Published in the Ventura County Star - Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Flory Academy student Joy Watson handed a red teddy bear to Maria Aguirre, 2, on Valentine’s Day inside the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard.
Joy, 9, didn’t know what kind of reaction she would get, but the toddler’s smile said it all.
It was one of many smiles as elementary and middle school students from Moorpark delivered about 300 stuffed animals to children in need at the Oxnard mission and the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles.
The stuffed animals were delivered Friday in Oxnard during the mission’s Valentine’s Day dinner, which also included youths from Thousand Oaks volunteering to serve the meal.
The new and gently used stuffed animals were collected by students at Flory during a drive at the school.
Dinners are distributed to members of the community during a Valentine’s Day dinner at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard. In addition to the dinner, children received stuffed animals collected by students of Flory Academy in Moorpark.
Joy’s mother Kim Watson, a parent volunteer, coordinated the effort as a project for Brooks & Brooks Foundation, a Woodland Hills nonprofit that focuses on youth service work. The idea for collecting stuffed animals came about when Watson was with her daughter Joy at a Target store and saw a mother with her children carrying a sign asking for help. “Joy wanted to do something for the family, and she asked if we could give them a teddy bear,” Watson said.
The mother and daughter went to the school’s PTA and suggested the teddy bear drive. Kim Watson hoped for at least 100 stuffed animals to be collected, but the school ended up collecting more than 300.
Rhiannon Pereira from Flory Academy in Moorpark carries some of the stuffed animals into the Ventura County Rescue Mission. She later helped distribute them to kids. “The goal is for kids to think about other kids and to make a difference,” Watson said.
Suzanne West, community relations coordinator for the Ventura County Rescue Mission, welcomed the idea of delivering the stuffed animals to the children, who were eating dinner with their families.
The dinner was open to all families, and the mission was expecting several hundred people for the meal made by culinary arts students.
Joy joined Moorpark students Liam, Rhiannon, Ethan and Addison Pereira at the Oxnard mission in delivering the stuffed animals. The Pereira siblings also were joined by their mother, Ann Pereira, who passed out goody bags and carnations donated by Stuart Baker from Gold Coast Church.
“This is very nice what they’re doing for the children. They are so appreciative,” said Vickie Patino, of Oxnard, who ate dinner at the mission with her grandkids Alina Gonzalez, 3, and Isaac Dearcon, 9.
Elandro Rojas, 8, hugged his new toy snake while Cindy Valerio, 8, sat with her new Minnie Mouse stuffed animal as she ate pumpkin cheesecake.
Sierra Waters and Kate Gullett, both 14, were among 10 volunteers from Christian Church of Thousand Oaks who helped serve dinner.
“It’s nice that the community came together to do this. It makes people here feel that other people do care about them,” said Javier Gaona, of Ventura, a volunteer.
Sailors volunteer at Rescue Mission
Published in the Lighthouse - The official newspaper website of the Ventura County Naval Community January 29, 2014
“It’s the right thing to do.”
Lt. Molly Avery, a physical therapist at the Naval Branch Health Clinic (NBHC) at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme didn’t break away from dishing up plates of food as she explained why she was spending a recent Thursday morning volunteering at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard.
“I wanted to come,” she said. “This is an organization I give to financially. I believe in what they do: faith-based rehabilitation.”
The Religious Ministries Team at the base regularly organizes community relations volunteer efforts at the rescue mission. The project is especially popular at Thanksgiving, when the base commanding officer usually joins in to serve hundreds of lunches to the neediest of Ventura County’s residents.
But volunteers are needed all year long, and on Jan. 23, they came from the clinic.Avery was joined by several hospital corpsmen and a few retirees who frequently worship at the Seabee Chapel and knew about the project.
The morning began with the mission’s volunteer coordinator, Suzanne West, describing the many services provided at the center, including the hot lunches that have been bringing in an average of 130 people this month and the hot dinners, which have been bringing in 180.
“Not everyone who comes is homeless,” she explained. “Some are in the community but don’t have a regular place to live — they’re on someone’s couch — or they live in a small studio that doesn’t have a kitchen.”
The volunteers spent the morning preparing the dining room and dicing tomatoes for a salsa.
At 11 a.m., the corpsmen served plates of food while Avery and others stayed behind the counter, dishing up trays.
“We can’t thank you enough,” West said. (Download a PDF version of this article)
Sailors serve Thanksgiving meals
Published in the Lighthouse - The official newspaper website of the Ventura County Naval Community - December 11, 2013
Capt. Larry Vasquez, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County, and Command Master Chief Percy Trent were among the 40 Navy volunteers who helped serve Thanksgiving meals at the Ventura County Rescue Mission Wednesday, Nov. 27.
John Saltee, director of the Rescue Mission, called their assistance “awesome.”
“We stopped to give thanks for those who serve our country,” Saltee said as Vasquez poured gravy onto a pile of mashed potatoes and turkey. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the men and women who fight for our country. We need to give thanks for our forces who are keeping the peace.”
The Rescue Mission was prepared to serve 950 meals. Volunteers had spent nearly a week cooking 579 turkeys, 1,250 pounds of potatoes, 200 gallons of gravy and 120 pies, pumpkin and apple.
As Vasquez and Trent filled plates with food — along with Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Han, command chaplain, and Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Kucia of the Naval Branch Health Clinic — other Navy volunteers carried the meals to tables. Among them were four Sailors who had just come in from San Nicolas Island and decided to volunteer a few hours before taking their leave.
Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Perfecta Valle organized the effort and drew in Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Juan Sanchez, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Aircraft Handling 2nd Class Carlos Tejashun and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Launch & Recover Equipment 2nd Class Alfonso Chacon.
“I really wanted to do this,” Valle said. “I like helping people in need — people who need this more than I do.”
She was planning to drive to San Bernardino right after the event to spend time with her parents and the rest of her family.
Several volunteers also came from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28, a Reserve unit that is currently deployed. Eight of the homeport group came, and two brought their spouses.
“I’m very happy today,” said Senior Chief Yeoman Randy Bibeau, who’s from Minnesota. “It’s great to support the local community.”
Chief Yeoman Barbara Wood came with her husband, retired Air Force Master Sgt. David Rathbone. Wherever they happen to be — Virginia, Maine, Mississippi, Southern California — they volunteer during the holidays.
“Life has been good to us,” Rathbone said, “and every year we’ve made the decision to go help other people.”
Suzanne West, who coordinates volunteers for the Rescue Mission, said Wednesday’s efforts showed just a small part of what the Navy does to help the organization.
Navy volunteers help serve meals at the Rescue Mission all year long, she said, and Religious Ministries collects clothes and other items for those in need.
“They really support what we do here,” she said.
Fashion show fundraiser to benefit homeless
Lighthouse aims to put heads in beds
Published in the Ventura County Star - Saturday, October 5, 2013
Ventura County’s 2013 Homeless Count and Survey identified 1,774 homeless people, with 1,074 living without a permanent roof over their heads. “That’s a lot of families out on the streets, living in cars, living at campsites or doubling and tripling up at friends’ and families’ homes,” said Cassie Sorenson, director of the Lighthouse for Women & Children.
To help area homeless people, the Oxnard-based charity will present a Rags to Riches Fashion Show from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura. The Lighthouse provides emergency shelter, transitional housing and other services for women, women with children, two-parent families and fathers with children.
Organizers of the fashion show said they hope the event raises at least $30,000 toward reopening 22 emergency shelter beds. The beds, operated by The Kingdom Center of Oxnard, were eliminated because of a lack of funding, Sorenson said. A reopening would add beds for women and women with children in Ventura County, she said. Sorenson said that because of the partnership, the Lighthouse can focus on the reopening while Kingdom Center sets its efforts on supporting the beds. At the point they are ready to take over the beds again, Kingdom Center will have finished remodeling its facility. Without the fundraiser, the Lighthouse couldn’t help the overwhelming number of people in need, she added.
“It is fundraisers like this that not only help us keep our doors open but help us increase the number of people we help,” Sorenson said. “We offer a continuum of care from just off the streets to independent living through our many programs.”
Rags to Riches will feature a live auction, raffle and boutique. Designer clothing from local thrift stores will be modeled by volunteers as well as women and children in the Lighthouse Life Recovery Program. “The fundraiser is not only an opportunity to raise additional funds ... but to increase community awareness about the incredible work going on at the Lighthouse and all the opportunities to volunteer and provide support,” said Barbara Grant, community outreach committee chairwoman.
Originally, the Lighthouse operated independently, but it is now part of the Ventura Rescue Mission Alliance. “Many of its past donors have not known to earmark their ongoing donations specifically for the Lighthouse, and so those donations are now only partly allocated to the Lighthouse based on an internally specified percentage,” Grant said. “This event will allow our many donors and supporters to participate and learn more about the work the Lighthouse is doing.” As the nonprofit is the only year-round provider of these services, leaders know the need is immense, Sorenson said.
The county survey opens with a statement that this year is the first year the number of homeless people has decreased, Sorenson said. “This is wonderful,” Sorenson said. “Yet there are still 1,074 people without a home, a bed or a roof to sleep under.” (Download a PDF version of this article)
Mission Gets the Boot
Published in the Ventura County Star - March 11, 2013
Hundreds of leather boots, a remnant of the days inmates worked at an honor farm outside Ojai, will finally be put to use. The 226 pairs of golden-brown boots have been stashed in a closet at the county Juvenile Justice Complex in El Rio for eight years, stiill wrapped in tissue in cardboard boxes. They got a new home Thursday when the Ventura County Rescue Mission picked them up and delivered them to needy people.
“It’s like Christmas,” said John Saltee, director of the Oxnard mission that serves homeless and drug-dependent people. He called the gift from the county Probation Agency amazing because the adults who got them have rarely had such quality boots. Some walk on flat shoes with no support, but their feet always hurt, he said. It appears the Sheriff’s Office bought the Redwoods work boots for inmates at the honor farm, a work camp and jail that closed in 2003. The Probation Agency inherited them around then and gave them to charges in work furlough programs.
Adult inmates freed from confinement to work during the day got some of the bigger sizes, handy for the jobs many held as manual laborers, probation Director Mark Varela said. Others were worn by low-level juvenile offenders in a now-defunct community-based work program, he said. As practices for treating juvenile offenders changed, the need for work clothes and shoes declined.
The number of juveniles in county institutions has dropped significantly as youths have been sent to preventive, community-based programs, Varela said. The number incarcerated is about 115, half of what it was four or five years ago, he said. Those in the juvenile complex are serious offenders unsuited for work furlough programs, he said.
The juvenile wards would not be allowed to wear the boots in the complex. The boots have steel toes and would be a security risk, said Gina Johnson, a division manager who oversees housing at the complex.
Also, the wards’ feet are too big for the size 5 and 6 boots that apparently were intended for the women held at the honor farm. “We’re talking 14- to 15-year-olds, and their feet turned out to be much bigger,” Johnson said. Johnson said she’s happy to see the boots in the hands of the Rescue Mission. “They’re taking up space, and we’re not using them,” she said.
Fred Perez, who supervises corrections employees in the juvenile facility, called the Rescue Mission several months ago and arranged the donation. Their value has declined even if they look brand-new. The boots originally were valued at $50 a pair, but probation officials now estimate their worth at $20, putting the total donation at $4,520. Probation officials said the Ventura County Board of Supervisors had to authorize the transfer because it was a gift of county property.
The board approved the donation in late February, and the Rescue Mission delivery truck arrived to pick them up Thursday. Varela called the match between donor and recipient a good fit.
“The Probation Agency has worked closely with rescue missions over the years,” he said. “We know people at the rescue mission are trying to get on the right path.”
(Download a PDF version of this article)