo) and Amgen Leader Jersey.

VCCCD partners with NAVFAC to train Ventura County STEM Students

The Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) and the Naval Base of Ventura County, Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC), are collaborating to strengthen skills training and local employment outcomes in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The agreement, signed February 27, focuses on four key pillars designed to ensure that students across Oxnard, Ventura and Moorpark colleges have access to a competitive STEM education and the ability to connect with the county’s largest employer. Objectives include increasing internship opportunities, facilities sharing, mentor programs, and career pathways.

VCCCD Chancellor Dr. Greg Gillespie joined NAVFAC EXWC Captain John Adametz in signing the memorandum. VCCCD Board of Trustees Mr. Stephen P. Blum, Esq. and Mr. Bernardo M. Perez, along with Oxnard College President Dr. Cynthia E. Azari and students, faculty and staff, were also present.

“The efforts of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM grant program at Oxnard College have shown a commitment to STEM excellence through this partnership with the Naval Base Ventura County,” Gillespie said during his remarks at the signing. “This agreement offers students an amazing opportunity to connect with local STEM professionals, as Naval Base Ventura County is the largest employer in our county. All three of the colleges in the district will directly benefit.”

“I’m pleased that we are able to provide yet another pathway for our students to pursue high-quality STEM careers,” added President Azari.

NAVFAC EXWC offers cutting-edge career opportunities in nearly every STEM discipline. In Ventura County alone, approximately 1,100 scientists and engineers provide research and technology solutions to the Navy, Marine Corps, federal agencies, and other Department of Defense commands. Most positions are located in Port Hueneme.

“In an effort to serve as mentors for underrepresented populations, we recognize the importance of incorporating mentoring in the work that we do,” said Capt. Adametz. “This mentoring cultivates dynamic relationships that span the breadth and depth of a given profession. These relationships are mutually beneficial to individuals and collectively empower the profession and community.”

For more information on the VCCCD partnership agreement and the opportunities it provides, please contact Oxnard College STEM/Project Acabado Director Dr. Marcella Klein Williams ( or NAVFAC EXWC contact: Cheryl Monzon, MBA, CDFM-A, STEM coordinator (, Palmer Pinckney II, NAVFAC EXWC Public Affairs Officer ( 982-1069.


A buggy story

by Kevin O’Connor

Once upon a time, a college student from a good family packed her suitcase one weekend in her apartment in Isla Vista and went home to her parents for a holiday.

Little did she know that a small uninvited guest had crept into her suitcase from her apartment and emerged later at her mom and dad’s house miles away, where this small bed bug created mayhem as it laid eggs and spread in the student’s bedroom, in the immaculately clean home where she had been raised.

When the young lady got back to campus and returned to her apartment, her housemates told her they indeed did have bed bugs. That weekend they noticed them for the first time. One of the girls had even been bitten. The girls tried to handle this situation themselves, but the bugs seemed to be spreading in spite of sprays and other protective measures that came too late in the game. Try as they might, the students could not control the infestation.

The girls called O’Connor Pest Control, and we went out there to Isla Vista and worked through the entire process with these students, giving them our professional and technical expertise, working to rid the apartment of every bed bug.

Bed bugs are small, brownish insects that feed solely on the blood of animals. The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is the species most adapted to living with humans.

Bed bugs are resilient. Their flattened bodies enable them to fit into tiny crevices—especially those associated with mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. Nymphs and adults can persist months without feeding. Bed bugs don’t have “nests” like ants or bees, but do tend to congregate in habitual hiding places. Bed bugs usually bite people at night while they are sleeping.

Bed bugs are challenging to eradicate. Repellents like those used to deter ticks and mosquitoes do not appear to be as effective against bed bugs and applying them at bedtime is not recommended. Never try to handle bed bugs on your own. Technical help is vital. It is prudent to enlist the services of a professional. Experienced pest control firms, like O’Connor Pest Control, know where to look for bed bugs and have an assortment of management tools at their disposal.

We have the technicians with the expertise and experience—as well as the tried and scientific equipment—to deal with the entire range of bed bug infestations. O’Connor Pest Control 1-800-284-7985

The power of purpose

“I can only do so much to make the world a better place.”

by Karen Leslie, writer with heart

Venturian, Jeri Bendot has found purpose in her life. She possesses an innate compassionate heart in making a difference for what she terms, the ‘Houseless”, giving people without homes a kind of dignity for those struggling in life to have a roof over their heads. She has become “Relational” in her efforts to find solutions to this surmountable ongoing community challenge.

Her story starts out with one that had many curve balls. In the mid 70’s she was diagnosed with sudden-change, rapid-cycling Bipolar disorder. She battled numerous illnesses, had several surgeries, and survived two marriages. Jeri has four grown children and five grandchildren. In 1997 she began another relationship that changed her destiny.

Twenty years ago, Jeri met her husband Joe when he worked for the Navy as a rocket scientist. Then came the slippery slope of back problems for both, which lead to an addiction to pain killers for Joe. Joe spent one year in Ventura County jail, and so he would not need to do time for 7-11 years, he ended up residing in a recovery program.

One day Joe was riding his bike and took a different route than was usual. This turn led them to a new life, a life of meaning and purpose. Music caught his attention from a special Sunday service, in the Fellowship Hall of the Presbyterian Church. Run by college kids, the hall was full of people, food, coffee and a laid back atmosphere. Jeri shares “The Pastor would stop and let people discuss among themselves or pray”.

Through her healing process and a developed tenacious attitude, they found a home like no other home they had ever known. Jeri shares, “The Presbyterian Church loved us when we didn’t love ourselves.”

Jeri started volunteering at the church one day a week, and after 3-4 months they offered her a part time job as a receptionist. Joe and Jeri got married in 2008 and now live on the church grounds in a lovely apartment as caretakers. Jeri shares, “God put me in the perfect position to help others facing hardships” and added “most people really have no idea who the homeless consist of, or what is worse how to really help.”

Through Jeri’s struggles and triumphs, her soul mission and quest is to educate and find roofs to house and preserve the less fortunate. She works diligently hand in hand with many Ventura organizations working to lower the staggering homeless statistics.

`Jeri touchingly shares, “I can only do so much to make the world a better place. While I want to help everyone, I may only have the chance to help one. As long as my heart is pure and my deeds are righteous, I have hopefully made a positive life changing impact on another human being, to be kind and help others who are struggling to live in this world.”

Life can turn on a dime. Many fear they are only one paycheck away from living in the streets. One misstep, one choice, one wrong decision can lead to misfortune. As a people, we deserve the most basic of human needs such as food, clean water, shelter, a bed, companionship and a chance. We are living in abundant times where resources and education are just a click away.

If one step for mankind can send a man to the moon…one step for humankind can feed and house the world!

How did World Central Kitchen come to help Ventura during the Thomas Fires?

Chef Jose Andres at the Plaza Park benefit held for fire victims. Photo by Pam Baumgardner

by Jennifer Tipton

The nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen was launched by Chef Jose Andres (born Jose Andres Ramon Puerta), a Spanish American chef credited for bringing the small plates dining concept to America. The celebrity chef owns 27 restaurants that spread from Las Vegas to Miami and has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world. He received the James Beard Award for his humanitarian work here during the Thomas Fires (it was not his first).

Ventura’s very own Dr. Susanne Lammot, a pediatrician known for her charitable involvement with the Boys and Girls Club had a connection with one of the relief directors at World Central Kitchen. Responding to a local disaster like the Thomas Fires, the organization likes to connect with a local chef and Susanne called our own Chef Jason Collis on December 6th, just two days after the Thomas Fires erupted and relief efforts began.

I spoke with Chef Jason, one-time owner of Ventura’s restaurant “Jonathan’s” and “J’s Tapas & Martini Bar”. Jason and his wife, Jocelyn have a son and daughter, they sold the businesses when he realized how many birthdays and holidays he had missed, “I didn’t want to be stuck behind the grill to realize one day that I’d missed seeing my kids grow up”.

Their new business, “Plated Events” does exclusive catering and venue management for Limoneira Ranch and The San Buenaventura Mission, doing weddings, corporate events and local fundraisers including being one of the co-producers for the benefit at Plaza Park. Jason said, “when I saw how big it was with World Central Kitchen, I called up Chef Tim Kilcoyne and we worked side by side throughout the entire relief effort along with other local chefs such as Kayla Hernandez, the instructor for the culinary program at Ventura High School”.

World Central Kitchen “tries to tap into local resources to stimulate the local economy” (buying from local farmers and businesses), but they were blown away with the generosity of Ventura”, said Jason. FOOD Share, local farmers and businesses all donated. Buena, Villanova and Thacher schools provided food because “schools were closed, and they had all that food in the cafeteria!”. Ventura Party Rental was instrumental in donating their time and resources by picking up and delivering everything in their trucks.

With 200 volunteers a day for 60 days straight, the World Central Kitchen delivered greater than 35,000 meals to first responders and victims of the Thomas Fires in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, they were presented a portion of the proceeds from the Plaza Park benefit because the committee from the benefit “felt the City of Ventura was blown away with what they did, and we wanted to pay it forward to help the organization with Chef Jose Andres’ mission”, I was told.

Chef Jason contributed 16 hours a day of his own time December 7th to December 27th with World Central Kitchen. Catholic Charities gives an award to those that go “above and beyond”; the San Buenaventura Mission has nominated Chef Jason and wife Jocelyn for their help with World Central Kitchen and Thomas Fire relief efforts.

Maria Ventura Named Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura Board President

Maria has been the “Top 50 Women in Business”

SoCalGas Public Affairs Manager Maria Ventura has been selected by her peers on the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura (BGCGV) Board of Directors to serve as its Board President. Ventura has been a member of the BGCGV Board of Directors since Fall 2014, she will serve a two-year term as the board president ending December 2019.

In her role, as the local Southern California Gas Company representative throughout Ventura County, she serves on several community boards, BGCGV, El Concilio, American Red Cross of Central California, United Way of Ventura County and the Ventura County Economic Development Association (VCEDA).

She has received prestigious recognitions for her professional accomplishments and commitment to the community including Pacific Coast Business Times’ 2017 “Top 50 Women in Business” and Hispanic Lifestyle (an independently produced television program and event producer that promotes positive images of the Latino community) recognized her as a 2017 Latina of Influence.

“With over 15 years’ experience in communications, community and governmental affairs; she is a trailblazer, role model and true advocate for children and families.” said Patti Birmingham, CEO Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura.

“I am excited to assume the board leadership role, after the devastating Thomas Fire, there is a profound determination to rebuild Ventura and grow stronger, this vision must embrace all our citizens including children and their families.” said Maria Ventura.

For 80 years, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura has provided a positive place for all youth, especially those who need us most, and quality programs to help them become healthy, responsible, confident and productive members of our community. According to an independent study by Dr. Jamshid Damooei of Cal Lutheran, 97% of club members are on track to graduate from high school, 92% have improved self-confidence, 83% have improved family relations.