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Salvation Army recently celebrated its 2023-24 Red Kettle Kick Off.

Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko delivered the keynote address.

by Sheli Ellsworth

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Who is the largest non-governmental provider of social services in the world? Goodwill? United Way? UNICEF? Nope. It is The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army recently celebrated its 2023-24 Red Kettle Kick Off. Since 1891, red kettles have been collecting donations that make the world a better place. “Bell ringing is our biggest fundraiser. One hundred percent of these funds go directly to services,” according to Captain Patricia Torres.

Ventura’s Kick Off luncheon was organized by Maya Zumaya who brought community leaders and volunteers together for food, inspiration and a chuckle or two. Moderated by Food Share’s witty Chief Development Officer, Jennifer Caldwell, the crowd heard inspirational stories by those who have received help from the Salvation Army and those who have witnessed that assistance in action. Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko delivered the keynote address.

Nasarenko’s collaboration with the Family Justice Center and the Salvation Army sponsors victims (7-17 years old) of abuse and other crimes to summer camp at The Salvation Army’s Camp Daly in Malibu. The weeklong session called Camp Hope offers counseling, mentoring, cognitive behavior therapy and–like any summer camp for kids–fun for all. “How many of us here can remember that summer camp experience that was so transformative that it illuminated the rest of our lives.” The Salvation Army sends up to 60 children from Ventura County to summer camp every year.

Nasarenko was quick to acknowledge the dedication of Ventura’s outstanding local Salvation Army Captains Juan and Patricia Torres for their dedication and willingness to sponsor local youth to Camp Hope.

Photography artwork on canvas donated by Darlene Roker.

Eighteen years ago, the Torreses were living in LA. Patricia Torres worked as an administrative assistant and Juan was in the travel industry. “God called me to do something bigger than myself,” Patricia Torres says. “The next thing you know, we were in San Luis Obispo working for the Salvation Army.

Fundraising at the luncheon included a raffle organized and sponsored by Cathy and Tim Mayeda and photography artwork on canvas donated by Darlene Roker.

The Salvation Army assists 25 million Americans every year and does not discriminate. Ventureans may be familiar with the Salvation Army’s local Hope Center on Oak Street dedicated to finding housing, healthcare and employment. This shelter run by Denise Adams is open to all men, women and veterans in need of food, shelter and clothing. The Center holds 20 residents preparing for independent living. During the pandemic, the local Salvation Army in Ventura launched pop-up food pantries and fed 350 families four times a week. The food pantry is now open every Wednesday and Friday.

Editor’s note: Dolly Parton pledges $1 million to boost Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign amidst declining donations.


Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams’ Star Receiver, leads Food Share’s Thanksgiving Turkey distribution

Monica White, Food Share’s President & CEO; Cooper Kupp, Anna Kupp and Jenn Caldwell, Food Share’s Chief Development Officer at Thanksgiving Turkey Distribution

In a heartwarming display of community commitment, Cooper Kupp, the celebrated wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams, took center stage at Food Share’s Thanksgiving Turkey n’ Trimmings giveaway in College Park, Oxnard, on Tuesday, November 21. The event saw 1,800 families receive packages containing turkeys, seasonal fresh produce, and Thanksgiving trimmings, along with essential shelf-stable food items.

Kupp was joined by an impressive cohort of 45 student volunteers from Simi Valley’s Royal High School football team. Kupp has been actively mentoring these young athletes as part of the Rams’ partnership with the school.

Passionate about combating food insecurity, Kupp has championed various initiatives in Southern California, alongside fellow Rams players and staff. His commitment also reaches beyond state lines, as he has supported food banks in the Yakima and Richland areas in his home state of Washington.

Reflecting on the dire issue of food insecurity, Kupp commented, “My family and I are passionate about helping to address food insecurity in the region. Too many people are struggling to feed their families, including a staggering 1 in 4 people here in Ventura County. Knowing that the families here today will be able to sit down to a Thanksgiving meal is something we can all be grateful for.”

Monica White, Food Share’s President and CEO added, “The Rams’ ongoing participation in this food distribution highlights the impactful role sports figures can play in making a meaningful difference within their communities. We truly appreciate how Cooper is leveraging his influence beyond the football field to address the critical issue of food insecurity that affects so many individuals. And well done to all the student-athletes from Royal High School who worked so hard!”

Girl Scouts Presents: Winter Wonderland

Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast serves over 8,800 girls across six counties.

The Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast (GSCCC) welcomes all to experience an enchanting Winter Wonderland this Holiday Season at Camp Arnaz. Immerse yourself in the sights of thousands of twinkling lights and holiday music as Camp Arnaz is transformed into a fantastic festival featuring dazzling lights, holiday horses, Santa’s elves, and delightful treats. Guests are welcome for an evening of holiday festivities each Friday and Saturday night of December from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Get lost in the magic as you walk through an icicle bridge, walls of wreaths, and twinkling snowflakes dancing to the tune of your holiday favorites. Families will also have plenty of activities to enjoy. Indulge in a feast of festive foods, create crafts to be cherished for a lifetime, meet our holiday horses, and of course, grab a photo with Santa & Ms. Claus!!! Walk the new light path feature built by local Girl Scouts under the direction of Cal Poly University engineering students. This new feature is a fun interactive path that lights up as guests walk on it! All these wonders and more await guests at the signature event of the season Winter Wonderland!

The proceeds of this event will benefit the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast in advancing our nonprofit mission to help build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

There are sponsorship opportunities if you would like to help Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast spread holiday joy to the local community and make this an even more magical event.

Tickets are now on sale for the event which will be held at the Monarch Breeding & Research Institute at Camp Arnaz, 155 Sulphur Mountain Rd, Ventura, CA 93001. To learn more about this upcoming event, purchase tickets, and view sponsorship opportunities, please visit or contact [email protected] for more information.

Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast serves over 8,800 girls across six counties and is committed to making the Girl Scout Leadership Experience available to girls in ways that impact their lives both in the moment and into the future. Girls participate in troops, individual projects, council events, day camps, resident camps and more. A variety of leadership, outdoor skills, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) based programs and events provide girls with opportunities to learn and explore in fun and informative ways. To join or volunteer in Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara or Ventura County, visit:

Saying farewell to Cris Loy

Cris Loy, Cindy Teer, DoriAnne Matsumoto and Kim Murphy together at Knott’s Scary Farm the day Loy passed.

by Amy Brown

Some people just make life a little sweeter for others, and Cris Loy was one of them. Whether it was designing custom cakes for people in her business, a Gift of Taste, or helping create the Memorial Rock Garden at the Ventura promenade for late surfing dog Haole Boy—her focus was to bring happiness and comfort to others.

Loy passed away suddenly while with some of the same close group of girlfriends who started and maintained the iconic rock garden at C Street. Her friends are now placing painted memorial rocks for Loy in the very garden she and her friends created. Her loved ones share that Loy was committed to supporting others, and they plan to honor her legacy with an ongoing effort of acts of kindness.

Cris created Haole Boy’s Memorial Rock Garden to honor lost loved ones on the Ventura promenade.

Kim Murphy: “It’s so hard to summarize how this incredible loss of Cris has affected me. I will be forever grateful for her friendship, not only to me, but her love of my dogs, and my husband as well. We all became so intertwined in each other‘s lives, that it doesn’t even seem possible that we’ve lost her. John and I will be forever grateful for all she did for us with memorializing Haole, and being the inspiration behind the Memorial Rock Garden. She loved this garden so very much, and put her heart and soul into it. She vowed for one year to make sure there were enough kindness rocks available that people could come and take a rock, any rock that spoke to them other than the memorial rocks. If there was something she wanted to do for somebody, she just did it. She was the most selfless person. Having to place memorial rocks in her honor in the garden was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to personally do. Cris will live in my heart forever, and I will keep her proud of our beautiful garden. Miss you my friend, watch over us.”

Cindy Teer: “Cris introduced me to Ventura and showed me all the beautiful things this town has to offer. I have grown to love the place where she grew up and will always cherish the joy and happiness she brought into my life, no matter where I go. She always brought pure joy to everything she did, and the rock garden is no exception. The rock garden holds a special place in my heart because it was built with love by Cris, Kim and DoriAnne.”

Belinda Greenstein:” I could say a million great things about Cris and all would be true.  A few things I will say without hesitation, Cris will FURever be our ROCK, ready to ROCK-N-Roll no matter what was needed or asked of her. But in life, Cris was the ROCKstar for anyone and everyone blessed enough to know her.  May she always ROCK on in heaven! “

DoriAnne Matsumoto:” Cris was a one in a million friend. We met on Instagram through our dogs and I knew from her posts and comments that she was funny and clever. When we met in person, I immediately loved her. She was just as entertaining as she was on social media. But she was also extremely kind and giving–always inviting others to join in activities, creating the most over the top puppy showers for our dog group and always bringing a cake to a celebration. I still talk about the Amazon cake she made for one of my birthdays. Not only did it look just like an Amazon box but it was delicious as well. She had the biggest, brightest smile and her heart was just as big. Her artistic talent and creativity were amazing, from her cakes to her painted rocks to her vision for Haole’s Memorial Rock Garden. It’s bittersweet to be placing rocks for her there now. We may have only known each other for a few years, but she was family to me and I will miss her forever. “


Stuff-a-Sleigh toy and food drive supports local families in need

Bringing holiday cheer to Downtown Ventura.

In a groundbreaking holiday season collaboration, the Ventura Fire Department is proud to partner with the Ventura County Fire Department, Oxnard Fire Department, ABC7, Food Share of Ventura County, Downtown Ventura Partners, and the Ventura Chamber of Commerce to host Ventura’s first Stuff-a-Sleigh toy and food drive.

This initiative, geared towards supporting children and families in need, will be hosted on Friday, December 1, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Main Street at Figueroa Plaza.

Community members are invited to participate by bringing a new, unwrapped toy, book, sporting equipment, and nonperishable food items to the event.

“This partnership and holiday donation drive offer our community a chance to unite, exemplifying the genuine spirit of the season through acts of goodwill and generosity for those in need this season,” said Ventura Fire Chief David Endaya. “We are honored to be part of this event and extend a heartfelt invitation to everyone to join us in making the holidays brighter for all.”

Adding to the festive atmosphere, the Fire Departments of Ventura County will attend, offering the public an opportunity to engage with fire engines and interact with local firefighters and staff.

“The holiday season can be a trying time for many families, and the need for assistance is greater than ever,” said Jennifer Caldwell, Chief Development Officer at Food Share of Ventura County. “Strong partnerships and the incredible generosity of our community are the backbone of events like this. Together, we can ensure that no one goes hungry this holiday season.”

Community members unable to join the Stuff-a-Sleigh event can participate in the Spark of Love Holiday Toy Drive, happening through December 20, 2023.

How to donate new, unwrapped toys and food:

  • Drop off at the Ventura Fire Headquarters, located at 1425 Dowell Drive, or a participating business.
  • Contribute monetary donations online through the Ventura Fire Foundation. All proceeds are tax-deductible.
  • Purchase a gift on the Amazon Wish List registry.

Find a complete list of participating businesses, online donation information, and Stuff-a-Sleigh event updates at

Last Natural History Walk of 2023 with Lanny Kaufer

Topa Topa Bluffs as seen from Taft Nature Preserve by Alexandra Nicklin

Ojai author-naturalist Lanny Kaufer will lead the last of this year’s monthly Natural History Walks at Taft Gardens and Nature Preserve on Saturday, December 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. His group will explore trails through the wild parts of the property, identify and discuss native plants, and observe birds and animal tracks in the context of local ecology.

This event is a perfect fit with Kaufer’s mission to open a space for people to connect with the natural world, starting with the plant kingdom. The diversity of plant communities and native species make Taft Nature Preserve the ideal place. Taft Gardens & Nature Preserve was featured in an L. A. Times article on “The 16 Most Beautiful and Inviting Public Gardens in Southern California.” And it recently was included in the RedBook Magazine list of “The 12 Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens in the United States.”

Kaufer will have his mobile bookshop onsite after the walk, including his book, Medicinal Herbs of California, and Milt McAuley’s classic Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, which features every plant the group will see.

The $35 cost includes a $10 donation to benefit the Conservation Endowment Fund (CEF), the non-profit steward of Taft Gardens & Nature Preserve. The donation portion of the fee is tax-deductible. This walk is presented by the CEF. They are handling all registrations. To register for the event, please visit, email [email protected], or call (805) 649-2333.

Registrants will receive an email from CEF with detailed directions. Please do not try to find the venue by using other maps or GPS. Allow plenty of time to find the venue and to make your way up the miles-long driveway.

Lanny Kaufer has been leading herb walks and nature hikes, as well as foraging and medicinal plant workshops, since 1976, focusing on ethnobotany, the academic term for the human uses of plants. His website is at He is the author of Medicinal Herbs of California, published by Falcon Guides in December of 2021 and now in its third printing. Kaufer is the founder and director of the Ojai Herbal Symposium, recently held at Krotona Hall on November 11-12, 2023.

Register at or email [email protected] or call (805) 649-2333

Lanny Kaufer 805-646-6281office
805-797-2072 cell [email protected]
Author, Medicinal Herbs of California
Founder/Director, Ojai Herbal Symposium

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir
“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein
“Walking is a man’s best medicine.” Hippocrates

Ventura County Ballet brings the Nutcracker to VCMC Pediatric Oncology Patients

Dancers from Ventura County Ballet performed excerpts from The Nutcracker.

It’s always hard being sick as a child and missing favorite activities with friends and family. But there’s one special holiday tradition local kids don’t have to miss – The Nutcracker!

Dancers from Ventura County Ballet performed excerpts from The Nutcracker at Ventura County Medical Center’s Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Infusion Center on Tuesday, November 14. The free performance for young patients, their families and VCMC staff has become an annual event.

Ventura County Ballet’s full production of the world-famous Nutcracker ballet will take to the stage at Oxnard Performing Arts Center

Kathleen Noblin, Ventura County Ballet founder and executive director, explains, “Ventura County Ballet has always been committed to bringing the best in live dance to Ventura County audiences. As we prepare for our 25th Anniversary season of The Nutcracker, we are delighted to again bring a preview to VCMC.”

Noblin continued, “It’s our mission to bring world-class ballet to the community and to bring the joy of dance to children who might otherwise not be able to experience it. The young patients at VCMC not only enjoyed The Nutcracker excerpts but also met our dancers, tried on a pointe shoe and were up close and personal with the wonder of ballet.”

VCMC Hematology/Oncology Medical Director Dr. Francisco Bracho added, “We’re so grateful to Ventura County Ballet for bringing this special performance to us. Experiences like this are a wonderful way to help our patients and families have a sense of normalcy in their lives and respite from a focus on being sick.”

The performers were:

Clara – Kirra Anderson, 13, Cabrillo M.S., 8th grade
Fritz – Emma Hansen, 12, DeAnza Academy of Technology and Art, 7th grade
Columbine – Sylvie Watts, 14, Ventura H.S., 9th grade
Harlequin – Jonah Tillery, 16, Ventura H.S., 11th grade
Soldier – Carter Gillespie, 17, Newbury Park H. S., 12th grade

Ventura County Ballet is a non-profit organization bringing world class, professional dance performances to our community. They provide top quality performing opportunities and instruction to hundreds of young people as a springboard to universities and careers with dance companies. Through scholarships and outreach, they bring the joy of dance to children throughout our area.

A Q&A with Beth Baumer and Neuroboxing Fight Camp to help those with Parkinson’s and neurological diseases

The non-contact boxing conditioning classes encourage participation.

Neuroboxing Fight Camp, to be located at Portside Ventura Harbor, is a non-profit exercise, neurological rehabilitation and physical therapy program. Who offer a free monthly support group dedicated to impacting the lives of those living with Parkinson’s and neurological disease in our community. Their non-contact boxing conditioning classes encourage participation from caregivers and family members.

Q. Do you have an annual fundraiser? Do you have year-round fundraising projects? Do you have any upcoming events?

A. I am going to start one. An annual cornhole tournament fundraiser hopefully at my new studio in Portside Ventura Harbor’s outdoor sand volleyball courts. I will have a soft opening, as well as a grand opening which will include a FUNdraiser event.

Q.Tell us about the history of your organization: How long has it been around? What was the inspiration for starting it?

I started NBFC in October, 2019. During the pandemic, I was able to keep it afloat with zoom classes and maintained loyal members. The inspiration is my father, Hank Laubacher who was diagnosed with PD in 2010. We noticed the need for a fitness program for the PD and neurological disease community in our area that was fun and engaging. I joined him for a few classes at Agoura Fitness and saw the profound positive effect it had on him and the other members.

Q. What is the philosophy behind your organization? Your mission statement?

A.Movement is Medicine. When faced with a Parkinson’s, neurological or central nervous system disease or impairment, it is essential to get out of your home at least 3 times a week to exercise, connect with others experiencing similar struggles and maintain an active social life. Give yourself the gift of health through fitness and community. You are never alone in your fight!

Q. What do you and your employees and/or volunteers enjoy most about their work?

A. The wonderful friendships and camaraderie shared amongst our members and coaches. Watching our fighters walk out of class with sweat on their brow, flush on their cheeks, smiles on their faces and a livelier pep in their step.

Q. Do you have a special message to share with the neighborhood or community?

A. Please share our service to anyone local you know who could benefit from joining our program! We are also always looking for volunteers to assist in classes and to help perform assessments of our members. Family, friends and caregivers are always welcome to participate with their Neuroboxer. We will also be offering general boxing and kickboxing classes open to anyone!

Q. Can you share a funny or interesting story about your organization? How do you make your workday fun?

A. At NBFC we are major music lovers. Our playlists make the classes super entertaining and motivating! A few of our members are musicians and have worked in the music industry so we get special treats from them when they show up with a playlist. We also love to use our voices, as those living with PD can struggle with projecting their speech. Mike, T Rex, loves to make some noise while doing our high kicks and always gets the group cracking up. Eric loves to dance and sing along to the music, giving his buddies high fives and doing flex offs which keeps the laughter going.

Q. Where can people contact you in order to volunteer or get involved?

Visit our website:
Venmo: @neuroboxingFC
Zelle: 805-223-6955 Also our contact # to call or text
Email: [email protected]

Lost Olivas cannon ball

Could this be the missing cannon ball?

by Richard Senate

In 1928, when Mayor Max Fleishmann was restoring the Olivas Adobe he had purchased, they found a small iron cannon ball stuck in the wall of the old kitchen thick adobe wall. It was seen as a curious artifact and presented to the mayor. He gave it to the Historical Museum in Santa Barbara, where he had a large residence and polo grounds.

The museum put it into a glass case with the story of its discovery and the mystery of how it ended up in the wall of the adobe. Some speculated it was fired by John C. Freemont’s troops in the Mexican War, but no reports tell of such an action. In 1988 a story was uncovered from an Olivas descendant in a nursing home that after the great robbery at the Olivas Adobe in 1855 Don Raymundo purchased a small cannon to defend the house from other attacks. His sons got to playing with the piece and accidentally set it off, firing a ball into the kitchen, where it went through two walls before coming to rest.

Don Raymundo then sold the cannon to saloon owner (and later Ventura mayor) Angel Escandon. An ardent supporter of President Abraham Lincoln (as was Raymundo) he would fire off the cannon to announce a Union victory in the Civil War. Today the County Museum of Art and History owns the “Escandon Cannon.” Is the story true that the small cannon was the one that fired the ball into the kitchen?

The Adobe contacted the Santa Barbara Museum to see if the item could be borrowed to see if it fit in the Escandon Cannon. They were told the cannon ball donated by Max Fleishmann was lost, along with all data on the item! After years of being displayed, the exhibit was taken down and the small cannon ball was simply tossed into a carboard box full of other small cannon balls found all over the state and at Civil War Battlefields and donated to the museum. If the piece had a label it had fallen off over the years.

No one had a record or photograph of the small iron ball. The mystery of its origins was just unimportant to them. Poor museum record keeping means we can never know which of the cannon balls in the box is the curious piece. Perhaps because it was from Ventura, it was not seen as important to the people of Santa Barbara?

Ventura Bike Depot: A Legacy of Passion, Service, and Community Involvement

Ventura Bike Depot, a hidden gem, has been enriching the cycling experience for locals and visitors alike for nearly two decades. Ventura Bike Depot, established in 2003 by Shelley Sund, has become an iconic destination for bicycle enthusiasts and a testament to the power of community involvement.

Shelley Sund, originally from Seattle, is not just the founder of Ventura Bike Depot but a true cycling visionary. She brought the first Italian Quadricyles by Jomark to California back in 1984 and later trademarked the Pedalina, a name synonymous with quality and innovation. Before transforming the current location into a full-service bicycle shop, she opened a dozen rental locations, laying the foundation for what would become a cycling institution in Ventura.

Shelley’s commitment to her community is commendable. She is a member of Bike Ventura, a vital local cycling organization, and a dedicated supporter and donor of both Ventura Land Trust and Brock Hills HOA. As an activist, she has lent her voice to the Cycle California Coast, Channel Islands Bicycle Club, National Bicycle Dealers Association, and the League of American Bicyclists, making a significant impact in the cycling world.

What truly sets Shelley and her team at Ventura Bike Depot apart from competitors is their unwavering dedication to customer service. With a genuine passion for cycling, they take pride in bringing smiles to the faces of everyone who walks through their doors. Their motto is simple: no gesture is too small when it comes to adding joy and care to people’s lives. They take the time to understand each rider’s unique needs, preferences, intended distance, and frequency of use before recommending a specific bicycle.

Ventura Bike Depot has always been at the forefront of the cycling industry. Shelley introduced electric bikes into their rental fleet when she was running six locations simultaneously, recognizing the potential of this revolutionary technology.

Continuing to push the boundaries of bike experiences, Ventura Bike Depot now offers bike wine tours, allowing enthusiasts to explore the picturesque California coast in a unique way. It’s no wonder that they have consistently been voted as the #1 Bike Shop in Ventura County.

Ventura Bike Depot is more than just a bike shop; it’s a hub of passion, community involvement, and top-notch service. With Shelley Sund’s unwavering dedication, it continues to be a symbol of Ventura’s thriving cycling culture. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or just looking for a new way to explore the city, Ventura Bike Depot is the place to be.