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Welcome to our Club!

Ventura South

Service Above Self

We meet Mondays at 12:00 PM
Wedgewood Banquet Center
5882 Olivas Park Road
Ventura, CA  93003-7673
United States
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Rotary Ventura South Continues Its Tradition
Of Supporting Adult Literacy in Ventura County
With the 29th Annual Trivia Challenge held on Wednesday, November 15, the focus at our regular meeting on Monday, November 13 was solidly on the subject of adult literacy. Carol Chapman, Club member and Program Manager of the Ventura County Library's Adult Literacy Program, reminded members and guests of just how important literacy is to the well-being of families and individuals alike.
"I had planned to show a PowerPoint presentation about the Library's READ program," said Carol, "but instead I brought a special guest." She then introduced Honorina Carrasco, one of the adult "learners" in the program. Honorina (pictured above) related her story of wanting to improve her reading skills and coming into contact with Carol, who found her a tutor in the READ program. "When I began," Honorina said, "I was reading at a grade school level. I'm now reading at the college level."
"Education is the key to success," said Honorina. Building on her own accomplishments, she convinced her husband to attend Oxnard College and a trade school, and she is committed to making sure that her children attend college as well. "I work hard on my dreams," she said, "and I never give up." Clearly, her persistence and determination have paid off. Thank you, Honorina, for sharing your story with us!
Opioid Epidemic Exists in Ventura County,
But Local Law Enforcement is Making Progress
The abuse of opioid-based narcotics, including commonly prescribed drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet, has reached epidemic proportions nationwide. California, for example, recorded a 20-percent increase in opioid-related deaths year-to-year. For Ventura County, however, the outlook was not quite so bleak - deaths from opioid use actually decreased by 23 percent over the same period.
Sergeant Victor Fazio of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department was our speaker on Monday, November 6. He credits the positive results to his Department's collaborative approach in dealing with the problem. "We work with schools, community groups, and others to get the message out about the dangers of opioid abuse," he said. A 23-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department, Sergeant Fazio performs undercover work as part of his duties. For that reason, he asked that no photographs be taken during his presentation to Ventura Rotary South.
A portion of Sergeant Fazio's eye-opening remarks dealt with the history of opioid promotion by the pharmaceutical industry. In 1996, for example, sales of the popular drug OxyContin totaled $46 million. Just four years later, that figure soared to $1.1 billion. Early on in their promotion and advertising, opioids were characterized as non-addictive, an absolute falsehood.
With numerous questions from the audience, Sergeant Fazio was unable to present all of the information he had planned to share. By virtually unanimous acclamation, our members invited him back to a future meeting. Thank you, Sergeant, for a sobering look at one of today's most critical public safety issues!
Health Coach Kathy Murphy Offers Tips
On How to Feel Great and Excel in Life
"Our inside voice is where we get our best guidance," said Kathy Murphy during her presentation to Rotary Ventura South on Monday, October 23. Kathy, a certified Health and Life Coach, combines her love of the ocean and surfing with her passion for living life to the fullest. "The success ladder of life can be on the wrong wall if we don't pursue what really matters," she noted, "and we often need to slow down and take time to reflect on our life to determine what really matters."As part of her presentation, Kathy gave members and guests "seven things to think about":
  1. You are your greatest asset - love yourself.
  2. Live each day in gratitude - what we appreciate, appreciates.
  3. When we connect with what we really want in life, things begin to happen.
  4. Be fully present always. Life is busy, and focus is essential.
  5. Change your thoughts and change your life - choose "awesome."
  6. Slow down to take the needed time to reflect and concentrate on what really matters to you.
  7. Believe in the invisible - in what you haven't yet seen.
Kathy concluded, "Keep showing up for yourself and for others. There are no limits to what we can do if we believe it's possible!" More information can be found on Kathy's website,
Darren Lee Updates Ventura Rotary South
On Exciting Plans for St. John's Hospitals
Darren Lee, President and CEO of St. John's Hospitals, visited Ventura Rotary South on Monday, October 2, to provide members and guests with an update on extensive upgrades underway at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard and St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo.
"We're bringing state-of-the-art medical care to St. John's," said Darren, who has spent 16 years of his career with the Dignity Health organization (parent company of the St. John's facilities), serving as President and CEO for the past three years. He oversees the work of more than 1,800 employees.
The $20 million project at St. John's Regional Medical Center includes a doubling in size of the emergency department and the addition of a dedicated X-ray suite to more effectively treat those needing urgent care. A new patient discharge area is also scheduled to begin construction in January. Women's services is slated for major enhancements, including a new private entry area, new labor and delivery rooms, and a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where families will be able to stay with their newborns.
At St. John's Pleasant Valley Hospital, a budget of $80 million will feature 71,000 square feet of new space, including 50 new private rooms. Darren noted that the new facility will feature state-of-the-art construction with Styrofoam walls designed to flex in the event of an earthquake.
"At Dignity Health," said Darren, "we're all about care and compassion." He noted that no one is ever turned away based on their ability to pay. "We handle their care first and foremost," he said.
Thank you, Darren, for a fascinating look at the exciting plans for health care at St. John's hospitals!
Rotary Ventura South Members and Guests Enjoy
Social with Other Rotary Clubs on September 25
In recognition of District Governor John Weiss's visit to our Club on Monday, September 25 (see story below), members and guests of Ventura Rotary South, Ventura Downtown Rotary, and Ventura Rotary East gathered at the Ventura Yacht Club that evening for a social event. Pictured above from Ventura South are (l to r): Don Scott, Marilyn Scott, Kendall Mattina, Sandy Warren, John Mattina, Melody Thurman, Larry Bushey, and Peter Barry. A wonderful time was had by all!
District Governor John Weiss Visits Ventura South;
Encourages All Members to "Celebrate Rotary"
Our honored guest at our regular meeting of Monday, September 25 was District 5240 Governor John Weiss. Joined by his wife Christine, John updated members and guests on current happenings at the District level, as well as his thoughts about the future of Rotary.
"The primary reason people join Rotary," said John, "is for the opportunity to be involved with local service projects." As examples, he touched on Rotary Ventura South's Trivia Challenge event for adult literacy and the Club's major annual Mardi Gras fundraiser in support of Turning Point Foundation.
John also stressed the importance of projects that span international borders. He noted that as Rotary International winds down its polio eradication efforts (as a result of the success of the decades-long program), the organization will focus on peace building.
"The new generation of Rotarians wants to get things done," said John, "and Rotary's Avenues of Service provide the road map to do just that."
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation
Assists Families Throughout the Tri-Counties
Among the most devastating news a parent will ever receive is the diagnosis of cancer for their son or daughter. In an instant the family's life is thrown into upheaval, and the single focus becomes how to help the child, often with little or no outside support. Fortunately, for families facing this daunting challenge in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura Counties, there is the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation. Development Director Eryn Shugart (pictured above) visited Ventura Rotary South on Monday, September 18, to provide an overview of the organization and its essential work.
"The mission of the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation," said Eryn, "is to provide families with financial, educational, and emotional support when they most need it." She noted that, nationwide, only four percent of money raised for cancer research is directed specifically toward children battling the disease.
For parents of a child with cancer, the financial burden is often second only to dealing with the disease itself. That's where the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation steps in, offering assistance with non-medical expenses such as mortgage/rent, utility bills, hotel accommodations during hospital stays, auto expenses, and home care services. The Foundation also offers families a wealth of emotional and educational support.
Joining Eryn at our Monday meeting was Lisa Hester, whose son Elijah is battling a rare form of cancer that affects the eye. She noted that the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation assists her family in a number of ways, including financial support that enables her to accompany Elijah to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where treatment for his illness has better than a 90-percent success rate. The Foundation has also seen to it that Lisa's other children have had Christmas presents, and that the family's property tax has been paid.
The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation is supported by donations, and by the efforts of more than 700 volunteers who contributed over 7,000 hours of service last year alone. For more information, visit Thank you, Eryn, for telling us about the amazing work of the Foundation, and Lisa, for sharing your family's story.
Chip Fraser Discussed "It's My Life" Program
To Help Prepare At-Risk Kids for Adulthood
"If you want something, you have to come get it." That was Chip Fraser's opening message to members and guests of Ventura Rotary South at our regular meeting on Monday, August 28. To illustrate the point, he held out a $5 bill for anyone willing to come forward and grab it. "There are seven million students in 1,087 school districts on California," said, Chip, "and thousands of them are at risk for failure as adults if they aren't given the direction they need to make good decisions."
Chip, a recently retired educator, together with his associate Brian Jaramillo, a teacher at Pacific High School in Ventura, have designed a program called "It's My Life" to empower at-risk middle and high school students become happy and successful adults. Based on instruction in critical thinking, the program, Chip explained, acts like something of a compass to provide direction and guidance to students who, for one reason or another, are at risk for dropping out of the formal educational system.
"Public education continues to receive less funding than it needs," said Chip. As a result, many kids with behavioral, family, or other issues are at risk for failure befomre they've really had a chance to succeed, both in school and in life.
"It's My Life," noted Chip, "is designed to keep kids out of the 'JDGI Club' (Just Don't Get It)." Consequences of being in that Club include potentially being homeless, in jail, or suffering from a life-threatening addiction.
"Thomas Jefferson had it right," said Chip, "when he proclaimed that everyone is entitled to the pursuit of happiness."
For more information on It's My Life, visit Thanks, Chip, for introducing us to such a worthwhile and necessary program!
Past District Governor Wade Nomura
Highlights the Benefits of Networking
It's always a special treat when Past District 5240 Governor Wade Nomura addresses our Club, and Monday, August 14 was no exception. Wade came to Rotary Ventura South to talk about what he refers to as one of the most valuable ways to be a successful Rotarian: networking.
"Rotary is all about service," said Wade, "and you need to reach out and involve other members to achieve that goal."
Displaying photos from many of the dozens of local, national, and international projects in which he has been involved, Wade related story after story of how networking enabled him to cut red tape, rally volunteers, and basically "get things done." Wade has done just that in places near and far, including Belize, Canada, Thailand, Texas, Michigan, and Mexico, to name just a few.
"In my 15 years as a Rotarian," said Wade, "my goal has been to continually expand my global footprint." Clearly, Wade continues to achieve that goal.
Following Wade's inspiring presentation, Rotary Ventura South President Bob Davis noted, "the synergy of Rotary is the reason polio will be eliminated from the globe."
Ventura South Teams Up with Other Clubs
To Provide School Supplies for Needy Students
On Saturday, August 12, the administrative office of the Ventura Unified School District was a beehive of activity, as the three Rotary Clubs in Ventura (Downtown, East, and South), together with the Ventura Lions Club, teamed up to fill nearly 900 brand-new backpacks with school supplies for needy elementary, middle, and high school students throughout Ventura. Rotary Ventura South donated $2,500 to the annual project, spearheaded by Rotary Downtown.
More than 50 volunteers turned out to help fill brightly colored backpacks with notebooks, folders, calculators, paper, pens, markers, and other essentials for the start of the new school year. Representing Rotary Ventura South were N.K. Khumalo and his son Siso (pictured above), and Sandy and Anne Warren.
As volunteers holding open backpacks in each hand circled tables, other volunteers placed the various items in the packs. Still other volunteers checked each pack for completeness and grouped them in batches for the schools. Distribution was made on Monday, August 14, so the backpacks will be waiting for the students when the school year starts later this month.
Club Member Bob Keating Offers Insights
Into the World of Amateur (Ham) Radio
From a pleasant hobby to a potentially life-saving service, amateur radio offers hours of absorbing interest for young and old alike. Such was the message Club member Bob Keating brought to fellow members and guests at our regular meeting on Monday, August 7.
Using equipment as simple as a hand-held walkie-talkie-like device or a roomful of gear, Bob explained that "ham operators," as they are popularly known, can communicate with fellow radio aficionados around the block or around the world. "Radio waves travel at the speed of light," said Bob, "so a radio transmission can reach the other side of the globe in less than a second, bouncing off the ionosphere." He noted that is farthest contact has thus far been a fellow ham operator in South Africa.
Bob recently attained the highest of the three types of amateur radio license: "Amateur Extra." And, although ham radio is an enjoyable hobby, he is quick to point out that amateur radio operators are quick to offer their skill and equipment during emergencies such as natural disasters. He told the story of a young radio operator who stayed on the air non-stop for days when the St. Francis Dam in Santa Paula broke apart in 1928. "He helped lighten the load on the telephone switchboards of the day," said Bob, "broadcasting essential information that undoubtedly saved lives."
Bob also noted a number of well-known people who are or have been enthusiastic amateur radio operators, including Walter Cronkite, Priscilla Presley, King Hussein of Jordan, and guitarist Joe Walsh.
"When an emergency strikes," said Bob, "and the landlines, cell phones, and the Internet are down, hams are up!"
Thanks, Bob, for a fascinating look into the world of amateur radio!
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Assists the Needy in Ventura
There aren't too many worldwide charitable organizations older than Rotary, but the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is one of them. Founded in 1833, and with roots extending back to 1632, the Society provides assistance to needy men, women, and children in 150 countries on five continents.
At our meeting on Monday, July 31, Diana Spuragna and Erica Kern, members of the Society in Ventura, shared stories of what the Society is doing in the local community.
"We answer every call," said Diana (pictured on the left, above), "and we do our best to meet the need, whatever it may be." Those needs, she said, include disaster relief, job training, housing assistance, food, clothing, auto repair, and many others.
Erica shared the story of a homeless man for whom the Society had provided assistance from time to time. One day he proudly announced that he had gotten a job. However, in order to take it he needed steel-toed work boots and could not afford them. The local chapter of the Society saw to it that he had the needed boots so he could take the job.
To help the Society continue its important work here in the local community, Rotary Ventura South recently donated $3,000. If you would like to contribute, or would simply like more information on the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, visit
Club President Bob Davis Talks
About Rotary's "Culture of Yes"
"As Rotarians, we belong to a culture of Yes," said Bob Davis, newly installed President of Ventura Rotary South. Addressing club members and guests at our regular meeting on July 17, Bob elaborated on the definition of that culture by saying that Rotarians will challenge themselves by asking "how can I better serve someone who can't to a thing for me," or "how can I donate to a needy group or individual who can never pay me back?"
Bob noted that Rotary is known for solving problems and helping people locally and around the world. As an example, he stated that in 1985, when Rotary launched its global commitment to end polio, there were upwards of 350,000 new cases of the disease annually worldwide. Today that number has dropped to fewer than 35. "And fighting disease is just one of Rotary's priorities," said Bob. "We're also providing clean water and sanitation, supporting women, educating children, and building peace." That last cause, said Bob, will likely be the biggest project undertaken by Rotary over the next 50 to 100 years.
Bob concluded his inspiring talk with comments on the International Rotary Convention he attended in Atlanta, and by challenging Club members to give a little more, listen a little more, and bring more guests to our meetings. "Don't keep Rotary a secret!"
Step Up Ventura is Meeting the Needs
of Ventura's Homeless Children
Ready for a sobering statistic? There are 600 homeless children between the ages of 0-5 living in Ventura. That number jumps to 6,000 for the entire County. The mission of Step Up Ventura, as explained by Mary Kerrigan at our regular meeting on Monday, July 10, is to end the cycle of homelessness where it begins - in early childhood.
As Outreach Program Coordinator and a Board member of the organization, Mary explained that 85 percent of homeless young children will become homeless adults without the intervention needed to prepare them for education. "Babies' brains from zero to three months grow and develop faster than at any other time in life," said Mary. "The first five years are crucial in anyone's life, but so much more so for homeless children. These are kids that need lots of stability to counter the massive instability of their lives."
Step Up Ventura provides a therapeutic program for young homeless children, in partnership with their parents. "They get lots of one-on-one time," said Mary, "time spent reading to them, playing with them, or just holding them." On the organization's horizon is a partnership with Magic Carousel Preschool in Ventura to provide preschool and daycare, 12 hours a day/five days a week for homeless children. In addition to enriching the children academically, the daycare arm of the program will enable parents to work and/or go to school to improve their own living situation.
Mary noted that the organization is always looking for volunteers to work with the children on a one-to-one basis. For more information, visit Thank you, Mary, for an inspiring look at Step Up Ventura and its much-needed services!
Festival of American Roots Music
Coming to Ventura on July 1
Ross Emery, a local musician and businessman, visited Ventura Rotary South on Monday, June 12, to talk about the challenges of event planning and provide details on the upcoming "Roadshow Revival," a celebration of American Roots Music. The festival, which will be headlined by the popular band Los Lobos and supported by 13 other bands, will be held on Saturday, July 1, at Discovery Ventura, 1888 East Thompson Blvd. in Ventura. Starting at 11:30 a.m., the event will also feature vendors, pin-ups, a kids corral, and tasty food and drink.
A musician of more than 30 years himself, Ross is no stranger to event planning in Ventura. The Roadshow Revival is actually a new version of the Johnny Cash Music Festival that he launched in 2009. "Ventura's a tough town for event planning," said Ross, "due to its proximity to towns that typically draw more people -- Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco." Ross also noted that event promotion has radically changed since the days (not so long ago) when a simple newspaper ad was sufficient to draw a crowd. "It's all about electronic communication and social media now," he said.
With that in mind, anyone interested in attending the upcoming event can get more information here.
Editor of Pacific Coast Business Times
Offers Thoughts on Central Coast Economy
"The business climate of the Central Coast has changed dramatically over the past 17 years," said Henry Dubroff, editor of Pacific Coast Business Times, a weekly print and online publication that spotlights business activity and economic trends from Ventura to San Luis Obispo Counties. Launched in March 2000, it is now the largest business publication between Los Angeles and San Francisco. In addition to publishing 52 regular issues annually, Henry noted that his company generates 24 special reports and produces eight special events each year.
Reflecting on the Central Coast economy, Henry noted that there has been a major shift from locally based banks to larger regional institutions, with the former dropping from 15 to four during his tenure as editor of the Business Times. He also observed that tech companies have blossomed on the Central Coast during that same period, and he attributed their growth to three principal drivers: innovations in bio-technology, development of hybrid semi-conductors, and ongoing creation of cutting-edge software. Looking ahead, Henry pointed to travel/tourism, health care, and higher education as sectors to watch for strong growth.
As far as potential business issues are concerned, Henry noted that housing in the Central Coast could limit growth, and he observed that millennials tend to favor busy urban areas over suburban-based communities, although they are adaptable in that regard. "All-in-all," he said, "the Central Coast continues to be an exciting, vibrant area for business development."
Rotary Ventura South Raises Money for
Interact Club at Annual Bake Sale
If those who attended our meeting on Monday, May 1, didn't have a sweet tooth when they arrived, chances are they did by the meeting's end. Rotary Ventura South conducted its annual bake sale in support of the Interact Club at St. Bonaventure High School. Under the expert auction skills of member Larry Matheney (pictured above with Interact Club co-presidents Maya Hishmeh and Jason Lopez), members bid on a wide variety of delectable desserts, including chocolate cake, strawberry cream flan, rice pudding, brownies, and red velvet cake pops. When the dozen or so items had all found homes, funds raised for the Interact Club totaled more than $800. Thanks to all who contributed money (and sacrificed their waistlines) for this worthy cause!
Ventura Rotary Clubs Join Forces for
Trail Clearing at Botanical Gardens
Saturday, April 29, was International Rotary Work Day. To celebrate the global event, members of Rotary Ventura South gathered with Rotarians from the Downtown Ventura Club, and Rotary Ventura East, as well as Ventura Rotaractors, to do some trail maintenance at the Ventura Botanical Gardens. In the photo above, Rotary Ventura South member Matt Jones and his wife Sandy bring down one of dozens of wheelbarrow loads of brush that participants cleared from a hillside trail.
After the morning's work, participants gathered at what will be the site of the Rotary Pavilion, part of the Garden's master plan. Joe Cahill, Ventura Botanical Gardens Executive Director, spoke to the group, noting that the Gardens will be a focal point for the City of Ventura, drawing visitors from around the world.
Members and spouses of Rotary Ventura South who participated in the day's event included Peter Barry, Ed Keay, Matt and Sandy Jones, Larry Matheney, Marilyn and Don Scott, Melody Thurman, Sandy Warren, and John Zaruka.
Kelsey Gerckens Offers Fascinating Insights
Into the Amazing Race and Broadcast Journalism
"It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience." That's how Kelsey Gerckens, our guest speaker on Monday, April 17, described her participation (and victory) in TV's "The Amazing Race" last summer. Kelsey and her then-boyfriend, now-fiance, Joey Buttita, visited 10 countries on 5 continents in 21 days, doing everything from hang-gliding over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to washing laundry in a river in India to working with gauchos in Argentina. When it was all said and done, they beat out 10 other couples, winning the one million dollar prize. (Kelsey was quick to point out that Uncle Sam and the State of California took about half.)
In addition to their personal relationship, Kelsey and Joey are professional colleagues, working at KEYT television in Santa Barbara. Joey anchors the morning news while Kelsey works as the Ventura County Bureau Chief, reporting local news on camera from her hometown of Ventura. Kelsey explained that news crews across the country are becoming leaner these days. Instead of a reporter, cameraman, and sound technician, the field reporter is often expected (as is Kelsey) to do it all on her own.
"I shoot all my own video, make sure the sound levels are correct, then edit everything for the story on a smartphone in my car," she explained. "Not very glamorous, but I love it." When she's not in the field chasing down stories, she's frequently working in the studio, writing copy, anchoring broadcasts, or reporting the weather.
Among Kelsey's favorite assignments was flying with the Blue Angels, another experience very few people get to have. "I love working with people," said Kelsey. With her bright smile, confident demeanor, and sparkling personality, it's a safe bet that people feel the same about working with her. Thanks, Kelsey, for a fascinating glimpse into what has already been a very exciting life!
Ventura Rotary South
Welcomes New Members!
Here we grow again! The Rotary Club of Ventura South recently added two new members. On Monday, March 20, Carol Chapman was inducted into the Club. Carol is well known to members of Rotary Ventura South, as she heads up the Ventura County Library's adult literacy program, which is the focal point of the Club's annual Trivia Challenge fundraiser event. In the top photo, Carol receives her Rotary pin from sponsor Don MacDonald.
In the bottom photo, Peter McClintock receives his pin from member John Mattina on Monday, April 3, as Club President Rosanna Colin conducts the induction. Peter is Director of Development for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Ventura. Congratulations and welcome to Carol and Peter!
Project Understanding Provides a "Reset Button"
For People Whose Lives Have Come into Crisis
At our regular meeting on Monday, March 20, Ben Unseth, Executive Director of Project Understanding, provided members and guests of Ventura Rotary South with an in-depth look at the wide variety of services his agency offers to people in need. "We provide a 'reset button' for some of life's greatest challenges," said Ben, "including homelessness, hunger, and lack of education."
Founded 40 years ago, Project Understanding's Mission Statement pretty  much says it all: "Project Understanding provides hope by developing and directing resources for the purpose of transforming lives and community through justice, mercy and compassion."
Ben noted that homelessness in Ventura is improving, citing the official numbers of 701 in 2012 and 300 in 2016. "Although it has been cut by more than half," said Ben, "301 is still an unacceptable number." Project Understanding offers several programs to aid in finding permanent housing for those in need, including the Tender Life Maternity Home that provides homeless pregnant women with safe housing and support services that promote self-sufficiency.
For assistance in fighting hunger, The Food Pantry at Project Understanding provides groceries once a month to families whose budget cannot support the purchase of their own. Donations may include in-kind, non-perishables, fresh vegetables and fruits and $$’s designated for food. Most food on the shelves is purchased from FOOD Share.
Rounding out the agency's scope of services is its tutoring program, in which more than 300 children in grades K through 5 receive 11,000 hours of one-on-one assistance with schoolwork in 11 tutoring centers across the County.
In celebration of its 40th anniversary of service to the community, and as a means of raising additional needed funds, Project Understanding is hosting its "Hope Worth Giving Breakfast" from 7:30-9:00 on Thursday, March 30, at the Pierpont Inn in Ventura. For more information about this event, or about Project Understanding in general, visit
The Salvation Army's Multi-Faceted Mission
In Ventura and Around the World
Rotary and the Salvation Army are similar in many ways, not the least of which is the international scope of their humanitarian efforts. At our meeting on Monday, March 13, member and guests of Ventura Rotary South got a firsthand look at what the Army is doing to assist people right here in our home community, thanks to a fascinating and enthusiastic presentation from Lieutenant Fabio Simoes who heads up the Army's Ventura-area operations.
Fabio began his talk with a little personal history, noting that he was born and raised in Brazil. As an adult, he followed two roads simultaneously: his passion for music, and his education as a dentist. In 2002, while on vacation in the U.S., he spent some time with a friend who was involved with the Salvation Army. Three years later, when he felt a need to "change his life," he answered the call to serve. He and his wife are both Salvation Army officers, working from the center on Petit Avenue in Ventura.
"The are three main parts to the Salvation Army," explained Fabio, "the church, social services, and disaster relief services." The Army's local humanitarian efforts include  a 44-bed transitional living center, senior apartments, and an outreach program for the homeless, among other projects. Fabio noted that he is currently working with the City of Ventura on a feasibility study to make use of a three-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Petit Avenue center. "Small things can change lives," he said. "My joy is when I can see people with hope."
Thank you, Fabio, for bringing the Salvation Army's vision of hope to Ventura Rotary South. For more information, visit
Paul Paulin Shares the Vision and Value
Of Ventura County City Center
On a section of Thompson Boulevard, near downtown Ventura, sits a nondescript building that began its life as a motel. Years of decay and the occasional criminal activity took their toll on the structure, but today it serves as a testament to the power of positive action. It is the Ventura County City Center, a program that provides transitional housing for the County's homeless population. At our meeting on Monday, February 27, Board member Paul Paulin gave members of Rotary Ventura South an inspiring overview of the Center's goals and accomplishments.
"Our mission," said Paul, "is to give people a hand up, not a handout." He explained that the Center offers temporary housing to homeless men, women, and children with a high level of accountability and the goal of transitioning residents into long-term housing within one year. Clients contribute 30 percent of their income (whatever that may be) for housing and services, and 20 percent of their income is saved to  begin the process of becoming financially stable.
Paul noted that the Center currently houses 42 residents. "When they leave us, adult residents have a car, a job, a bank account, and an apartment. During their stay with us, they have a personal mentor to help them with life issues including finance, job hunting, and schooling." He also explained that there are strict regulations for program participants, among which is the requirement to have been clean and sober for six months, and to remain so. "One mistake and they're out," said Paul.
The Center receives no permanent financial support, relying on donations from churches, businesses, organizations, and individuals. "A big part of my job," Paul said, "is helping to find $750,000 a year, which is our operating budget." He noted that the City Center relies heavily on volunteer effort, and it has become a model program for organizations in other cities. Summing up the Center's mission, he said, "We encourage self-sufficiency."
For more information about the City Center of Ventura County, visit
Members of Ventura South Go Back to School
For Annual Dictionary Donation Program
For the eighth consecutive year, members of Ventura Rotary South visited third-grade classrooms in the Ventura Unified School District to distribute dictionaries and instruct the students on their use. Pictured above is Club member Sal Saldana in a classroom at Portola Elementary School. Other schools visited include Junipero Serra and Will Rogers Elementary.
According to Marilyn Scott, Community Service Chair and coordinator of the program for our Club, we distributed 315 dictionaries in this year's event. "The books cost just $2.50 each," said Marilyn, "so this is a very affordable effort that the students will be able to easily use through the 6th grade and beyond." She also noted that a quantity of English-Spanish dictionaries was distributed to those students needing them. All books included a label stating the dictionaries were donated by Ventura South, along with a Rotary wheel sticker for each child.
Those who participated in the preparation and the classroom distribution included Al Antelman, Bob Braitman, Mary Braitman, Rosanna Colin, Matt Jones, NK Khumalo, Hugette Peters-Khumalo, John Mattina, Kendall Mattina, Sal Saldana, Marilyn Scott, Don Scott, Melody Thurman, and Sandy Warren.
California Correctional Officers (and K-9)
Visit Rotary Ventura South
At our regular meeting on Monday, January 23, members and guests of Ventura Rotary South enjoyed an informative presentation from three California correctional officers about the challenges they face every day as a routine part of their work. Officer John Colin from Lancaster State Prison was joined by youth correctional staff members Sergeant Paul Hernandez and Officer Richard Bautista (pictured above with "Jack," a K-9 correctional officer).
Speaking of the youth facility where he and Officer Bautista work, Sergeant Hernandez said, "Our facility houses very dangerous people. These youths, ages 13 to 23, can be as violent and disruptive as any adult inmate." He spoke of the need for correctional staff to be constantly observant for indications of impending fights or other incidents. "My goal is to have every one of my staff go home safely every night."
The officers displayed samples of the chemical agents they employ when needed for inmate fights or other incidents. Officer Bautista described one specific instance when 112 inmates were fighting at the same time. He also noted the constant tendency of inmates to hide drugs, money, and even cell phones on a regular basis. They frequently spend time creating crude weapons out of anything sharp they can get their hands on. Officer Bautista, who spends much of his time on duty searching inmate cells, hid a packet of marijuana and a packet of methamphetamine in the meeting room, then brought in Jack. He promptly located both packets, alerting his handler with an assertive "woof."
Officer Colin noted that it is the objective of many youth offenders to "graduate" to the State prison system as a "badge of honor" in the eyes of their gangs. "These young men frequently know nothing but gangs, drugs, and violence," he said, "which makes rehabilitation extremely challenging."
Our thanks to officers Bautista, Colin, and Hernandez for the important work they do and for sharing their insights with us!
Nick Peterson
Nov 20, 2017
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