Category Archives: News and Notes

Food Share Annual Can-Tree Food Drive Event

There are lots of ways to get involved.

Food Share, Ventura County’s largest hunger-relief organization, is bringing its most popular community event back for the holidays! The 11th Annual Can-tree food drive will take place in Figueroa Plaza from Thursday, December 1 when the trees will be built, through Sunday, December 4, 2022, when they will be dismantled.

The event, which brings thousands of individuals, families, and local businesses together to collect and build hundreds of canned food “trees” is Food Share’s biggest food and fund drive of the year and is a critical source of food for the thousands of people still struggling with food insecurity in Ventura County.

There are lots of ways to get involved. Participants can Collect & Build, Buy & Build, Raise & Build or Sponsor a Tree. There’s also a chance to win one of 13 coveted awards including the CAN Crusher, the People’s Choice, and the Mayor’s Choice, all of which will be featured on Food Share’s website, social media pages and newsletter.

Food Share is serving three times the number of people being served pre-pandemic. The latest figure (total for 2021) is a little over 190,000 unduplicated people based on FreshTrak data. However, this figure does not include people attending emergency drive-thru distributions, some of our programs, including Community Markets, or farmworkers receiving food at field distributions. The total number being served annually is @220,000.

For more information visit: or reach out to Jess Hug, at

Ukraine Ballet stars headline Ventura County Ballet’s 24th Annual Nutcracker

Zhan Mishel Panchuk and Hanna Chudinova share the stage with Ventura youths.

Zhan Mishel Panchuk and Hanna Chudinova, from Ukraine’s Kyiv Ballet, join 70 other dancers as Ventura County Ballet presents The Nutcracker. The curtain rises on Saturday, Dec. 3, with shows at 2:00 and 7:00 pm at Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center in Camarillo. The magic continues with shows Saturday, Dec. 10, at 3:00 pm and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 1:00 and 5:00 pm.

Ventura County Ballet’s The Nutcracker is the only production of this holiday classic in the Ojai/ Ventura/Oxnard/Camarillo area to feature internationally famous professional dancers, local pre-professional dancers and aspiring young dancers from its official school, Ballet Academy Ventura. Kathleen Noblin, founder/executive director of Ventura County Ballet, explains, “For 24 years we’ve brought our audiences the very best in ballet with top-notch dancers from around the world. “

Noblin adds, “We’re thrilled to return to the Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center. It’s an ideal venue for dance, and there is not a bad seat in this state-of-the-art theater.”

Three 17-year-old Ventura High School seniors Olivia Roman, Emma Steiner and Ella Ullrich share the featured roles of Sugar Plum Fairy, Dew Drop and the Snow Queen. The part of Clara, on whom the story is centered, is shared by Hailey Hall, 15, Foothill Technology High School; Abigail Steiner, 15, Ventura High School; and Sylvie Watts, 13, Cabrillo Middle School.

Tickets, from $20 to $40, are available online at A complimentary Sugar Plum Cookie Party for children follows each matinee. Special rates are available for community groups of 10 or more. For group ticket information and purchases, please email or call (805)765-1734.

Ventura County Ballet is also bringing excerpts from The Nutcracker to children and families at VCMC’s Pediatric Oncology Clinic and children served by the Ventura and Camarillo Boys and Girls Clubs.

Through scholarships and outreach, we bring dance to underserved children and families throughout our area.

Recent WEV grads

Angela Rosales, Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery, WEV Client of the Year;

To the crowd of over 220 individuals, Rosales credited WEV with providing her a network of resources and funding that has allowed her business on Main Street in Downtown Ventura to survive and thrive. Rosales shared that, “WEV rallied their financial network, educated us on grants and government programs… they were the first ones offering a low interest bridge loan before many of us business owners even had access to the PPP program.”  Like many local businesses, Rosales’ shop was directly impacted by the Thomas Fire as well as the pandemic shutdown. “If it weren’t for WEV stepping in just at the right time with access to capital, I’m not sure I’d be here today.”

achel Sears Casanta, Hypercat Cycleworks, WEV Resilience Award recipient 2022

Bicycle shop owner Casanta echoed a sentiment of gratitude when she shared her personal and professional story of resilience. She described how the bike shop she owns with her husband was the target of multiple burglaries during the height of COVID, and in 2021 she was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. “WEV had my back, with messages of encouragement and financial support. I’ll never forget that; find the silver lining, focus on the positive,” said Casanta who proudly shared that she is now cancer free. Hypercat has been recognized with several industry awards and the business has enjoyed their biggest revenue months ever.

WEV’s CEO, Kathy Odell spoke about the common goal of economically empowering individuals. “The power of a strong, supportive community, where people pitch in and help each other practically, emotionally, and socially, supports mental and physical health. And it enables the entire community to better respond, adapt and recover from adverse events,” said Odell.

Dr. Susan Andrzejewski, CSUCI, Dean at The Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics, WEV Partner of the Year.

Proceeds raised at the Empowerment is Priceless event will directly benefit WEV’s business funding and client programs, including financial literacy and education classes, business training courses, individual coaching, and business advisory services – all provided in both English and Spanish.

Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families awarded foster family foundation grant

For the fourth year, Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families has received a $100,000 grant from the Foster Family Foundation to support the agency’s campus-based programs and services in addition to its Mobile Crisis Response services in Santa Barbara County. Casa Pacifica provides a comprehensive and integrated array of programs for youth who have been involved in the foster care system or who face severe emotional or behavioral challenges, with specific expertise in educational, employment, housing and mental and behavioral health services.

“We believe that all young people deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential. We are pleased to continue our support of Casa Pacifica, and we share in its commitment to ensuring a bright future for foster and at-risk children and youth,” said Camille Davenport, president, Foster Family Foundation.

Casa Pacifica serves approximately 1,700 youth each year through therapeutic, evidence-based programs that include residential treatment; transitional youth services for both transitional (16-18 years) and emancipated (18-24 years) foster youth; recreational therapy to build confidence and foster positive relationships; and Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth (SAFTY), a mobile response service for children in crisis. The agency also serves more than 100 children and adolescents each year through its Non-Public School, a fully certified, accredited special education school that helps at-risk youth regain grade level and build both classroom and social skills.

As the largest nonprofit provider of mental and behavioral health services for at-risk and foster children and adolescents in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, Casa Pacifica relies on grantors, event revenue and corporate and individual donors to provide essential programs and services to more than 2,000 children, youth and families annually. This year alone, the organization must fundraise approximately 13% of its nearly $30 million operating budget. Monies raised fill the gap that exists between revenue received through government service contracts and the actual cost of caring for children, youth and families.

Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families provides assessment, clinical, medical, residential, and educational services to foster and at-risk children/youth struggling with complex mental health disorders due to past trauma and/or mental illness. The agency is the largest non-profit provider of children’s mental health services in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties and administers fourteen campus- and community-based programs designed to give youth, and their families, the tools they need to heal, rebuild and strengthen relationships, reengage with their educations, and overcome their negative emotional and behavioral challenges. For more information about Casa Pacifica visit its website or call the Development Department at (805) 445-7800.

St. John’s Regional Medical Center earns Blue Distinction® Centers Designation

Dignity Health –St. John’s Regional Medical Center (SJRMC) has once again been recognized with a Blue Distinction Centers for Cardiac Care designation, as part of the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally designated providers that show expertise in delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes, based on objective measures that were developed with input from the medical community and leading accreditation and quality organizations.

“We are proud to once again be named a Blue Distinction Center for providing high quality cardiac care,” said David Schmidt, MD, medical director, cardiovascular services, St. John’s Regional Medical Center. “Receiving this prestigious designation for a second consecutive earning period is a testament to the skill and talent of the cardiac team at St. John’s Regional Medical Center and our commitment to advancing care for our patients.”

Blue Distinction Centers for Cardiac Care seek to empower patients with the knowledge and tools to find quality cardiac care. To be designated, hospitals must demonstrate expertise in delivering safe and effective cardiac care, focusing on cardiac valve surgery, coronary artery bypass graft and percutaneous coronary interventions episodes of care.

“Our team works hard every day to provide patients with the best care and the best possible outcomes, said Barry Wolfman, President and CEO of St. John’s Regional Medical Center and St. John’s Hospital Camarillo. “This is a well-deserved honor. I am incredibly proud to work alongside such an amazing cardiology team.”

Hospitals recognized with this designation are assessed using a combination of quality information supplied by hospitals and third-party data registries and cost measures derived from Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies’ medical claims.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally and is expected to claim more than 23.6 million lives annually by 2030.

Ventura Education Partnership awards 35 grants

Ventura Education Partnership connects community resources to support and sustain excellence in education for VUSD students. VEP is excited to announce the fall 2022 grant cycle is now complete. 35 teachers were awarded grants for their special classroom projects The grants were from all subject areas. VEP had donors who dedicated their funding for STEM, Science and Technology, Science and Health and Art & Social Justice.

Thank you to our major donors that made these grants possible; Aera Energy, Community Memorial Health System, and Harald & Birgit Wulff. Marlene McMullen and Patty Kingsley, Co-Vice Presidents of Grants said, “We are extremely grateful to all our donors for stepping up during these challenging times to support student learning.” Over the past 10 years, Ventura Education Partnership has provided more than $1 million in small grants to VUSD teachers that make a BIG impact on learning. VEPGrants have touched every child in VUSD and have a lasting impact on learning by incentivizing innovation in the classroom and incubating new programs district-wide.

VEP fall 2022 grant recipients:

Ryana Aguilera-Loma Vista,Lupe Alpuche-Sheridan Way,Mark Asher- Lincoln,Christa Bandringa- Cabrillo Middle School ,Mary Barnhizer- Lincoln,Erin Beerer-Balboa Middle School,Steena Bischof- Citrus Glen,Beth Borer- Pacific High School,,Lynn Bova- JuanamariaKeeley Chambers- Balboa Middle School,Darcy Duffy- Lemon Grove,Mary Elsenbaumer- Loma Vista,Tracie Fickenscher- Mound,Erin Fraser- Lemon GroveAdriana Guerra- E P Foster,Liz Gutierrez- Loma Vista,Lindsay Guzik- Cabrillo Middle School,Ellen Harrison- Poinsettia,Liz Heiberger- Will Rogers,Debbie Herz-Sherman- Citrus Glen,Suzanne Hudspeth- Sunset,Jill Johnson- Loma Vista,Karen Kirschenbaum-Reynosa- Ventura High School,Scott Lancet- Pierpont,Scott Lehman- Cabrillo Middle School,Shannon Lopez- Anacapa Middle School,Linda Miller- EIC Pacific,Hilary Morefield- Anacapa Middle School,Laura Nicholls- Lincoln,Danvi Nguyen- Lemon Grove,Kati Padgett- Lemon Grove,Amy Perez- EIC, ATLAS,Becky Torres- Sunset,Rebecca Van Mannekes- Sheridan Way,Megan Vasquez- EIC, ATLAS

Congratulations Fall 2022 Recipients!

The Ventura Climate Coalition interviewed the city council candidates

The Ventura Climate Coalition (VCC) is a local group of citizens that are deeply concerned about our environment and particularly the advancing challenge of Climate Change that threatens our way of life and the livability of the planet. We believe individual and local actions can help mitigate the looming threat, and position the Community to best adapt to the problems that are already baked into our future. We surveyed all Council candidates for their positions on the following measures and strategies that we believe should be pursued.

Survey Questions

1. Adoption of ordinances or amendments to the State Building Code (a “Reach” Code) that, with few exceptions, prohibit new buildings to be hooked-up to natural gas pipelines.

2. Seek and support programs that promote retrofitting gas powered equipment and appliances with electrically powered ones in existing buildings.

3. Re-locate the Southern California Gas Co. compressor plant on North Olive St. in West Ventura to a remote location away from its present location across the street from a school.

4. Commit the City to using 100% renewable electrical energy supplied by the Clean Power Alliance (CPA).

5. Set a goal to have 20% of the city staff work from home each week to help reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) that create about 40% of the Climate Changing gases generated in the community.

We believe individual and local actions can help mitigate the looming threat, and position the Community to best adapt to the problems that are already baked into our future.

Each of the council candidates in the four districts where elections are being held (for a total of 12 candidates) was sent a survey on October 5th and asked to respond by October 14th. They were told their responses would be published in the local press to share with voters.

The candidates were asked to rate their level of support for each action on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest level of support equating to voting for the action.

Seven candidates responded, including at least one from each of the four districts in question (1, 4, 5, and 6). The responding candidates’ level of support for the actions were largely “4s and 5s”. The fact that a majority of the candidates responded (7 of 12) and that their level of support for specific climate action was high, is encouraging.

Candidates By District Level of support for five climate action measures

District 1 1 2 3 4 5

Alyona Brody NR NR NR NR NR

Liz Campos 5 5 5 5 5

Marco Cuevas 3 5 5 4 5


Helen Eloyan 5 5 5* 5 5

District 4

Jim Rundle NR NR NR NR NR

Jeanette Sanchez Palacios 5 5 5 5 5

District 5

Bill McReynolds NR NR NR NR NR

Marie Lakin 5 5 5 5 5

District 6

Jim Duran NR NR NR NR NR

Lorrie Brown NR NR NR NR NR

Danny Carrillo 4 5 5 4 5!

Steph Karba 4 5 5 3-4 4-5


Teacher wins Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award

Superintendent Dr. Antonio Castro, Ms. Julie Blevins and Mound Principal Ms. Bobbi Powers celebrating the award.

Julie Blevins, a kindergarten teacher at Mound Elementary School in the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD), has received the “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award.”. The “Chris Prewitt Eternal Optimist Award” was created after Chris Prewitt, beloved VUSD Assistant Principal, who passed away in 2014 after a woman under the influence hit and killed Prewitt while he was out jogging. 

Chris was an incredible teacher, water polo coach, administrator, and friend to all lucky enough to spend time with him. Chris’ unrelenting passion for life inspired the staff and students of his schools and the community.

Each year a recipient is honored with this award. The honorees of this award show the same spirit and passion that Chris carried with him daily and have positively impacted their school sites in the same way that Chris affected his.

This year’s winner, Ms. Julie Blevins, is the epitome of an eternal optimist. She teaches kindergarten at Mound Elementary School and wears a constant smile on her face. In addition, she volunteers for School Site Council and the Parent Teacher Organization in her free time. Others describe her as always proactive and positive. She always has a kind word for those she meets. 

“Julie remained positive and a bright light through the complications of COVID-19 for Mound and its students. She is loved by students, colleagues, and parents alike. Anyone who meets her would agree that she deserves this recognition,” stated Principal Bobbi Powers. 

“I am humbled and honored by this award. Chris Prewitt was an amazing man,” stated Ms. Blevins.

Superintendent, Dr. Antonio Castro, presented Ms. Blevins with the award in front of her kindergarten class, who gave her a standing ovation.

Only 11 of California’s 116 community colleges offer housing

In Ventura County, the median gross rent is $1,854, according to (2016-2020). For college students, this can be a crushing obstacle to fulfilling their educational goals. When Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill No. 183 in June, approving more than $542 million for the construction of affordable student housing, Ventura College was honored to be among the 11 recipients.

The college will receive over $62 million, which will fund apartment-type student housing to provide over 300 beds in 95 units with rental costs ranging from $400-$900 per month.

“Access to affordable housing continues to be an issue that California must address,” said State Assemblymember Steve Bennett (District 37). “Students are particularly impacted, and in this year’s state budget, we were able to direct funding to colleges and universities across the state to help address that impact. I know Ventura College’s new housing will enable hardworking students access to a safe and affordable place to live.”

The funding comes at a critical time, as 18% of Ventura College students experience housing insecurity, defined as having issues with affordability, safety, quality or housing loss. A student housing marketing and demand analysis created for Ventura College determined that students have experienced increased costs and challenges in finding housing.

All three colleges in the Ventura County Community College District — Moorpark College, Oxnard College and Ventura College — received funding through AB 183. Moorpark College and Oxnard College were awarded $250,000 and $249,000, respectively, for proposals to research the feasibility and planning of future affordable student housing on their campuses.

The Ventura College housing project will be located on campus property and is expected to break ground in 2023.

“California has made incredible strides in passing AB 183. This funding will provide affordable student housing opportunities and is a game changer in helping students meet their academic goals,” said Kim Hoffmans, president of Ventura College.

Workforce Development Board launches new workforce navigation hub

Ventura County Workforce Development Board of Ventura County (WDBVC) is excited to announce the launch of the new Ventura County Works Hub, a virtual call center and online resource hub where job seekers will be navigated to the appropriate services offered by the Workforce Development Programs and Partners across Ventura County.

“WDBVC believes our new Ventura County Works Hub will help job seekers easily connect with our resources and our partner’s resources,” explained Norman Albances, Assistant Director WDBVC. “We recognized that we needed job seekers to have easier access to our services. Therefore, job seekers can call, fill out a form, or chat with our Navigators who will then provide an individualized assessment so they can connect them to real-time programs and services, all at no cost.”

August reporting by CNBC ( showed the unemployment rate climbed to 3.7%, two-tenths of a percentage point higher than expectations.  Wages rose 5.2% from a year ago, slightly lower than estimated, and the biggest sector gains were in professional and business services, health care, and retail.

Just in time to meet the increased job placement demands, the new Ventura County Works Hub will aid job seekers with the individualized services and resources needed. Jobseekers can call 805-648-WORK (648-9675), or visit

“It’s an exciting time in the Workforce Development Board of Ventura County’s 40-year history,” said Rebecca Evans, Executive Director. “This new resource allows us to easily help those in need of a career change, job training and certification by bringing the service to them, all at no cost to our community.”

Staff are on standby M-F 8-12 noon and 1-5 pm, with services available in both English and Spanish.  Individuals can also access the live chat function on the Workforce Development Board of Ventura County’s website to connect with services and support.

In other Workforce news Stephen Yeoh has been elected as chair and Sandy Smith as vice-char. Yeoh and Smith will serve one-year terms. 

Stephen Yeoh, who joined the board in 2016, is the Chief Peace of Mind Officer at Un1teee, an IT service provider located in Thousand Oaks with clients in the healthcare, finance, and legal industries.  He served on the board of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce and was a volunteer instructor for the Central Coast Chapter of the Project Management Institute.  

Smith was appointed to WDB in 2020. He is a project manager at Sespe Consulting, Inc., an engineering, land use and environmental company based in Ventura.  Smith, a former Ventura city council member, is currently a Senior Adjunct Instructor at Cal Lutheran University. He is a long-time participant in non-profits that focus on sustaining this county’s quality of life. “I’m looking forward to working with staff and our board in our continued efforts to promote innovative workforce programs and institutions that offer all our residents an opportunity for a higher quality of life,” says Smith. 

Members of the WDB include leaders from business, economic development, education, labor, government, and community-based organizations.