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Updated: 2 hours 55 min ago

Moorpark, Ventura get volleyball playoff berths

3 hours 22 min ago

For the first time since 2007, both local community college women's volleyball teams have qualified for the postseason.

Moorpark College will play its first CCCAA Southern California regional playoff match in three years Tuesday when the No. 12-seeded Raiders (12-10) visit No. 5 Golden West (18-5) in Huntington Beach.

Ventura College has ended its seven-year postseason drought. The Pirates (12-10) were seeded No. 15 and will visit No. 2 seed Grossmont (25-0) Tuesday night.

"It's nice for our conference to get back to some sort of prominence when it comes to the overall quality of the league," Moorpark coach Steve Burkhart said. "The (Orange Empire Conference) got five teams in and we were next (with four). I totally respect the job that a lot of our coaches do."

Tuesday's quarterfinal winners advance to Saturday's regional semifinals.

Moorpark's record may not seem impressive, but the Raiders were prepared for the postseason by playing the toughest schedule in the region, including a pair of losses to 17-time state champion Golden West.

"When you look at the two times we played them, we were right there both times," Burkhart said. "It's going to be tough, but I'm sure our girls are looking forward to it."

Ventura clinched its first winning season in seven years Wednesday by sweeping Los Angeles Mission. Afterward, Ventura coach Brad Lyans told the team there was a slight chance of a postseason bid.

"I was thinking it was a 10 percent chance," Lyans said.

VC was in the final group of seven teams vying for the last four seeds. Its four-set win over Santa Monica, which did not get in, proved to be decisive, according to Lyans.

After hearing the news, the Pirates immediately gathered for an impromptu practice. Lyans said there was a festive atmosphere.

"I like playing the underdog," Lyans said. "The girls know there's not a whole lot of pressure. We're flying high."

Toy drives, classes and other events planned

4 hours 25 min ago


Auto center to hold holiday toy drive

The Oxnard Auto Center will have a toy drive from Monday through Dec. 11 at each of its 11 dealerships.

All collected gifts will be donated to the 11th annual Santa to the Sea toy giveaway Dec. 20 at Santa Park, 2801 Ventura Blvd.

For more information, visit or call Mike Barber at 485-7233.

Thousand Oaks

Assistance League shop to offer décor

The Assistance League of Conejo Valley’s Thrift Shop will begin “A Happy Holiday Happening” shopping event on Dec. 2 at 783 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.

The shop will feature holiday décor, including centerpieces, wreaths, ornaments, trim and linens.

For more information, visit


Service will help honor loved ones

Cypress Place Senior Living will have a candlelight memorial service Dec. 3 at 1200 Cypress Point Lane.

There will be speakers and music. Attendees can light a candle in honor of loved ones.

Call 650-8000 to reserve a seat.

Tai Chi class will be open to the public

There will be a new intermediate Tai Chi class from 9 to 10 a.m. Fridays starting Dec. 5 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 3290 Loma Vista Road.

Cost is $3 per class. Call Katherine at 642-9058 for more information.

Library will offer various programs

E.P. Foster Library will have a variety of upcoming programs at 651 E. Main St.

There will be a program titled “Laser-Cut Holiday Decorations” from 5 to 6 p.m. Dec. 2, where guests can witness a demonstration of a laser cutter and engraver.

“Beginning Meditation: Silence, Stillness and Comfort” will run from 6 to 7 p.m. Dec. 3.

Cunningham Legal will give a free hourlong seminar titled “Medi-Cal for Long-Term Health Care” from 10 to 11 a.m. Dec. 5. The seminar will share information about common mistakes made during the qualification process for Medi-Cal.

Call 648-2716 for more information.

Event at The Collection welcomes holiday season

4 hours 26 min ago

With an explosion of colorful choreographed fireworks and fake snow blowing in the breeze Saturday night, the crowd packed into the main park at The Collection at Riverpark in Oxnard and welcomed the holiday season during the annual tree-lighting celebration.

According to Collection Marketing Director Erica Dixon the 7,000 parking spaces were all taken, and almost all of those cars carried families coming to enjoy the celebration.

“It’s going very well,” Dixon said between taping segments for radio coverage and giving directions to Fundi Legohn, director of the Oxnard High School marching band, which played after Santa Claus made his big entrance.

“Last year’s tree lighting was bigger, but it was held over two days. This is a close second,” she said.

Vicki Zellman, of Oxnard, said she and husband Larry met their friends Nancy and Dave Szany, of Camarillo, early for dinner at the Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar, which is at the other end of Parkview Court from the park.

The two couples then strolled down the street. “I love coming here. I like the atmosphere,” Nancy Szany said, adding that braving the crowds for the tree lighting is “absolutely worth it.”

“I just like walking around and going to dinner,” Dave Szany added.

Dixon explained that business at The Collection is booming, with new restaurants and shops being added all the time. Among the new businesses opening before the end of the year are a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop, Larsen’s Grill restaurant, M. Frederick boutique and a 24-Hour Fitness club.

Dan Taphorn, of Ventura, said he enjoys coming to The Collection with his wife, Misty, and son, Jackson, 2. “I hope it continues to grow. It seems as though it’s at the tipping point, it could go one way or the other.”

Jackson said he was excited about seeing the big Christmas tree lit up, and said he wants a bulldozer for Christmas. His mom explained that Christmas this year will be low-key because she is scheduled to deliver Jackson’s little brother on Dec. 16.

After a fun-packed evening with performances on the main stage by All-American Ballet and a stilt-walker circus, Deedee Savala of Ventura said she enjoyed braving the crowds to start off the holiday season. “It was great. We were here for the last one. Last year was amazing, but this was fun too,” she said.

Her friend Tracy Fischer, of Ventura, agreed. “The fireworks were awesome.”

For the Peterson family of Ventura the “snow was magical,” said Fawn Peterson.

Brighton Peterson, 9, wasn’t sure what she liked the best until mom Fawn said, “You loved the snow. I almost lost you then.”

Dixon said The Collection has a full schedule of upcoming holiday events, including the “CAN-tree” event Dec. 5-7 where teams will build trees made of cans of food that will be donated to FOOD Share. On Dec. 20, there will be a menorah-lighting ceremony. Throughout the season carolers will be singing on the streets and Santa will be available to hear the wishes of little ones.

For information about The Collection, call 988-7527 or go online to

Tournament more than a robotics challenge

4 hours 52 min ago

Twenty-eight teams from across the region built robots using Legos on Sunday as part of the FIRST Lego League robotics challenge held in Thousand Oaks.

A qualifying tournament for the 2014 FLL World Class Challenge was held at La Reina High School with 128 students aged 9 to 14 competing for five spots at the regional finals next month at La Canada High School.

The teams of students are challenged to work together to build and perfect a robot that is able to successfully carry out assigned tasks; invent a project that will improve education by showing adults how kids need and want to learn; and live the FLL Core Values that include cooperative collaboration and gracious professionalism.

“It’s very innovative,” said tournament director Bob Rumer, a CLU physics and bioengineering instructor. “It’s way more than just a robotics tournament.”

“At those critical years between fourth and eighth grade when America loses their students interest in science and math, this is a way for them to maintain engagement in it. It’s fun and exciting and it doesn’t feel like they’re learning math and science,” he said. “It looks like play and if you can have learning while you’re playing, there’s no better way.”

Christian Millar, 12, has been a member of the FIRST Lego team from St. Jude the Apostle School in Westlake Village for the past three years.

“I enjoy the programming aspect and learning new things,” said Christian. “The challenge this year is world class learning, about different ways to learn in the classroom. This year we’re focusing on electrical engineering so I’ve learned a lot about circuitry.”

“A lot of teams are pretty good so we strive to do better than them and it’s also fun to watch what everyone else does,” he said.

St. Jude science teacher Cathy Eckley said her students had decided to focus on energy and specifically electricity as part of teaching fourth-grade next generation science standards and had based their project on Minecraft.

“These kids developed parallel series circuits using the redstones of Minecraft to reinforce what they’re learning in the classroom,” she said. “I learn as much as they do.”

Ned Schoenwetter, the principal at Mountain View School in Santa Barbara, said the combination of Legos and robots is a great way to get kids engaged in STEM.

“They’re learning the scientific method because most of the time the first time they build something or they program their robot it doesn’t work and they have to keep coming back and figure out how they can tweak things or modify their programs to make them work,” he said.

Marlborough School students Vanessa De Jesus and Olivia Meyer said preparing for and taking part in the competition was a lot of fun and also made them think.

“I worked on the building attachments and I really enjoyed that,” said Olivia, 12. “The robot has to open the door and go through it and come back. He has to put something through here to make this building go up and he has to push that blue one so it spins.”

“I’ve learned how to program and I really liked it so I’m thinking maybe when I’m older I’d like to do programming,” said Vanessa.

FIRST Lego League is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to STEM education. FIRST stands for “For Recognition and Inspiration in Science and Technology.”

In 2014-15, the organization expects more than a quarter of a million children around the globe to take part in the FLL World Class challenge.

Humane Society holds Santa Paws fundraiser

5 hours 31 min ago

After arranging Rebecca Larkin, her father Joel Larkin and his girlfriend Linda Wolfe in front of a fireplace, a Christmas tree and Santa Claus on Sunday at the Ventura County Humane Society’s facility in Ojai, the two Rottweilers, Xena and Thor, who were front and center of the tableau, seemed to lose their focus as photographer Greg Cooper tried to capture the shot.

So Ventura County Humane Society Director Jolene Hoffman jumped out from behind Cooper, holding a tennis ball and yelling, “Where’s the kitty!” The startled dogs looked in Hoffman’s direction. Cooper got his shot.

After the family retreated into the waiting room where they could receive a CD with their photographs, Hoffman smiled. “There’s so much laughter here. This is great with Santa. I get to be crazy twice a year,” she said.

The Ventura County Humane Society holds two Santa Paws photo events during the holiday season as a fundraiser to help support its low-cost spay and neuter program, as well as provide a place for homeless cats, dogs and horses, according to Franki Williams, Humane Society volunteer coordinator.

The first of the two events included a holiday marketplace and bake sale Sunday, where people could not only purchase pet-related items, but also jewelry and other hand-crafted items.

The second Santa Paws event, where people can have holiday photos of their pets taken with family members and Santa, will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 7 at Marriott Beach Ventura, 2055 E. Harbor Blvd., Ventura.

Wolfe said this is the second year the family has come to the Santa Paws event. “We come here because we love Chuck (Bowman, who plays Santa Claus),” she said. “We’ll frame the picture and send it on our Christmas cards.”

Cooper, who teaches visual journalism at Brooks Institute and has been a photojournalist for years, said he has been donating his time and talents to the fundraiser for more than 20 years.

“I started volunteering with the Humane Society after I covered them while working at the Ojai Valley News. I was so smitten with the organization that I took any opportunity to volunteer when I could,” he said.

Bowman said he enjoys working with the animals and has only had one dog wet his lap during the seven years he’s been Santa. And there was also the time he was bitten by a tiger cub, which he didn’t elaborate on. But otherwise the animals, which this year included a love bird, are well behaved.

“The animals are a pleasure to work with,” Bowman said.

Marjorie Emerson, of Oak View, has been bringing her border collie, Gwyn, for the past nine years, since the dog was a 4-month-old puppy.

“We’re a team,” Emerson said after Cooper was able to get the perfect shot where Gwyn wasn’t blocking Santa’s face. “I’ll share these by email. I also support the Humane Society and all the work they do with horses.”

Hoffman said the Santa Paws fundraiser raises as much as the Cats in the Canyon and Hounds in the Hollow event in September at Boccali’s restaurant in Ojai, which also benefits the Humane Society.

During the Santa Paws events, people can get a photo with Santa and their pets for $25. But with an additional donation to the Humane Society, they will get the CD and unlimited photos.

Hoffman said they have received anywhere from $50 to $10,000 in additional donations.

For information about the Ventura County Humane Society, call 646-6505 or go online to

Ventura vs. Simi Valley is a big one

5 hours 58 min ago

The football game of the year?

We’ll have to see. Ventura vs. Simi Valley certainly looms as the high school football matchup of the year in Ventura County, considering the stakes, magnitude and intrigue.

The two county programs and league champions will hook up Friday night at Larrabee Stadium in a semifinal contest in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs. One of these teams is headed to its first title game in years and years.

Ventura last won a CIF-SS crown in 2000, when the incomparable Tyler Ebell was running the football.

Simi Valley hasn’t been to a championship game in … well, forever.

The Pioneers have never been a semifinal either, which makes their accomplishment the feel-good story of the season.

There’s a lot to like about both teams’ chances.

Ventura (11-1) is finely balanced between offense, defense and special teams, with no superstars but lots of good players.

The Cougars have been manhandling opponents for awhile, with the last six games featuring a running clock in the fourth quarter. The latest triumph was a 49-8 dismantling of Redondo Union in the quarterfinal round.

Quarterback Tyler Smith and running back Tyler Peralta have led the coolly efficient offense. The defense has been shutdown-dominant, with linebacker Alex Hurlbut and cornerback Josh Januska among the top performers.

Simi Valley (8-4) is spearheaded by standout quarterback Davis Pinkston — with his dual-threat skills — and a stalwart defense that quietly has evolved into one of the region’s best.

The Pioneers quashed high-powered El Segundo in the quarterfinals, limiting the Eagles to two scores and 251 yards of offense.

Truth is, everyone is playing well.

Drew Moore rumbled for 141 yards and two touchdowns against El Segundo with three receivers topping 100 yards. James Cuillard notched 11 receptions for 103 yards, Blake Kissane had six catches for 121 yards, and Logan Alexander had six receptions for 100 yards.

Kyle Murphy applied constant pressure, helped control the line of scrimmage and picked up two sacks.

We won’t get an all-county championship game this year, so this is the next best thing.

In Week 1, when Ventura hosted Agoura and Simi Valley visited Buena, we wondered aloud if these were previews of coming attractions in postseason.

The sentiment was nearly spot on.

We get a crucial Channel League-vs.-Canyon League matchup in the round of four.


Simi Valley senior defensive back/wide receiver Colby Banks sealed the Pioneers victory in the final minute Friday night by grabbing an interception when the El Segundo offense was in desperation mode.

He took a hard shot from an Eagles receiver, fell to the ground, but held onto the football.

Banks sprawled on the ground for nearly 10 minutes before he was transported to a nearby hospital by paramedics.

It appears to be a happy ending.

He was released from the hospital Friday night and should “be fine,” said Simi Valley coach Ryan Taggart.

Banks will be checked out by team doctors Monday.


Victories by Newbury Park and Grace Brethren in their respective quarterfinal games leave both No. 2 seeds looking more and more like division favorites.

Newbury Park rolled up a 42-26 victory over Santa Maria-St. Joseph in the quarterfinals, with the lead at 42-0 in the third quarter.

The offense has long looked like the most potent in the Northern Division — in a lot of divisions, frankly — and now the defense is catching up.

Lompoc is the No. 1 seed, but might be hard-pressed to match the Panthers’ firepower.

Grace Brethren rolled to a 49-28 victory over Brethren Christian in its East Valley quarterfinal and dominated with its ground game.

St. Margaret’s is the top seed, but recently settled for a 10-point verdict over Brethren Christian.

Newbury Park will host Atascadero, and Grace Brethren is home against Long Beach-St. Anthony in Friday’s semifinals.

The potential exists for three county champions in a memorable season.

Dog shelter to open Tuesday

7 hours 20 min ago

About 55 dogs were being relocated back to the shelter near the site of Tuesday’s explosion near Santa Paula after evacuations were lifted Saturday afternoon.

Volunteers at Canine Adoption and Rescue League shelter had to evacuate Tuesday, leaving 71 dogs behind until Wednesday when they were able to gain access to the property, but by Sunday they were able to relocate the dogs, and have all of them situated by Monday, said executive director Sharon Clark. The shelter was expected to open up by Tuesday.

Since Wednesday, about 16 dogs found homes or foster care, Clark said. The shelter was expected to resume business and start finding homes for the rest.

During the evacuation, the dogs were taken to Balcom Canyon Pet Lodge, Clark said. At the lodge they were able to continue finding homes for the pets and contacted all their customers with updates, she said.

The investigation and cleanup at the site where about 1,000 gallons of a chemical mixture spilled and burned after the rear of a vacuum truck exploded at Santa Clara Waste Water Co., was still going on but all business were told they could reopen by Saturday afternoon.

Clark said the roadway was completely open both ways and she expected for the neighboring business to resume operations Monday or Tuesday, like the shelter was doing.

Flag football to benefit mental illness alliance

7 hours 22 min ago

Four simultaneous flag football games on Thanksgiving morning at Oak Park High School will raise money for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in honor of Shawn Rishko, an Oak Park graduate who committed suicide at age 22.

“We started this game over 10 years ago as a way to get our friends together when we came home from college,” said Monte McNair, of Texas, who co-founded the event with Matt Koller, of Huntington Beach. “It has evolved into this communitywide event that we all look forward to each year.”

The annual “turkey bowl” began with McNair, Koller, Rishko and other friends in Oak Park. As they went away to college in fall 2002, the group decided to launch a flag football game on Thanksgiving morning.

“Shawn was on the winning team of each of the first three turkey bowls,” McNair recalled. “Then a few years in, we lost Shawn.”

After Rishko’s death in 2006, McNair and Koller decided to dedicate the tournament in his honor.

“We created the ‘TRUE-phy,’ a trophy given out to the winning team named in honor of Rishko’s signature phrase, ‘true,’ ” McNair said. “What started out as a way to keep our friends close turned into an event to remember Shawn and has actually brought the community closer as a whole.”

Rishko was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 19, said his mom, Norine.

“Sadly he lost his life to suicide,” she said. “At this point, Shawn’s friends wanted to turn the turkey bowl into a fundraiser for mental illness. As a parent, I wanted to turn this tragedy into something that would help others.”

This year’s turkey bowl will kick off at 8 a.m. and last until about 1 p.m.

Attendees will be able to buy tickets for raffle prizes, said Norine, noting more than 60 local businesses have donated items including restaurant gift certificates, facials, movie tickets and baskets filled with goodies for dogs.

The grand prize is from the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, she said, adding the accommodations include spa treatments and breakfast for two.

All money raised from the turkey bowl will directly benefit the National Alliance for Mental Illness Ventura County chapter.

“NAMI has many free programs for those suffering from mental illness and for their caretakers. NAMI provides advocacy, education and support,” Norine said.

The turkey bowl has grown as more people recognize mental illness must be addressed and not swept under the carpet, she said.

“My personal goal is to have NAMI clubs at all the local high schools promote mental health and wellness ... to help reduce stigma so students feel more comfortable seeking help or being supportive to others,” Norine said.

McNair hopes to raise awareness that depression is an illness, not a weakness.

“We hope, in Shawn’s lasting memory, we can help others in his position get the help they need, so that the next group of friends doesn’t lose their Shawn.”

The event will be on Oak Park High’s football field at 899 N. Kanan Road. For more information, visit

Black Thursday and Friday aren't enjoyed by all

7 hours 51 min ago

You won’t find Rick Smith in the crowds that throng retail stores looking for sales on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday.

“I don’t need anything that badly in my life that I have to get up at 2 a.m. and wrestle people to get it,” he said.

Smith fears a cultural shift is permanently twisting Thanksgiving Day away from being a harvest celebration into a kickoff to the Christmas shopping season.

“Thanksgiving is now about gearing up for the deals and it’s gotten so bad that people have gotten hurt,” he said.

It doesn’t appeal to Smith. He will spend Thanksgiving and Black Friday at home in Oak View, enjoying time with his kids.

“People don’t have to participate,” he said.

And many are choosing not to. Now that Black Friday deals have begun on Thursday, a number of Americans are expressing disgust with what they see as consumerism run amok.

Signs of their revulsion pervade the Internet. More than 96,000 people have signed a petition on asking Target to close on Thanksgiving Day. The retail giant is scheduled to open at 6 p.m.

More than 1 million people have shared a badge on Facebook pledging not to shop on Thanksgiving. It’s being circulated by a “Say No to Shopping on Thanksgiving” Facebook page, which is celebrating stores like Costco that are still closed on Thanksgiving.

“Cheers to Costco,” reads one post on the site. “But they represent only half of the retail equation. The other half is the greedy consumer leaving a home celebration for a ‘bargain.’ How do we change the equation? Don’t shop.”

National Retail Federation report

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the season, according to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade association. There were 92 million Black Friday shoppers in stores and online last year. But Black Thursday shopping is increasing in popularity. An estimated 35 million people shopped on Thanksgiving Day in 2012 and 45 million did so last year, according to the retail federation.

Still, a University of Connecticut/Hartford Courant poll of 1,189 people found that many Americans disapprove of stores opening on the holiday. According to the poll, 49 percent disapprove, 16 percent approve and 34 percent are neutral about stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Best Buy, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Macy’s, Target, J.C. Penney and other major retailers will open Thanksgiving Day, although the opening times vary.

Major retailers that won’t be open on Thanksgiving Day include Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, Marshalls, Barnes & Noble and T.J. Maxx.

Stores open Thanksgiving Day may rack up an extra day of sales, but they could be hurt in terms of goodwill, say branding experts.

The closed stores are taking advantage of the backlash among a segment of consumers. In a turnaround from last year, they are actively advertising that they won’t be open, said Kevin Paul Scott, co-founder of the Atlanta-based ADDO Institute, a branding consultant firm.

“And they’re communicating to consumers the reason behind that decision,” he said. “The reason that’s significant is because organizations and businesses are making an effort to appeal to the values of their consumers in order to build long-term affinity.”

Holiday sales are expected to represent about 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s $3.2 trillion in annual sales this year, according to the federation. It federation forecasts sales in November and December (excluding automobile, gas and restaurant sales) will increase 4.1 percent to nearly $617 billion. That compares with a 3.1 percent increase in November and December of 2013 and would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales increased more than 4 percent.

Online sales in November and December are expected to grow between 8 and 11 percent over last holiday season, to as much as $105 billion, according to’s 2014 online holiday sales forecast.

Do's & Don'ts: What food donations make the cut

7 hours 52 min ago

In the sorting room of an Oxnard food bank, currency is measured in expiration dates, dents and ripples.

When it comes to food donations, all is not gold.

“I have one can from 1958 that came in,” FOOD Share’s Rob Jankowski said, pointing out a shelf of memorable but rejected items.

The chicken noodle soup can came in about a year ago, its label a retro, checkered design wrapped around aluminum, not the regular steel or tin.

Two other soup cans from the mid-1980s — cream of celery and green pea — came in several months ago.

And last week, a torn bag of rice showed up in a donation bin. Someone had placed it inside a second bag, preventing a spill but not necessarily contamination.

As holiday food drives gear up this time of year, all kinds of donations end up in the sorting room at the Oxnard headquarters of FOOD Share, the regional food bank.

“The first thing we do is check the integrity of the food to make sure it’s safe for human consumption,” said Jankowski, who leads the agency’s sorting efforts.

Each donated bag or box is emptied on a conveyor belt, manned by volunteers plucking out cans, juice boxes, water bottles and more. Some items come from donation bins, others from local grocery store outlets.

They fill up boxes stacked near dozens of stations. Those boxes are weighed, labeled and stacked on wooden pallets to be moved to the warehouse.

The vast majority of donations — 90-plus percent — make the cut and end up on pantry shelves. But not everything can be rescued.

Some donations are sent elsewhere. Candy goes to the military base, pet food to animal shelters.

Items past their expiration dates (different from the best-before date), rippled or bulging cans, and open packages — even those with just a small tear — end up in a throwaway bin.

Here are general donation tips:

Cans and packaged goods, from fruit cups to macaroni cheese, can be accepted up to one year past their best-before dates.

View the interactive Do's & Don'ts of Donating food

Dry beans, rice or peas, dry pasta in a bag and unopened mayonnaise can be up to three years past the date on the package.

Baby food and medicine cannot be older than the best-before date.

Food also needs identification, whether it’s a front or rear label.

Even if it falls within those guidelines, if a can is pierced, pinched or rippled, chances are good that there’s a pinhole leak that can let in bacteria. Volunteering in the sorting room makes you think a little more about the items you donate yourself, said Linda Molina, who has volunteered as a sorter for eight years. Check the best-before dates, she suggested.

Maria Medeiros, also a longtime volunteer, recommended donating a good mix that includes food for kids.

How to help

The Ventura County Star is collecting donations for the third annual FOOD Share Can-Tree collection:

  • To donate money that will be used to buy canned goods, text VCSTAR to 71777.
  • To donate your food items, go to to find the nearest drop-off ­location.

Digging into the donations sometimes yields fun and surprising results: trendier items like coconut water and the latest yogurt squeeze. Bloody Mary mix raised one volunteer’s eyebrows.

But most often, it’s the more expected cans of soup or beans and other protein-rich items that are easy to turn into hot meals that show up in bins. Those are the types of things food pantries want and need, Jankowski said.

The best of the best: “Peanut butter is platinum. We don’t get enough of it.”

Port Hueneme water agency seeks filtration fix

7 hours 53 min ago

The Port Hueneme Water Agency is at the end of the line when it comes to the drinking water it receives from the United Water Conservation District’s Oxnard-Hueneme pipeline.

Because of the ongoing drought and out-of-service wells, the water received from United has degraded in quality. Port Hueneme’s Brackish Water Reclamation Demonstration Facility can no longer filter it without causing long-term damage to its system.

The levels of manganese and iron in water pumped from standby wells are so high they are choking and destroying expensive filters, officials say. It would cost millions of dollars to replace the filters at the reclamation facility.

At a special meeting last week, the Port Hueneme Water Agency, which serves the city of Port Hueneme, Naval Base Ventura County and the Channel Islands Beach Community Services District, heard a proposal from Kevin Alexander, a water expert from environmental engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer.

Alexander said his company offers a filtering system that could be used as an adjunct to the facility, although the costs would be high — anywhere from $6 million for a 300-gallon-per-minute system to much higher, depending on how much and what kind of water is pumped.

The Reclamation Demonstration Facility was shut down temporarily Oct. 11. To continue supplying its customers with water, the water agency has turned to its second, more expensive supplier, the Calleguas Municipal Water District. But that’s also expensive, and the water agency has to pay United for a certain amount of water, regardless of whether it uses that water.

Tony Emmert, deputy general manager for United, said the water it supplies to customers from nine wells in the Oxnard Forebay Groundwater Basin is vulnerable to nitrate contamination from past overuse of fertilizers and from septic system discharges in the area. The Port Hueneme Water Agency and the city of Oxnard are among the customers to receive that water.

Because nitrate contamination is a health hazard, United has turned to three backup wells, which dilute the water. But the backup well water is rich with manganese and iron.

Without the Port Hueneme Water Agency on the system, United has enough water to maintain a quality level for customers that would work in the treatment system. But when it adds the agency, United has to use the standby wells to provide water to all customers.

Port Hueneme Councilman Doug Breeze, who sits on the water agency panel, said the problem is frustrating because the majority of water users are agricultural clients. They use about 80 percent of the water but aren’t subject to the stringent conservation measures required of residential users.

The solution, everyone agrees, is to look into an additional filtration program, such as the one Alexander proposed. But the costs are high, and there are various regulations regarding the pumping of seawater, which could be used to help in filtration efforts.

The Port Hueneme Water Agency has formed an ad hoc committee to explore options.

Emmert, who recently started working for United Water after years with the city of Oxnard, said part of the problem is that when the water supply is sufficient, no one wants to discuss a multimillion-dollar filtration system that would be used only during drought periods.

“Ten years ago when we were building a brackish desalination plant, there was a discussion about adding more redundancy but no one wanted to spend an extra $10 million,” Emmert said. “This is exactly the situation that investment would have helped alleviate. We need to have a healthy discussion and keep these things in mind.”

Holiday spirit, weather boost sales this season

8 hours 43 min ago

Holiday shoppers are expected to spend more and be more altruistic this shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation.

Customers in recent years have been focused on getting discounts and deals to save money on needs for themselves. But an improving employment rate and less national fear regarding the economy have more people opening their wallets for others, said Kathy Grannis, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation.

“It does appear as if consumers are taking that extra pocket power and putting it toward gifts for their friends and family,” Grannis said.

People celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukkah are expected to spend $804.42 on average compared to spending $767.27 last year, according to the National Retail Foundation’s survey.

The survey showed incremental increased spending on gifts for everyone from babysitters to family members.

The survey comes as the unemployment rate continues to tick down. The Labor Department reported unemployment is down to 5.8 percent.

People buying for themselves also might be in a better position to buy frills for themselves as opposed to needed items, Grannis said. 

“We were in kind of this either/or economy where Americans didn’t have the ability to buy their discretionary purchases like clothing and jewelry and personal care and also invest in the larger tickets like appliances or autos or the larger electronics,” she said.

Beyond the economy, retailers are expected to benefit from a milder winter compared to last year, which made it difficult for some would-be buyers to escape the house.

“Weather has a tremendous impact on shopping in general,” Grannis said.

4 arrested on DUI suspicion at Oxnard checkpoint

21 hours 19 min ago

Four people were arrested at a checkpoint in Oxnard on suspicion of driving under the influence, police said.

The checkpoint was conducted by six officers from 6 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday, Oxnard police said.

Four people were arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, police said. Two of those drivers were found to have a blood alcohol level twice that of the legal limit, authorities said.

Six people were arrested on suspicion of driving under a suspended license and seven were found to be driving without a license, police said.

A total of 56 citations were issued, including two to motorcyclists on suspicion of driving over 90 mph on a city roadway, officers said.

One driver was found to be under the heavy influence of marijuana while driving with an open 25-ounce can of beer in the center console of the vehicle, police said. The license of the driver also had been suspended, police said.

Funding for the checkpoint was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Upcycling: a better way of recycling

21 hours 33 min ago

Most recycling is "downcycling." For example, the most commonly recycled items in Ventura County are concrete and asphalt, which several businesses crush into base material for new roads. Far more energy and resources were required to make these discarded materials than can be saved by using the recycled version.

When recycled concrete and asphalt are not available, road builders simply use gravel. Substituting crushed concrete and asphalt for gravel avoids rock mining, saves resources and usually reduces transportation, but the tremendous amount of energy required to create concrete and asphalt is not recovered.

Similarly, many grades of paper can be recycled only about seven times before fibers become too short to be made into similar paper. As paper degrades through the friction of a paper mill, fibers formerly used in high-quality card stock become suitable only for writing (copy) paper, and eventually all fibers become suitable only for molded paper pulp products such as egg cartons. Fibers too shortened for even that use pass through a screen and are disposed.

In contrast, "upcycling" is the process of converting discarded materials into items of greater value, usually with a greater environmental benefit than would be derived by simply recycling the product back into a version of its previous incarnation (for example, bottle-to-bottle glass recycling).

Ventura County has some great examples of upcycling. Chief among these is Rareform, a company based in Ventura that makes duffel bags, surfboard carrying bags, wallets, backpacks and other items from discarded billboard vinyl.

According to Rareform founder Alec Avedissian, America's largest outdoor advertising company, Lamar Advertising, delivered over 100 tons of used billboard vinyl to Rareform last year. This plastic, because it is designed for outdoor use, is strong, easy to clean, mold resistant and covered in fade-resistant bright colors with interesting images.

Rareform's website reports the billboard industry trashes over 600,000 tons per year of this plastic, so Rareform, which has tripled in growth over the past year, has plenty of opportunity to expand.

Sometimes upcycling involves finding new uses for a product made from multiple materials.

For example, the Ventura County Arts Council is currently seeking an upcycler to help with the discards expected from the upcoming "Pianos in Public" program. The council is accepting donated pianos it can provide to "hosts." Often, the pianos will be creatively decorated before being placed in public locations, including outdoor sites. People are invited to enjoy the pianos, pose for pictures with them, and play the pianos to death.

The council is looking for opportunities to resurrect each of the dead pianos. Two local woodworkers are ready to dismantle them and salvage the wood, while one artist would like to explore using other components of the instrument. One of the woodworkers has experience making discarded hard wood pieces into custom cabinets for recreational vehicles. Another has turned one discarded piano into a classy terrarium and is turning another into a high-end wet bar.

If you have another idea and can pick up one of these pianos for upcycling, contact the council at with your suggestions. Todd Collart, who is managing the program, says no ideas are too crazy.

If you want to keep your eye on the environment and try simple upcycling at home, turn used pantyhose into ties for tomato plants (better than string, which cuts plants) or into covers that protect broccoli or other crops from bugs.

On the Net:

David Goldstein is an environmental resource analyst for the county of Ventura. Representatives of government or nonprofit agencies who want to submit articles on environmental topics for this column should contact Goldstein at 658-4312 or

No injuries reported in Port Hueneme crash

22 hours 34 min ago

No one was injured after a car went into a ditch and sheared a fire hydrant Saturday in Port Hueneme, officials said.

The crash was reported at 11:07 p.m. near West Channel Islands Boulevard and Patterson Road.

Oxnard shooting draws massive police response

22 hours 38 min ago

A massive police response ensued after officers witnessed a shooting Saturday night in Oxnard’s La Colonia neighborhood and chased the suspects about a mile and a half south to the Five Points neighborhood. 

Police said officers saw the gunfire themselves at 8:20 p.m. near Cooper Road and McKinley Avenue. Police said a group of people standing in front of a business was confronted by two people, one of whom began shooting with a handgun before the pair fled to an awaiting vehicle. 

Police said they chased the vehicle and stopped it near Donlon Avenue and Driffil Boulevard, just north of the Five Points intersection, where four people got out and tried to flee.  

Three men were detained there and a fourth was found hiding nearby, police said.

Police said they arrested Oxnard residents Carlos Guzman, 19; Enrique Castellanos, 22; German Librado, 20; and Diego Guerrero, 27. 

Police said they also found loaded handgun in the area.

Although no victim was found at the La Colonia scene, a 16-year-old Oxnard boy arrived at Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura about 10:04 p.m. with minor gunshot wounds. Police said the wounds to his upper body were not life-threatening.

The incident was notable for its highly visible police response as officers hunted for a fifth person believed to have been involved in the shooting. A witness said there were about 20 police cars in the Five Points neighborhood, and a helicopter from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office buzzed overhead.

The fifth suspect was not found, however. 

People with information about Saturday night’s crime are urged to call Detective Jeff Long at 486-6506. Those who want to remain anonymous can call the Violent Crimes Hotline at 982-7070 or Ventura County Crime Stoppers at 222-8477. They also can visit to submit a tip via text message or email.

VC loses to Riverside in playoff opener

November 22, 2014 - 10:39pm

RIVERSIDE — The contrast of entering Southern California's four-team playoff as the No. 8-ranked team wasn't lost on the Ventura College football team.

Underneath the obvious goal of winning a state championship bubbled a simpler, less glorious desire for the SCFA Northern Conference champion.

"I feel like we proved we belonged," coach Steve Mooshagian said.

Twice threatening to climb out of big holes, the Pirates pushed top-seeded Riverside deep into the fourth quarter during their 51-37 loss in the SCFA semifinals Saturday night at Wheelock Stadium.

"We proved we could play with the big boys," Mooshagian said. "Any doubters can't doubt anymore. ... We gave them everything they could handle."

If Ventura (6-5), which led the National Division in turnover margin, hadn't uncharacteristically given the ball away three times in the first half, Riverside (10-1) may have seen its 30-game home winning streak snapped.

"We did something we hadn't done all year," Mooshagian said. "That ends up being the difference in the game."

Quarterback Marc Evans completed 19 of 37 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Chris Marshall caught six passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Juan Soto caught five passes for 52 yards and a score.

Linebacker Matt Singleton had a game-high nine tackles, safety Jalen Oats made eight tackles and defensive lineman Kameron Klein had seven tackles and a fumble recovery for VC.

Riverside quarterback Nick King completed 22 of 30 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns to earn the game's Most Valuable Player honor. Filling in for injured starter Denzel Foster, running back Christopher Anderson rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries to earn the Offensive Player of the Game award.

"It was a great football game," Mooshagian said.

Riverside (10-1) advances to host Central Conference rival Mount San Antonio (9-2) in next Saturday's SCFA championship game. No. 3 Mt. SAC routed No. 2 Fullerton 44-14.

Ventura was boosted by an incredible game by its kick return team.

After Riverside capitalized on a VC fumble on the third play of the game to take a 3-0 lead, sophomore Paul Harris returned the subsequent kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

"I was going to kneel it, but I had one foot out of the end zone," said Harris, who had three kick returns for touchdowns on the season. "I saw (Chris Marshall) made a tremendous block. Right off that, I had an open lane and it was touchdown."

After Riverside retook the lead 10-6 on a 13-yard scoring strike from King to tight end Ryan Ramirez, freshman Aaron Davis returned a pooch kick 82 yards for a score and a 13-10 Ventura lead.

"It was wonderful to see my teammates make plays," Harris said. "I was down there blocking for him."

Harris, who was named the Ventura MVP, also returned a later kickoff 70 yards to set up another VC score. Harris, Davis and Marshall combined 389 yards on seven kickoff returns.

"Our kickoff return unit was unbelievable," Mooshagian said.

Coach Tom Lawrence's special teams units finished the season with nine touchdowns and none allowed.

King hit Isaac Whitney for a 64-yard scoring strike. After Evans threw just his second interception of the season, Riverside capitalized with another short field goal.

VC drove to respond, but linebacker Jonah Moi scooped up a fumbled handoff and returned it 60 yards for 27-13 lead with 12:59 left in the half.

But VC wouldn't let the game get away from it. Jake Lanski's 22-yard field goal and Evans' 28-yard touchdown pass to Marshall pulled the Pirates within 27-23 just before halftime.

"We were taking on the huddle about the safeties biting on Aaron (Stanton) and Paul," Marshall said. "The safety bit on it and it was a touchdown. Marc just had to throw it up."

Riverside rebuilt the lead to 44-23 with 11:46 to play, but VC again refused to go quietly.

"We responded," Mooshagian said. "We weren't going to let that happen. Our kids played hard."

Evans hit Devontae Alfred on a 28-yard scoring strike and Soto on a 13-yard touchdown pass to pull VC within touching distance at 44-37 with 4:53 to play.

Just a stop away from making the night really interesting, VC failed to force a punt. Five plays after Riverside converted a third-and-2 with 4:06 to play, Anderson went around the left end for the game-clinching, 51-yard scoring run.

"We used everything we could," Mooshagian said. "They did some things that made us make some adjustments. But I was proud of the effort."

Rio Mesa captures Div. 7 water polo title

November 22, 2014 - 7:28pm

IRVINE — Disappointment became fuel for success.

After finishing third in league and making a first-round playoff exit last year, the Rio Mesa High boys water polo team was determined to make amends.

The returning Spartans worked hard to improve and the new Spartans provided a welcome influx of talent.

The combination led to the ultimate prize.

Joe Tinoco scored three goals and top-seeded Rio Mesa held off a comeback to defeat second-seeded Don Lugo 11-9 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 final on Saturday afternoon at the William J. Wollett Aquatics Center.

It was the second CIF-SS title for Rio Mesa in its fourth final appearance. The Spartans won the Division 6 title in 2010.

“Every team is different. Every season is different. Every individual is different. This one is just amazing in its own way,” Rio Mesa head coach Derrick Timmons said. “Last year was a tough year for us, but the seniors and juniors who stuck through program really earned this. They did a great job leading us.”

Rio Mesa appeared on track for an easy victory after jumping out to a big lead.

Peyton Collins scored back-to-back goals to end the first quarter and give Rio Mesa a 5-2 advantage.

Rio Mesa successfully defended three man-advantage situations in the period while scoring on its only two man-advantage opportunities.

Rio Mesa extended its lead to 8-3 in second quarter before Don Lugo rallied to pull within 9-7 when Kenith Gomez converted a rebound shot off the crossbar with 25 seconds left in the half.

Goals were much harder to come by in the second half for both teams.

Don Lugo, which won the Division 7 title in 2012, tied the game 9-9 on a skip shot by Joseph Parks with a man-advantage in the third quarter. But Tinoco had an immediate answer to put Rio Mesa back in front 10-9 heading into the final seven minutes.

Jake Hunter scored a man-advantage goal out of a timeout to give Rio Mesa an 11-9 lead with 4:39 remaining.

The Spartans held Don Lugo scoreless in the fourth quarter as goalkeeper Dalton Escrofani came up with some big saves down the stretch to preserve Rio Mesa’s lead.

“It was tough because we kept getting so many ejections against us and we couldn’t earn many ejections. It was crazy,” Timmons said. “I knew Don Lugo had the experience and all those guys were in prior championships and would be ready for the game and the crowd. But luckily, we stayed tough and played more active defense in the end.”

Don Lugo made sure Rio Mesa freshman star Jake Erhardt and junior standout Robert Cervantes from scoring. But others filled the void.

Tinoco led Rio Mesa with three goals while Hunter, Collins and Reece Koe each scored two.

“I knew their team would try to guard me very hard from the beginning and I got taken out of the game pretty early with two ejections,” Erhardt said. “But the other guys really stepped up off the bench with scoring goals, which is good for the team. It feels great as a freshman to win a title, especially with this group we have.”

As Rio Mesa senior defender Zander Lyskin posed for pictures with the CIF-SS championship plaque, it served as validation of the team’s transformation over the last year.

“This year was less about winning and more about being successful and doing our best to reach our top potential,” Lyskin said. “It feels awesome to win this because we have been working hard for a long time. I really can’t describe it.”

Rio Mesa’s seniors will leave behind a team that featured four freshmen on varsity, including two starters, meaning this could be the start of a multiple titles run.

“This kind of experience is so valuable for the group of kids we have coming back,” Timmons said. “To be down here in this environment with the crowd and everything is going to help them in the future.”

Scholarship application available online

November 22, 2014 - 7:25pm

Students can now apply for college scholarships online through the Ventura County Community Foundation.

The application is available at Applicants should go to the "Apply/Donate to a Scholarship" link at the top of the page.

Applicants will be required to submit two letters of recommendation, with at least one from a faculty member at their current school. The other can be from a counselor, employer, volunteer supervisor or another teacher.

The deadline for applications is Jan. 12.

College district moves toward four-year degree

November 22, 2014 - 7:25pm

The Ventura County Community College District is among 36 statewide that have indicated they plan to apply to offer four-year degrees.

The district, which oversees Moorpark, Oxnard and Ventura colleges, would apply to offer degrees in applied management — in which students who already have technical skills learn management skills. The degree would be offered through Ventura College.

Under legislation passed this fall, 15 community college districts will be able to offer four-year degrees starting in fall 2015. The degrees would have to be in a field not already offered at nearby four-year universities. Other degrees statewide could include biomanufacturing, engineering technology and public safety administration.

Districts must apply by Dec. 19 to be considered for the pilot program. Applications will be reviewed by a committee that includes representatives from community colleges, the University of California and California State University, among others. The committee will be looking for a mix of degrees and colleges across the state. Districts will be selected Jan. 21.