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In the News

Published articles and news stories of
the happenings at Ventura County
Rescue Mission.

Girl Scout makes it her mission to help others

Published in the VC Star - November, 2014

As they clutched their warm fleece blankets tight, Diego Lucatero and his brother David said they were excited to receive the free gifts Saturday at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard during a giveaway that also included stuffed animals and used books.

All of the items that were given away to more than 150 children at the mission had been collected by Kaiya Slobodzian, 9, of Ojai.

Diego, 9, explained that the large, pink kitten he was holding would go to his little sister, but he planned to enjoy his book about pirates. David, 7, said he couldn’t wait to cuddle into his new blanket during chilly nights.

“It’s so soft,” he said.

Kaiya is a Girl Scout who is a Juliette, or unaffiliated with a troop. The fourth-grader decided she wanted to help other children.

“I just wanted to help people in my community. I just love helping people. I chose blankets because it’s winter and I don’t want people to be cold,” she said before she and her good friend Alex Ochoa, 9, continued handing out toys to the children in line at the mission.

Suzanne West, spokeswoman for the mission, said those who run the mission were floored by the girl’s work.

“She’s 9 years old and she decided to do something not for her but for someone else,” said West, speaking to the children gathered to receive blankets and other goodies. “If there’s something you can think about to do to help someone else, come to us and we’ll help you. Sometimes you are on the side to give things and sometimes you’re on the side to give things.”

Kaiya’s mother, Hayley Slobodzian, explained that her daughter has always been interested in helping others.

“She wants to do everything for everybody,” she said. “So she sat down and made a long list of things she would like to do. I had her pick the top two things, and she picked this and helping horses. We decided to do this in the fall and help horses in the spring.”

She said the project grew from a few dozen donated blankets to the more than 100 blankets Kaiya either gathered or made.

Area Girl Scout troops donated stuffed animals they had collected, and when Kaiya’s school, Rio Rosales in Camarillo, had books left over from a used-book sale, they were donated for the giveaway, which also included leftover Halloween candy.

“I give her all the credit,” Hayley Slobodzian said, explaining that the family recently moved to Ojai from Camarillo but the girl stayed at her school in the Pleasant Valley School District. “I don’t do anything but drive her around. She did her own presentations. She has such a huge heart.”

Dad Krzysztof Slobodzian took photos of his daughter as she worked.

“This is a wonderful project. This is supposed to be a pre-Christmas for them,” he said, adding that the family has another daughter, Korryn Slobodzian, 2.

Gina Jaeger, CEO of the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast, said she was particularly impressed with Kaiya’s efforts because when the family moved from Camarillo and her Girl Scout troop, the young woman kept up her dedication to the principles of scouting.

“A big part of the Girl Scout program is community service,” said Jaeger, who noted that the 10,700 Central Coast Girl Scouts donate about 500,000 service hours a year. “What’s neat about Kaiya is that she’s a Juliette. For her to take on a project like this on her own, which normally would have been done by an entire troop, speaks volumes.”

American Bullion Donates Food to Ventura County Rescue Mission

American Bullion, Inc. donated over 7,500 lbs. of food, expected to feed over 700 people, to the Ventura County Rescue Mission.
PR Newswire - LOS ANGELES, June 30, 2014

"It is because of organizations like American Bullion that Ventura County Rescue Mission (VCRM) is able to help the poor and less fortunate in our community," stated Suzanne West, VCRM's Community Relations Coordinator. "VCRM has been offering food and shelter in the Ventura County for over 42 years. In 2013 we served over 234,000 hot meals and provided 42,665 nights of safe shelter."

Founded in 1972, the Ventura County Rescue Mission (VCRM) is the longest standing year-round shelter for homeless men in Ventura County. They feed 300 to 600 needy people every day. 

"Donating food to those in need is another way American Bullion is trying to give back to our community," said Orkan Ozkan, CEO of American Bullion. "American Bullion believes in the feeling of security, not just financially, and knowing that there is a meal waiting for you is the ultimate feeling of security."

Special Delivery...

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)

“They really support what we do here,” she said.