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Accident snarling traffic outside Moorpark

November 26, 2014 - 6:11pm

An accident on Los Angeles Avenue near Grimes Canyon Road, west of Moorpark, snarled traffic Wednesday evening.

The incident, reported at 5:30 p.m., involved as many as four vehicles. No injuries were reported. No other information was immediately available.

Moorpark office participates in toy drive

November 26, 2014 - 6:11pm

The Moorpark office of the California Highway Patrol is participating in a holiday drive, inviting members of the public to donate new, unwrapped toys to be distributed to children in need.

The CHiPs for Kids toy drive will be launched Dec. 4, with Walgreens locations and offices of the patrol serving as donation drop-off locations.

From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 4, live video feeds from the Walgreens store at 550 N. Ventu Park Road in Newbury Park will capture launch day in an effort to inspire donations, with patrol officers there to participate.

Those who are unable to stop by on Dec. 4 are invited to bring any new, unwrapped toy to the patrol's office at 610 Spring Road in Moorpark between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday through Dec. 19. Toys also may be dropped off at any of the 300 Walgreens stores in Southern California, the patrol said.

Grateful for sunshine

November 26, 2014 - 6:08pm

Balmy weather this Thanksgiving week sent many people outdoors to enjoy games of basketball at the park, the hills for cycling and the beaches for scenic views and cool breezes.

Live Traffic Map

November 26, 2014 - 5:34pm

Click the logo below to launch the traffic map

Six injured in traffic collision near Camarillo

November 26, 2014 - 5:23pm

As many as six people were reported injured in a collision involving at least three vehicles Wednesday afternoon near Pleasant Valley and Wood roads south of the Camarillo Airport.

The accident was reported at 3:20 p.m. Authorities closed the intersection while emergency personnel removed two people trapped in vehicles. The incident was described as a hit-and-run by the California Highway Patrol.

All lanes were reopened shortly after 4:15 p.m.

The cause of the accident remained under investigation. Further details, including the extent of injuries, were not available.

Small grass fire reported in Simi Valley

November 26, 2014 - 5:23pm

Crews battled a small grass fire Wednesday afternoon near the 100 block of East Easy Street in Simi Valley, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

The fire was east of Madera Road and south of Highway 118, reportedly near railroad tracks. It was reported as a 50-foot by 50-foot spot fire in a field, according to reports.

Eight firefighter units were on the scene for the incident, reported shortly before 4:30 p.m.

Soil samples taken near explosion are negative

November 26, 2014 - 5:09pm

Soil samples taken at farms near the site of a Santa Paula chemical explosion last week show no contamination, but results of tests on actual crops are still pending, environmental officials said Wednesday.

Testing of soil downwind from the Mission Rock Road explosion site showed no concernable levels of contamination, officials said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and California Department of Public Health, however, are continuing to evaluate potential contamination of crops, said Nahal Mogharabi, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Korinne Bell, deputy Ventura County agricultural commissioner, said crop samples were shipped to two different labs in California to test for metals and toxicology. She said agencies and businesses affected by the Nov. 18 explosion are waiting for more information.

She said local growers were advised to conduct minimal activity and refrain from harvesting until more is known.

“We’ve received great cooperation from growers. No one wants a food safety emergency on their hands,” Bell said.

“Our concern is the safety of the agricultural community, the public and the food supply chain.”

About 50 people were treated at local hospitals after a vacuum truck exploded about 3:45 a.m. Nov. 18 at Santa Clara Waste Water Co., leaking chemicals and starting fires at 815 Mission Rock Road.

About 1,000 gallons of a chemical mixture that contained sulfuric acid and an organic peroxide spilled and burned after the rear of the truck exploded. When it dried, the substance spontaneously ignited, sparking small fires. Chemical smoke drifted over the area.

County officials said the incident has transitioned to the cleanup phase. The owner of Santa Clara Waste has contracted with Patriot Environmental Services to conduct the cleanup, which is being overseen by Ventura County Environmental Health and the EPA, fire officials said.

In the days after the explosion, an area within a half-mile of the site was evacuated. The evacuation was lifted Sunday.

Authorities ID man killed in fiery Ventura crash

November 26, 2014 - 4:28pm

Authorities on Wednesday identified a 25-year-old man who died in a fiery crash in Ventura the night before.

Cody Blackshear, of Colton, was declared dead at the scene. His Jeep Cherokee was so mangled that it was hard to recognize, officials said.

The crash was reported about 6:35 p.m. off Highway 101 and Telephone Road. Blackshear was driving on southbound Highway 101 when his vehicle left the road for an unknown reason, hit a tree and caught fire, according to the California Highway Patrol. Witnesses and crews said the eucalyptus tree, about 20 to 25 feet tall, also caught fire.

Southbound Highway 101 was temporarily closed after the crash as authorities investigated.

Rescue Mission serves up annual holiday feast

November 26, 2014 - 4:27pm

With almost military precision, more than 260 volunteers served 1,100 Thanksgiving meals at the Ventura County Rescue Mission’s annual holiday feast Wednesday in less than half an hour. But there were more people.

So Rescue Mission Executive Director John Saltee, who vowed to feed everyone who showed up, started directing some of the residents of the men’s program at the Oxnard site, where the meal was served, to set up more tables.

“We do this because we want to share Thanksgiving and because we want to share our Lord Jesus. We invited you because you are our neighbors,” Saltee said as he stood among dozens of rectangular tables with cloth coverings and fall-themed centerpieces in the alley behind the mission.

Jessica Turcott, of Oxnard, who was having dinner with daughter Aura Jones, 2, said she enjoys coming to the mission.

“We’re here every year, three years in a row,” said Turcott, who had no plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. “The turkey here is the best, and they have a live band.”

In addition to the Kirkpatrick Family, performing music with a spiritual flavor, the Mission Angels, a group of about 23 children, sang under the direction of administrative assistant Cady Johnson.

After getting directions about serving sizes from chef Mike Lodi, Capt. Larry Vasquez, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County, said he and a group of fellow sailors have been enjoying serving holiday meals on the base and at the mission.

“We want to give back and show our support for the community,” Vasquez said. “A lot of folks are still having a hard time.”

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said he’s been coming to help at the mission for the past six or seven years.

“This is what I expect to do at Thanksgiving. It’s a great lesson about giving back,” he said. “I look around and realize how lucky we are.”

Sandie Lykins, who was volunteering with her daughter Christina Lykins, both of Ventura, said she supports the mission, especially because the men’s program helped her son.

“The program is wonderful. It trains them and they can give to the community. It made him grow up,” she said.

Saltee explained that the mission’s goal is “to provide refuge, food, clothing and shelter for recovery through a 10-month program.”

The men in the mission’s culinary arts program cooked 500 turkeys this year that not only are served at the mission dinner but also are shipped to other churches and community centers where meals are distributed to the homeless, Saltee said.

There is an additional Lighthouse for Women and Children recovery program under the auspices of the mission, but at another location.

The mission serves meals every day of the year, including lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays and dinner Sundays.

“We provide 330,000 meals a year,” said Saltee, who explained that the mission works as a distribution center for meals at pantries and kitchens across the Oxnard area.

Maria Tejada, of Oxnard, said she would be spending Thanksgiving with family members but on Wednesday was enjoying the meal at the mission.

“I come here every day. The food is great. But this is my first Thanksgiving,” said Tejada, introducing her adult children who also were enjoying the meal of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, rolls, peas and carrots.

Donna Verellen, of Oxnard, was blunt about her reasons for being at the meal.

“I’m homeless. I want to eat, but I have no money,” said Verellen, who said she also is a regular at the mission’s meals.

Her friend Michelle Stevens was enthusiastic about the dinner.

“It makes me feel like I’m back home,” said Stevens, who also had no Thanksgiving plans.

Learn more: Call 436-4602 or go online to http://www.vcrescuemission.org for information about the Ventura County Rescue Mission.

No recount in Oxnard council race

November 26, 2014 - 4:07pm

There’ll be no Oxnard recount.

Steve Huber, the City Council challenger who finished 10 votes behind incumbent Bert Perello, said Wednesday he won’t challenge the result.

“It’s time to move forward,” said Huber, a retired Navy captain who sits on the city’s planning commission.

Ventura County Elections Division officials estimate a recount of Oxnard’s ballots would cost about $15,000 to $25,000. In the past, close contests triggered a type of automatic recount, but those rules no longer exist, officials say. Recounts are rare, and local elections staff couldn’t recall any recounts that changed the outcome.

(Visit vcstar.com/elections for more election coverage or find the Elections section in our smartphone and iPad apps.)

Local results were certified Monday, 20 days after the Nov. 4 election. The close race for the second Oxnard council seat dragged on through twice-weekly updates and wasn’t decided until Monday’s final tally.

Any voter can request a recount within five days after results are certified, as long as they are willing to pay the cost. For this election, that deadline is Monday, elections officials said Wednesday.

Huber said he made his decision after considering the high cost of a recount and the minuscule chance of overturning results. The original count was closely scrutinized because of the tight congressional race between Julia Brownley and Jeff Gorell, which meant dozens of observers were on hand daily to watch workers process ballots.

Huber said he hopes to stay involved on the podium-side of council chambers and to continue serving on the planning commission. He hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll run for office again.

“I’m glad it’s over,” said Perello, a mail carrier elected to the council in the June 2013 special election.

Perello earned 6,680 votes, or about 15.2 percent of the total, compared to Huber’s 6,670. Voters chose up to two candidates from a roster of seven, with incumbent Carmen Ramirez leading the field with 13,510 votes, or 30.7 percent.

The Oxnard City Clerk’s office said Wednesday the council’s traditional swearing-in ceremony has been put on the Dec. 2 agenda, as originally planned. With all incumbents winning re-election, including Mayor Tim Flynn, the five-member panel will remain the same for at least two more years.

Ex-Ventura doctor released from Ebola quarantine

November 26, 2014 - 4:07pm

In the past year, Dr. John Fankhauser has cared for patients dying from Ebola in Liberia, been separated from his family and lived in an RV as part of a quarantine.

On the day before the holiday, at the beginning of a trip in Southern California, the doctor from Ventura listed his thanks.

“I’m thankful for the ability to spend Thanksgiving with my family and for the chance to serve in Liberia,” he said, listing the decreasing number of new Ebola cases in the West African country he now considers home.

“I think we still have a long ways to go,” he said of a disease that has killed more than 3,000 people in Liberia alone. “But there are signs of hope.”

Fankhauser, former medical director at Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, departed last year on a mission to ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital outside of Monrovia, Liberia, with his wife and two daughters.

His family was evacuated to North Carolina when the Ebola crisis kept accelerating. Fankhauser stayed, leaving temporarily in August to visit his family and again earlier this month.

He flew with his wife and daughters from Charlotte to Los Angeles on Tuesday. They’ll spend Thanksgiving in Santa Monica with eldest son, Josh Fankhauser, a graduate student at UCLA.

Twice during the day, Fankhauser will stop what he’s doing to take his temperature. He’ll report the results in a daily phone call with the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

The monitoring, which included a phone call from public health in the Atlanta airport, comes on the heels of a quarantine imposed this month after Fankhauser journeyed from Liberia to Charlotte. He was assessed as being at “some risk” because on Nov. 3 he was exposed to a patient who died of Ebola at the hospital.

The quarantine meant living with his wife and daughters in an RV on the campus of the SIM organization that sponsors Fankhauser’s mission to Liberia. He had to maintain social distancing of 3 feet when he was with people outside of family.

Once a day, he met face-to-face with a public health worker, again maintaining the 3-foot barrier.

The quarantine ended on Monday, three weeks after his exposure. The 21 days of monitoring is scheduled to end Friday.

Fankhauser said Ebola is passed through bodily fluids and only by a person who not only has the disease but is showing symptoms.

The doctor has no symptoms. When he was exposed to a person with Ebola, he was in full protective gear. He was immediately decontaminated.

“I’m doing quite fine,” he said, responding to a question he has heard often.

“I understand right now why people are enforcing quarantines in order to reassure the public,” he said, objecting to mandates in states like New York and New Jersey that went beyond the recommendations of the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

His monitoring period is ending but Fankhauser still notified a Ventura County Public Health official of his plans to visit the county beginning over the weekend.

On Thursday, he’ll return to Liberia and his role as deputy medical director at ELWA. Once directly involved in Ebola care, he now focuses on administrative duties that include supporting an isolation unit. He also treats non-Ebola patients in the general care hospital.

“My rationale for going back is the epidemic is still not controlled,” he said, focusing on the dire need for all kinds of health care. “There’s such a need for medical professionals and people who will not just volunteer for two or three weeks but for months.”

Stores play up Thanksgiving closure

November 26, 2014 - 3:57pm

Some employees are saying “thank you cranberry much” for stores that are staying closed this Thanksgiving.

“I think it’s great,” said Jonathan Koblick, who started two weeks ago as Burlington Coat Factory store manager in Ventura.

Closing means he gets to spend the entire day with his family, he said. And not starting until 7 a.m. Friday? Well, he’ll take that relatively late time, too.

“It’s not too crazy,” said Koblick, who knows a thing or two about working the holiday from his past experience at Macy’s.

Click here for more business-related stories

Burlington is one of a growing list of stores touting the fact they will stay closed Thursday. Other stores with locations in Ventura County that will be closed include REI, Patagonia, T.J. Maxx/Marshalls, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.

“All Burlington locations will remain closed on Thanksgiving so that our associates and customers can spend the special holiday with their loved ones,” a news release from the company stated.

For REI, it’s about giving workers the day off to “play with their friends and family and spend time with their loved ones,” spokeswoman Megan Behrbaum said.

Branding expert Kevin Paul Scott said that’s a shift from past years, when retailers quietly stayed closed.

“They are sending a message to consumers about what they believe and maybe overtly what they believe the customer should believe,” he said.

Stores are saying they value their employees, said Scott, co-founder of the Atlanta-based ADDO Institute, a branding consultant firm. “That has the opportunity to build a long-term affinity between the consumer and the retailer.”

Consumers who share the belief that stores should remain closed on Thanksgiving may consciously or subconsciously decide to give business to those establishments all year, Scott said.

PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts average spending per household will be down this holiday season, from $735 last year to $684. A survey of 2,200 respondents cites a rising cost of living, weak wages and limited disposable income. Still, 49 percent of respondents said they would be out on Thanksgiving Day looking for deals.

Stores that keep their doors closed run the risk of missing out.

Nearly 45 million shoppers went out on Thanksgiving Day 2013, up from 35 million in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation.

With the federation reporting $50 billion on the line for the year’s busiest shopping weekend, retailers will try anything to get ahead.

That includes Kmart, which this year announced plans to open at 6 a.m. Thursday and stay open for 42 hours. Macy’s, Target and Kohl’s are opening at 6 p.m., two hours earlier than last year. Target opened at 9 p.m. in 2012.

Movements calling for an end to Thanksgiving Day shopping have spread like fire online. The Facebook page “Boycott Black Thursday” hit 10,000 likes in October; now it has more than 108,000. “Boycott Shopping on Thanksgiving Day,” which keeps a “naughty and nice” list of retailers open and closed, has more than 11,000 likes.

Kevin Clerici, head of downtown Ventura’s business improvement district, suggests shoppers consider an alternative to both Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping: Small Business Saturday. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday downtown, there will be giveaways, free gift wrapping and discounts at participating stores.

By shopping in independently owned stores, “you are helping to create jobs, boost the local economy and preserve neighborhoods,” he said in a news release.

Peace and justice group forms online calendar

November 26, 2014 - 3:39pm

The Ventura County Peace & Justice Network was formed in September to help progressive groups throughout the county organize and communicate with each other better.

As part of this, the group is launching an online events calendar at http://www.vcpjn.org. The calendar will be officially launched Friday.

“My goal is to draw more attention to all of the groups in Ventura County so they can mutually support each other,” said Jake Donaldson, a founder of the network and local doctor.

Groups that could benefit from the calendar include those working for campaign finance reform, gun control and immigrant and human rights.

Click here for more county news.

Donaldson is doing most of the calendar-related work now, posting upcoming events with the date, time and place. He hopes enough interest will be generated that other progressive groups around the county will participate.

“The big question is if it will draw enough attention in the community,” Donaldson said this week.

Many events posted on the calendar were gathered from the Internet, he said. The calendar has a disclaimer urging people to contact the organizers directly to confirm the date, time and location of an event.

The idea for the justice network and the calendar arose in September, when many members of progressive groups got together to march to call attention to climate change, Donaldson said.

“There were a lot of people who were interested in the march, but there was no one place to get information about it locally,” Donaldson said. So organizers formed the Ventura County Peace & Justice Network to create a one-stop information center.

“The calendar has a twofold purpose,” he said. “On the one hand, it will serve as an easy way for our county’s residents to plug into local peace- and justice-oriented events. On the other hand, it will help county organizations get the word out about their causes and the events they are using to promote those causes.”

He said representatives of Veterans for Peace, Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions and Pax Christ “have all been involved in the effort to create the calendar.”

Donaldson’s group also is looking for folks willing to help run the website.

“We have all sorts of dreams when it comes to strengthening our county’s progressive network, and growing this website is one step in facilitating that process.”

For more information, contact Donaldson at 320-7461 or vcpjnetwork@gmail.com.

Pay raises approved for Ventura school workers

November 26, 2014 - 3:19pm

For the second year in a row, all Ventura Unified School District employees will receive a raise, the district board unanimously decided.

Nearly all employees, including teachers, administrators and classified workers, will see a 3 percent raise this year. The pay boost includes a 2 percent raise retroactive to July 1 and a 1 percent one-time bonus.

The district also will contribute $756 more a year to these employees’ health benefits, which equates to 1 percent raise for many workers, Superintendent Trudy Arriaga said.

“It is an absolute pleasure to provide additional compensation to our employees because they stepped up when times were tough,” she said.

District administrators did not have the total cost of the pay raise at Tuesday night’s board meeting, during which the raise was approved.

Before last year’s raise, district employees faced pay cuts for five consecutive years as economic woes gripped the state.

Temporary and hourly employees, such as teachers who work on student interventions, will get a 2 percent raise this year.

After the district received its funding from the state this year, officials realized there was enough money to give an across-the-board raise, said Joseph Richards, assistant superintendent of business services. The district’s teachers and classified unions approved the contract changes.

“We have an amazing staff who has endured some difficult times with us, and deserves to be compensated for doing and amazing job,” board President Mary Haffner said after the meeting.

In other business, the board approved new high school math classes that have been created to comply with the Common Core State Standards. Mathematics 2P will replace geometry and mathematics 3P will replace algebra 2.

The board also appointed Rich Kirby, the former assistant superintendent of human resources, to serve on the district’s personnel commission.

Students get in a run and fun before holiday

November 26, 2014 - 2:41pm

About 1,200 students at Blackstock Junior High in Oxnard participated in the fifth annual Turkey Trot Wednesday morning with an abundance of enthusiasm and school spirit.

"We bond together as a whole school," said 12-year-old Kimberly Portillo.

She and friends Crista Guerrero Donovan, 12, and Nicole Miers, 13, were planning to run together.

Kimberly said she likes the fact that all the grades are mixed for the event.

"You get to know more people and make more friends," she said.

Crista said the route around the school is fun to run.

"There are parts of the school I haven't seen in a long time or don't even know about," Crista said. "And I like that we have the option to run, walk or jog."

For Nicole it's all about the exercise.

"It's good for you," Nicole said.

Principal Tom Beneke said the school and community were celebrating fitness and Thanksgiving.

"Our local businesses have helped support this event with gifts," Beneke said. "We are giving away 20 turkeys to families and various other gifts to encourage the kids to get involved in their physical and mental health."

Beneke said former students from Hueneme and Channel Islands high schools return to volunteer community service hours at the event.

"It's like a homecoming and what Thanksgiving is about," Beneke said. "Former students coming back and celebrating with former teachers."

Veronica Mojica-Smith, a sixth-grade teacher, said six turkeys would be awarded to the top runners — three girls and three boys — and 14 turkeys would be donated to local needy families.

When the kids went out to the blacktop, they were given the option to split off into one of three groups — the runners, the joggers and those who wanted to walk the mile around the perimeter of the school. Only the runners competed to win the turkeys.

Greg Berini, eighth-grade science teacher, helped set up the course.

"The runners run and the walkers walk," Berini said. "The kids love it, and they get really into it. They get to run off the tryptophan before they even start eating it."

Gabriella Chavez, 12, was very excited. It was her first year at the school, so it was her first Turkey Trot.

"I'm really looking forward to running with the school," Gabriella said. "It's going to be awesome with everybody participating."

Anadelia Zarate, 13, really wanted to win a turkey.

"I've been here since sixth grade and have done it sixth, seventh and eighth," Anadelia said.

Jared Gomez, 13, was the first boy who crossed the finish line, so he will bring a turkey home to his family.

"I'm thankful for my parents, my brothers and sisters who support me every day and that I have a good education, that I am healthy and I won a turkey for my family," Jared said.

Daniel Delgado, 13, came in second. He will also bring home a turkey.

"I'm thankful to have family, to be here, and to go to school," he said.

Britney Cascillo, 13, was the first girl to cross the finish line.

"I am thankful for my family and friends and having a roof over my head," Britney said.

2 people stabbed in Port Hueneme

November 26, 2014 - 2:15pm

Two people were stabbed Wednesday afternoon in Port Hueneme, officials said.

The victims were apparently taken to urgent care in Oxnard about 12:20 p.m., but authorities believe the crime occurred in Port Hueneme, said Oxnard police Cmdr. Eduardo Miranda.

The victims were then taken to a hospital in Ventura. Further information was not yet available.

Man critically injured by power lines later dies

November 26, 2014 - 2:11pm

A tree trimmer critically injured Tuesday by power lines in Simi Valley has died, officials said Wednesday.

The incident was reported about noon Tuesday in the 4100 block of Eileen Street, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

Emergency personnel found two men stuck about 50 feet high in the tree, and one was dangling and unconscious. A small fire was put out, and firefighters had to cut through the foliage to rescue the workers, officials said. Southern California Edison cut off the power during the rescue.

One worker was not injured and was safely rescued from the tree. The other victim was in critical condition and taken to a hospital, where he later died.

The man's name has not been released, pending notification of relatives.

Officials identify Oxnard homicide victim

November 26, 2014 - 2:11pm

Authorities on Wednesday identified a 27-year-old man stabbed to death this week in Oxnard.

Alberto Ramirez Rosario, of Oxnard, was found dead about 5:30 p.m. Monday in the 500 block of Cooper Road in the La Colonia neighborhood.

Paramedics worked on the victim for several minutes, police said, but he ultimately died. No arrests had been made yet in the case.

The death marked the eighth homicide in Oxnard this year.

Investigators said the killing did not appear to be related to the stabbing death of Labh Nigah, who was apparently attacked at Sierra Linda Park on Nov. 13 after dropping off his child at a nearby school.

Authorities are offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved in a homicide.

Anyone with information should call Detective Ken Tougas at 200-5669. Those wishing to remain anonymous should call the Violent Crimes Hotline at 982-7070 or Ventura County Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

Star kicks off annual Bellringer holiday drive

November 26, 2014 - 1:45pm

On Thanksgiving, The Star kicks off its annual Julius Gius Bellringer campaign in partnership with the Salvation Army.

The money collected during the fundraising drive, which runs from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, will be given to the Salvation Army in Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme to help the needy in Ventura County.

"It is very, very crucial. What we collect during Christmas helps not only during the holiday season, but it also provides a big chunk of our budget for the services we offer throughout the year," said Lt. Manuel Gaytan, of the Salvation Army in Oxnard and Port Hueneme.

Traditionally, the charity has collected donations during the holidays via its signature red kettles outside stores and other public places.

In 1979, Julius Gius, editor of the then-Ventura County Star-Free Press, called on readers to help after some shopping centers prohibited the Salvation Army from conducting the kettle campaign at their sites. Gius wrote in a Nov. 19, 1979, column, "The Star-Free Press is going to be your ‘Bellringer' for this one holiday season."

Many stores later allowed the kettles to return, but The Star's campaign continued.

"Once again, we are proud to be your ‘Bellringer' for this holiday season, fulfilling the promise made 35 years ago by Julius Gius," said John Moore, editor of The Star. "I am always humbled during the holidays to see your donations helping our friends and neighbors. Thank you for what you do."

With some stores now again restricting when and where the Salvation Army can place kettles and a shortage of volunteers to help out, it's getting harder to raise the amount of money needed to maintain the charity's services for the homeless and others in need, officials said.

Gaytan, who with wife Lt. Daisy Gaytan, runs the Salvation Army's Port Hueneme/Oxnard center, said most stores are not allowing red kettles until after Black Friday and the Thanksgiving holiday, shortening the time to collect donations.

That's one reason why The Star's Bellringer campaign — in which people can mail in or drop off monetary donations at the news organization's main office in Camarillo — is so important, he said.

"The number of people who come to look for different services here is increasing, believe it or not," he said. "People keep coming for help, and we are trying to make sure we can meet those needs."

Gaytan said up to 200 people wait in line twice a week for a free box of food at the Port Hueneme/Oxnard center, and the charity also continues to offer free medical and dental services, an after-school program and help with paying utility bills.

He said 350 families are already registered for its holiday program, which this year will provide gift cards and a box of groceries for each. There are also more than 1,000 children on its list for toys this Christmas.

The final tally for contributions to the Julius Gius Bellringer campaign last year was $44,466. That was down from $49,367 in 2012.

The Salvation Army in Ventura provides a variety of programs, including short-term rental assistance and transitional housing for families, and alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

Lt. Fabio Simoes and his wife Lt. Sylvia Simoes, both originally from Brazil, were commissioned as officers in the Salvation Army in June and took over running the Ventura Salvation Army in July.

Sylvia said she is getting many calls from moms who are unemployed and asking for help over the holidays. In addition to financial contributions, she said, she's inviting the community to adopt a homeless family at Christmas and donate toys for the Salvation Army's Angel Tree program.

You can mail donations to Bellringer, Ventura County Star, P.O. Box 6006, Camarillo, CA 93011, or drop them off at The Star's office at 550 Camarillo Center Drive, behind the Camarillo Premium Outlets.

Checks should be made out to Bellringer and include the donor's name and phone number, and the name of the person, organization, pet or cause in whose memory it is given.

Unless anonymity is requested, each donor's name, the amount given and the person or group being honored will be published daily in The Star, except on Mondays.

The Star picks up all administrative costs of the campaign.

Donations of food and new, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at any Salvation Army office. To find an office or donate online, visit http://www.salvationarmyusa.org.

Irwin receives warm sendoff to Sacramento

November 26, 2014 - 1:25pm

Business executives, school leaders and council members from Camarillo to Simi Valley came to Thousand Oaks on Tuesday to deliver praises.

After hearing 120 minutes of goodbyes, Jacqui Irwin gathered up all her gifts and ended her 10-year career on the City Council.

“I’m going to make all of you proud,” Irwin said.

On Monday, Irwin will be sworn in to the state Assembly, representing a district that stretches from Westlake Village to Oxnard.

Among the dignitaries who spoke were Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, Sheriff Geoff Dean and elected officials from cities across the 44th district, which Irwin will represent as a Democrat.

“Because of your skill, leadership, tenacity, your courage, and your willingness to work across the aisle to do the right thing, I know you will serve us very, very well in the state Legislature,” Brownley said. “I feel very lucky you will be our representative.”

In city tradition, City Clerk Linda Lawrence presented Irwin albums full of photos, articles and mementos from the councilwoman’s decade of service. There were enough memories to fill eight albums.

City Manager Scott Mitnick gave Irwin a care package for her back-and-forth lifestyle traveling to Sacramento. Items included noise reduction headphones, a travel pillow and a Starbucks gift card.

“You’ve touched all of us and you’ve made all of us better,” Mitnick said.

A seat at the council chambers, K17, was dedicated in Irwin’s honor.

More than 20 people reminisced about Irwin service to the community. They talked about her work raising awareness of the dangers in energy drinks and her vision for the solar panels that would eventually allow a waste treatment facility to rely solely on green energy.

“Jacqui was serving in this community long before you began reading about her in the newspaper,” said Mayor Andy Fox.

In other business, the council approved $100,000 in sports facilities grants for 10 projects in the community. The majority of the grants will go toward facility upgrades at Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park high schools.

The council was originally scheduled to consider a resolution on the use and sale of certain rodent control products but the item was postponed to Dec. 16.