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Mail: P.O. Box 6383, Ventura, CA 93006
Phone: (805) 658-4608
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Welcome to our Club!

Ventura South

Service Above Self

We meet Mondays at 12:00 PM
The Tower Club
300 E. Esplanade Dr.
22nd Floor
Oxnard, CA  93036
United States
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Newly Elected Sheriff Bill Ayub
Addresses Ventura Rotary South
It was our Club's distinct privilege and honor to host Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub as our meeting speaker on Monday, December 3. Sheriff Ayub gave a fascinating overview of the department he now leads, having been elected to his post on June 5.
As the largest law enforcement agency in the County, The Sheriff's Office utilizes 750 sworn deputies, 500 professional employees, and 1,000 volunteers to provide its wide range of law enforcement-related services in 1,872 square miles of Ventura County, including the Cities of Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, and Thousand Oaks, as well as unincorporated areas. Those services include patrol, arson/bomb squad, SWAT, crime analysis, a forensincs lab, narcotics enforcement, and detention services, to name a few.
Detention services include management of the Todd Road Jail. Sheriff Ayub detailed the plans for the expansion of the facility (currently underway), which features a new health and programming unit for acute and psychiatric care of inmates. The 64-bed facility is scheduled to open in mid-2019.
Sheriff Ayub also spoke about his Office's efforts to fight the growing opioid crisis, noting that annual opioid-related arrests have increased from fewer than 90 in 2009 to 165 in 2017. Medical malpractice, he noted, is a primary factor in the increase.
Using video clips in his presentation, Sheriff Ayub explained the value of technology such as heat-seeking surveillance from the department's six helicopters and body-worn cameras for patrol deputies. Since their initiation, the 325 cameras have logged more than 45,500 hours of video. He also noted that the Office's Unmanned Aerial System (commonly referred to as drones) has played a big role in search and rescue, warrants, suspicious device investigation, and back country marijuana eradication.
Thank you, Sheriff Ayub, for the service you and your deputies, employees, and volunteers provide, and thanks also for taking time from your busy schedule to visit Ventura Rotary South!
It's Coats for Kids Time Again!
Once again, Rotary Ventura South is participating in the annual Coats for Kids Program, accepting donations of gently worn coats for those in need. Although the focus is on children, adult-sized coats are gratefully accepted.
Large cardboard donation boxes have been set up at various locations in and near Ventura, including:
  • City National Bank - 1220 S. Victoria Avenue, Ventura
  • Coastal Chiropractic - 700 E. Santa Clara Street, Ventura
  • First Bank - 5808 Telephone Road, Ventura
  • Green Thumb Nursery - 1899 Victoria Avenue, Ventura
  • Sterling Hills Country Club - 901 Sterling Hills Drive, Camarillo
Thank you in advance for your donation!
Human Trafficking a Persistent Problem
In Ventura County Says Sheriff's Deputy
For Aaron Grass, Senior Deputy in the Special Crimes Unit of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, human trafficking is an an all-too-real (and growing) problem. Speaking to members and guests of Ventura Rotary South at our November 19 meeting, Officer Grass offered a sobering look at the perpetrators and victims of this crime that affects virtually all parts of California and most other states.
In its simplest legal definition, human trafficking is the depriving of one person's personal liberty by another. Its most common form involves the coercion and control of one or more individuals for paid sex, but labor trafficking in other industries (custodial, construction, agriculture) is also common.
"Human trafficking is hard to address on a large scale," said Officer Grass, "because it is so prevalent and so widespread." He noted that, on the positive side, California has very strong laws against the practice. Even the attempt to commit human trafficking carries a minimum sentence of eight years to life in prison.
Officer Grass is one of just two members of the Sheriff's Department Special Crimes Unit who work exclusively on enforcement of these laws in Ventura County. He and his partner work both proactively and reactively, conducting surveillance, sting operations, and compliance checks with businesses such as massage parlors. They respond when patrol officers encounter situations where human trafficking is likely.
"Human trafficking investigations are complex," said Officer Grass, "but we have support from outside agencies including the FBI, the California Franchise Tax Board, and the District Attorney's Office." As with any crime, the Sheriff's Department appreciates tips from the public in cases where human trafficking is suspected.
John Krist of Ventura County Farm Bureau
Discusses the Future of Agricultural Water
If you've driven around the agricultural fields of Ventura County, you've probably seen signs that read "Food grows where water flows." Kind of an obvious statement, but a true one nonetheless. Our speaker on Monday, November 5, was John Krist, CEO of the Ventura County Farm Bureau, an advocate agency for the local agriculture industry. John presented a fascinating look at the history, current status, and future challenges of water in the region.
To give members and guests of Rotary Ventura South an idea of the critical importance that water plays, John noted that a single strawberry crop requires three acre feet of water. or roughly one million gallons. In Ventura County, that water comes from four principal sources: local groundwater (63%), the State Water Project (25%). local surface water (8%), and recycled water (4%).
With the heavy dependence on local wells, John explained that careful management of the groundwater basins, from Ojai to the Oxnard Plain, is vital. A delicate balance must be maintained to avoid over-drafting, taking out more than is going in over the course of years. That balance becomes particularly hard to achieve in times of drought.
Many years ago, John noted, before the County was developed, the groundwater wells were artesian - that is, they bubbled up from the ground under natural pressure. At the same time, the Santa Clara River had a constant year-round flow. Now, of course, the groundwater must be pumped and the Santa Clara riverbed is dry most years.
All of this boils down (so to speak) to a challenge for farmers: how to manage their supplies in the most efficient way. Legislation passed in 2014 mandates groundwater management plans for every basin, and significant investments are being made in technologies such as desalting of brackish water and the use of indirect potable reuse for recycled water.
John acknowledged the challenge is significant, but he added, "We have a long history of managing our groundwater basins intelligently."
Rotary Global Grant Aims to Assist
Young Women in Zambia
For most adolescent girls aged in Zambia, life is, at best, uncertain as to their future as adults. For many, it is downright tragic as they are either forced into marriage as young as 13, or sold into the sex trade. Couple that with the fact that only a small percentage of Zambian children have access to education beyond primary school, and you have a very desperate situation.
A number of Rotary Clubs in diverse locations around the world are working to improve the lives of as many young girls as possible. Our speaker on Monday, October 8 was George Poulakas of Ventura Downtown Rotary, one of those Clubs. George has been working with people in Zambia for 11 years, most recently in the administration of a global grant to support the Lushomo Trust and the Grace Centre in Kazungula, a small border town in Zambia, near the city of Livingstone.
"The Grace Centre," said George, "is a place where young women can come and learn ways to make a living through tailoring, computer work, or food service." He noted that one of the biggest challenges facing young Zambia women is the inability to make a living for themselves, and this program aims to change that.
George explained that the global grant is currently about $18,000 short of its $141,600 goal. "We're hoping to expand the project into other Zambian cities," he said, "and make this program a model for others to follow." Additional information on the Grace Centre's mission and activities is available at or by contacting George at
Ventura Area Rotarians Help Get Out the Vote
Rotarians Suki Sir (Ventura Downtown Club) and Kendall and John Mattina (Ventura South Club) recently volunteered at a Voter Information event in the City of Oxnard council chambers, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of California. Suki, Kendall, and John distributed election information and district maps to members of the public who attended the event leading up to the November 6 General Election.
Mental Health Resources in Ventura County
Are Numerous and Expanding
Our speaker on Monday, September 24, was Dr. Sevet Johnson, Director of Ventura County's Behavioral Health Department. She provided a comprehensive overview of the mental health resources available to the public throughout the County.
"Mental health has been stigmatized across the nation for many years," said Dr. Johnson, noting that part of the challenge is helping people understand that mental illness has no shame attached to it and deserves to be treated as any other health problem. She has held her current position since 2009. "It's my passion," she said. "I love what I do."
Her agency's target population includes children and adults with moderate to severe mental health issues. "We offer a full service partnership with the community," said Dr. Johnson, "offering intensive care beyond basic therapy sessions." She explained that the Behavioral Health Department operates 25 clinics, including offices in Oxnard, Ventura, Simi Valley, the Conejo Valley, and the Santa Clara Valley. "Someone can walk into any clinic and be assessed for the services they need," she noted. "We want to maximize the window of opportunity for people to get help."
Dr. Johnson explained that her agency partners with other organizations in the County to sponsor health fairs, prevention efforts, school-based programs, primary care interventions and more. "There's a lot of collaboration," she said. "We can't do it alone as a single-service agency. On the horizon are plans for expanded care including tele-psychiatry, mental health managed care, and improving access efficiency."
She concluded her presentation with a look at the agency's website (, where people can find contact information for the many mental health service agencies that operate in Ventura County.
Plans Underway for Ronald McDonald Family Room
At Ventura County Medical Center
As the only west Ventura County licensed pediatric care and trauma center, Ventura County Medical Center has become the medical facility of choice for a new Ronald McDonald Family Room, a place where families can rest and regroup while caring for a hospitalized child. Amy Towner, CEO of Health Care Foundation for Ventura County, visited Rotary Ventura South on Monday, September 17, to provide members and guests with an overview of the ambitious plans.
"The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has approved our moving forward with re-purposing an existing space at the Medical Center," said Amy, and she shared the preliminary architectural drawings of what was formerly the Homer Auditorium section of the building. "There will be places for families to have meals together, play, and have much needed quiet time," she explained. "It will be a home away from home during a very traumatic time in a family's life."
Amy noted that the Foundation has already secured roughly $500,000 of the needed $750,000 to $1 million needed for the renovation. Plans are in the works for a County-wide walk-a-thon to help raise the remaining funds. "We have a goal of $100,000 for that event," said Amy. Rotary Ventura South President Melody Thurman noted that our Club and others in the area are making plans to participate in the event, tentatively scheduled for April.
Remittances Constitute a Significant Part
of National Economy for Many Countries
Dr. Sabith Khan, Assistant Professor in the School of Business at California Lutheran University, spoke to members and guests of Ventura Rotary South on Monday, September 10. His topic, "Remittances and International Aid," highlighted the significant amount of money that flows between nations of the world through remittances, which are generally defined as regular payments sent by migrant people in one nation to family members or friends in their country of origin. Such payments include money for consumables, health care, education, home building and other basic needs.
"Remittances are a lifeline for many people," said Sabith. "They play an important role in the development of families, communities, and even countries." He noted that, of the 232 million international migrants, approximately 180 million regularly send money to people their homelands, and those payments average roughly $200 per month. In 2013, international migrants sent $413 billion to families and friends, an amount three times greater than the total of global foreign aid that year.
Sabith explained there are numerous benefits to remittances. Among the examples he cited were the reduced school dropout rate in El Salvador and a decrease in Nepal's poverty rate from 42% to 31% from 1995 to 2005. He noted that India ranks first in remittances, receiving $72 billion in 2014, an amount larger than its information technology product exports. India is followed by China, the Philippines, Mexico and France.
Sabith also noted that there are barriers to remittances, including the fact that sending money internationally can be costly, from an average of 8% to most nations up to a staggering 90 percent when money is sent to countries in crisis, such as Venezuela. There are also government sanctions and restrictions to deal with, as well as the threat of money laundering in some areas of the world. In spite of that, remittances continue to be a beneficial and growing contributor to the global economy.
Brittany Ward Relates Her Experiences
As a Medical Volunteer in Tanzania
About a year ago, medical student Brittany Ward visited Rotary Ventura South to talk about her plans to visit Tanzania as a volunteer. The Club donated some money to help her fund the trip and, on Monday, August 20, she paid us another visit to report on the "life changing experience."
A pre-med student at California State University Northridge, Brittany was joined by several other medical students from across the country, supported in part by International Service Learning, a non-governmental organization that has been offering volunteers experiential learning opportunities in health care, education, ecology, and community development since 1994 while offering sustainable aid in developing communities.
Part of Brittany's adventure included setting up a clinic for members of the Masai Tribe, and she also traveled to the island of Zanzibar to offer her services. "It was a vastly different environment than most of us here in the U.S. are accustomed to," said Brittany, "and the people we met were so very grateful for the care they received. It was truly a wonderful experience."
Brittany will soon begin applying to medical schools in California and elsewhere as she works to fulfill her goal of becoming a doctor. Given the compassion and enthusiasm with which she shared her Tanzanian experience, we have no doubt she will reach her objective!
Help is Still Critically Needed for People
Affected by Recent Local Disasters
Although more than half a year has gone by since hundreds of people in Ventura County and Santa Barbara County had their lives shattered by the Thomas Fire and the Montecito mudslides, the impact (physical, financial, and emotional) of those disasters has nowhere near subsided for a great many of them. Emily Barany, founder and owner of Visionality Partners, brought that sobering message to Rotary Ventura South on Monday, August 6.
Like many others in the area, Emily wanted to help in the immediate aftermath of these tragedies. She put out the call for volunteers and, as she puts it, "people showed up." What started as a simple spreadsheet quickly turned into a valuable website designed to connected people in need with people willing to help: "Our youngest volunteer was four years old," says Emily.
Soon, Emily and her volunteers were connecting people with dozens of resources, including transportation, financial help, mental health services, food, and clothing. In her presentation on Monday, she related several touching stories, including the 64 private pilots who helped 117 medical patients get to critical appointments, particularly when Highway 101 was closed for two weeks. One of those patients was eight-year-old Allie who needed to quickly get to Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles for a heart monitor. A local helicopter pilot responded and a grateful Ellie had the ride of her life.
Emily noted that her organization also responded to the recent Holiday Fire in Goleta. Even more recently, they added the devastating Carr Fire in northern California to their list of projects. "My vision is to pay it forward," she said. Thank you for that vision, Emily!
Ventura Rotary South Gets the Scoop
On Local Journalism from VC Star Execs
As the only local daily newspaper for the area, the Ventura County Star has quite a responsibility for getting the news and getting it right. News Director Darrin Peschka (pictured above) and Consumer Experience Director Michelle Rogers were the speakers at Rotary Ventura South's regular meeting on Monday, July 30, and they provided a fascinating profile of the 100 year-old publication and how it has adapted in recent years to the challenges of social media and the electronic era.
Darrin noted that, although the print edition of the VC Star is still going strong, many readers have switched over to the electronic version (, viewable on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. She highlighted a number of recent stories that won awards from the California News Publishers Association, including a law enforcement piece that was worked on by virtually the entire Star editorial team.
Michelle provided details on the Star's extensive social media presence, noting that the paper can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She also explained feature such as the "Never-30-" podcast, "Prep Period," and "Storytellers." "Staff at the Star have worked hard to create a very interactive experience for our readers," said Michelle, "and we look forward to receiving news, opinion, and other reader input daily." 
Canine Companions for Independence -
Training Assistance Dogs for the Disabled
Our speakers on Monday, July 23 were from The Valley to the Sea chapter of Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that breeds, trains and provides service dogs to disabled individuals that need dogs that can be trained to meet their exact needs. This organization does not train "Guide" dogs for the blind.
In the photo above are Glen Grogas with Kailua (6 year-old  black lab), Pam Williams with Sir (18 month-old yellow lab), and Ellen Grogas with Constance (5 month-old black lab puppy). Ellen is a "Puppy Raiser." Her job is to take puppies and train them in a set of basic skills and care for them until they are old enough to move on to their "professional" training.
For more information the chapter can be contacted through the parent organization:
District Governor Sandi Schwartz
Urges Members To "Be the Inspiration"
The members of Ventura Rotary South were honored to host District Governor Sandi Schwartz at our regular meeting on Monday, July 16. Sandi presented an inspiring talk on the core values of Rotary and the organization's global mission, as well as specifics on her goals for the new Rotary year, which began just two weeks ago on July 1.
Quoting Sir Clem Renouf, a past president of Rotary International, Sandi said, "Rotary takes ordinary people and gives them extraordinary opportunities to do more with their lives than they ever dreamed possible." Sandi spoke of her own involvement with Rotary service projects, including participation in a National Immunization Day for polio in India, which she described as "a life-changing experience."
Sandi noted that Rotary membership in North America has been declining in recent years, and she stressed the need for individual members to invite friends and business associates to visit a meeting and consider joining. She also noted that the District Conference is coming up on October 5 and 6 in Bakersfield (her own club's home town), and she challenged members to participate in the "$33 for 33" program, that is to donate $33 to The Rotary Foundation, representing the 33 years that Rotary has been engaged in the global fight against polio.
"It all comes down to fulfilling the vision of Rotary, said Sandi, and "see a world where  people unite and take action to create lasting change - across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves." Closing with the Rotary International theme for the new year, she reminded members that it's up to all of us to "be the inspiration."
Club President Bob Davis Hands Over the Gavel
To Incoming 2018-2019 President Melody Thurman
Members and guests of Ventura Rotary South gathered at the Tower Club on Monday evening, June 18, for the annual step-down dinner, during which the outgoing president (Bob Davis) was honored and the incoming president (Melody Thurman) was welcomed. In addition to a fine meal and warm fellowship, the evening included heartfelt tributes (and a few good-natured jabs) for Bob, his remarks and recognition for Club members who went the extra mile during the past Rotary year, and comments from Melody, including an introduction of her Board of Directors who will chair the Club's various committees for the next 12 months.
Normally, the step-down dinner is held closer to the end of June, but the Annual Rotary Convention, which Melody will attend with her husband Gene, is happening later than usual this year, and the presidential couple will be in Toronto for that event.
Congratulations, Bob, on a terrific year as Club president, and a big thank you to Melody for taking the helm as president for the coming term!
"Better Posture Equals Better Health"
Says Club Member Dr. Brant Gerckens
Our electronic gadgets may be making our lives more efficient and entertaining, but they're not doing us any favors as far as our health is concerned. That was the message that Rotary Ventura South member and local chiropractor Dr. Brant Gerckens brought to the Club at our regular meeting on Monday, June 11. According to Brant, the poor posture that results from people's use of PCs, laptops, and smart phones is leading to a multitude of health problems
As an example, Brant encouraged those in attendance to observe someone texting with a smart phone. "Their neck is bent forward, shoulders are hunched, and they're usually holding the phone too low," he said. "It's better to stand or sit straight and hold the phone higher so that your neck is more relaxed and not needing work so hard to hold up your head."
Brant posed an interesting question to his audience: What is the ergonomically correct way to position and work on a laptop computer? His answer was surprising: there is no correct way. No matter where you place the laptop, you eyes, your neck, or your arms are going to be strained. Brant suggested a remote keyboard and mouse as good places to start so that the screen of the unit can be brought to eye level.
A question regarding stand-up desks came from an audience member: are they good or bad? "In general," said, Brant, "I'm a fan of stand-up desks, although recent studies have shown that they can cause their own health problems if not used properly." He noted that most people tend to stand with locked knees, which can cause foot and back pain.
"Generally speaking," said Brant, "no matter what you're doing - standing, sitting or walking - better posture results in better health." Turns out Mom was right when she told you to "sit up straight." Thanks, Brant, for the timely tips!
Passion Spark Helps High Schoolers
Set Goals to Achieve Meaningful Careers
A recent study by Forbes magazine revealed that as many as 80 percent of employed Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. That sobering statistic was presented by Jerry Beckerman, our meeting speaker on Monday, June 4. Jerry is founder and president of Passion Spark, an innovative mentoring program designed to help high school students find their passion in life and develop goals to help them find meaningful rewarding careers.
"A college education is expensive," said Jerry. "How many people can afford $30,000 per year, or more, without a focus?" Jerry explained that the core of Passion Spark is a weekend retreat/workshop that guides students through an introspective, exploratory process on how to develop goals and a sense of who they are. The sessions are led by experienced facilitators who are familiar with the needs and anxieties of students who are about to graduate from high school and may have little, if any, idea of what they really want to do with their lives.
Jerry observed that when students know where they are going with the lives, they can graduate from college in a focused four years, rather than spending the time (and money) on six to seven years of trying multiple courses of study. "We have developed  a program for college students as well," said Jerry, "and we'll be rolling that out at Ventura College in the near future."
Tuition for the Passion Spark retreat is $595, and Jerry noted that there are scholarship/financing options for those who may need them. For more information, click here to visit the Passion Spark website, or call (805) 643-3444.
Rotary Ventura South Holds Finals
Of First Annual High School Speech Contest
On Thursday, May 17, the Rotary Club of Ventura South awarded $6,300 in scholarships to students from Buena, Foothill Technology, and Ventura High Schools - finalists in the Club's first annual high school speech contest. The talented and eloquent students wrote and presented their speeches on the American Civil Rights movement to a panel of judges including current Rotary District 5240 Govermor John Weiss (second from left in the photo above). The event was held at the Tower Club in Oxnard.
Winners in the Freshman class included Kaitlyn Saldana (1st place, $1,500, Buena) and Angela Tang (2nd place, $750, Buena). The sophomore finalist was Joshua Cenzano ($1500, Buena). There were no junior entrants. In the Senior class, Alaina Hooks (center in the photo above) came in first ($1,500, Foothill Technology) with Aspen Levitt placing second ($750, Ventura) and Jonathon Saldana taking third ($300, Buena).
Invitations to participate went out to all Ventura high schools in March, and the initial round of competition was conducted on campus for students at the responding schools. First Bank of Ventura contributed $2,000 to the project.
Club President Bob Davis commented, "We're excited to sponsor this first annual event as a means of supporting education in our community and encouraging students to develop their public speaking skills. We look forward to welcoming even more students in the coming years." Bob, together with Club Community Service Co-Chair Sal Saldana, coordinated the event.
For additional photos of the event, see the album here.
Past District Governor Wade Nomura
Provides Overview of the Rotary Foundation
If you're looking for a way to truly make the world a better place by writing a check, look no further than The Rotary Foundation. Such was the message delivered to members and guests of Ventura Rotary South at our meeting on Monday, May 7, by Past District Governor Wade Nomura. "The Rotary Foundation is one of the world's most respected charities," said Wade. He noted that this is one of the reasons that the Gates Foundation partnered with the Foundation in its fight to eliminate polio worldwide.
The Rotary Foundation, as the charitable arm of Rotary International, is charged with supporting Rotary's six areas of focus: promoting peace; fighting disease; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; saving mothers and children, supporting education; and growing local economies.
Wade's presentation included photos and stories of some of the dozens of trips he has made on behalf of Rotary to cities and villages around the world. Wade is involved with the Rotary Foundation Cadre, a group of volunteer technical advisors who evaluate global grant projects in each of Rotary's areas of focus. Wade's specialty is water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Wade noted that there are many different ways to support the Rotary Foundation, from individual donations to the General Fund or specific areas of focus, to arranging for Rotary to be part of an individual's estate plan. He also reviewed the various levels of donor recognition offered by Rotary.
Click on this link for more information on the Rotary Foundation. Even a small donation can make a significant difference in the lives of people in need!
Rotary Ventura South Donates More Than
300 Dictionaries to Local Third Graders
Members and guests of Rotary Ventura South participated in the 2018 Dictionary Donation Program, visiting eight third-grade classrooms at three Ventura Elementary Schools and handing out more than 300 dictionaries. The annual program was delayed this year by the Thomas Fire, but our volunteers made sure to complete the donation before the end of the school year.
Pictured above is Bonaventure Wakam, making the presentation to a classroom at Portola Elementary School. Presentations were also made at Junipero Serra and Will Rogers Elementary Schools. Those making the presentations included Bob & Mary Davis, N.K. Khumalo & guest Debbie Senate, Bonaventure Wakam, and Sandy Warren. Those helping out with organizing and labeling the books included Bob & Mary Davis, Ed Keay, Sal Saldana, and Marilyn Scott.
KEYT Anchorman Joey Buttitta Talks
About Journalism and The Amazing Race
Joey Buttitta, our meeting speaker on Monday, April 9, is a familiar face to thousands of people in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties. Joey is the morning news anchorman on KEYT-TV in Santa Barbara. During his visit to Ventura Rotary South, he shared insights on modern broadcast journalism, particularly in the coverage of local news.
"We like to be in the middle of what's happening," said Joey, "although to stay safe when covering stories like the Thomas Fire and the Montecito mudslides we keep the motor running in the news van." He noted just how frightening those two tragedies were from the perspective of a field reporter. "It's scary to see what Mother Nature is capable of doing."
A native of Ventura County, Joey noted that he was very fortunate to be able to land a news job in the area where he grew up. "I love to tell stories," he said, "and we bring local coverage of stories in the tri-county area to the L.A. regional market."
Joey also spent some time talking about his adventure on the CBS television show The Amazing Race, which he and his then-girlfriend, now wife Kelsey Gerckens won a couple of years ago. "Covering 10 countries on five continents in 21 days was the experience of a lifetime," said Joey. "Kelsey and I often ask each other, 'did we really do that?'"
Kelsey joins Joey on KEYT each morning, working as the weather reporter on the daily broadcast. "We're both very fortunate to be working where we do," said Joey. 
Library's Adult Literacy Program
Enriches the Lives of Hundreds
Our speaker on Monday, April 2, was Club member Carol Chapman, Manager of the Ventura County Library's Adult Literacy READ Program. Carol shared with members and guests the significant impact that illiteracy has on society in general, noting that one out of four English speaking adults in California is reading below the fifth grade level. In correctional facilities, that statistic jumps to 70 percent.
"Learning disabilities are the number one reason for difficulty in reading," said Carol, "followed by trauma, illness, and truancy." Learning disabilities create a barrier for learning in a group environment, which is where the one-on-one tutoring provided by the READ program comes into play. "Our program is very flexible in terms of when we begin with a student and at what level. It is really tailored to the individual's specific needs."
The READ program has sites throughout Ventura County, each of which is overseen by a credentialed teacher. The tutoring is provided by trained volunteers and begins at the pre-kindergarten level, teaching everything about phonics and English that a student needs for reading.
Carol noted that Rotary Ventura South has been instrumental in its support of the READ program through the annual Trivia Challenge event, which typically happens in November. Funds raised from the event enabled the Library to purchase the Barton System, a 10-level literacy instructional program.
"Literacy is debilitating," said Carol, "and the READ program is transforming." Click here for more information on the READ program, including details on how to volunteer as a tutor.
Ventura Botanical Gardens Recovering
After Devastating Thomas Fire
First, the bad news: When the Thomas Fire swept across the hills above Ventura last December, the Ventura Botanical Gardens, currently under construction, lay in its direct path. Much of the 109 acres that are the focus of the Gardens' master plan were burned. Now the good news: Restoration of vegetation, trails, signs, and other components is underway, and many of the plants themselves are slowly regenerating.
Nicole Horn (pictured above), a landscape architect with Courtney Jane Miller in Santa Barbara, provided details on the recovery efforts when she addressed members and guests of Ventura Rotary South at our March 26 regular meeting.
According to Nicole, debris removal was first among the many tasks that will need to be completed in the restoration process, followed by mulching of the remaining vegetation to ensure its continued growth. Hillsides have already been hydro-seeded to stimulate new ground cover that will aid in erosion control. Replacement plants for those that were completely destroyed are currently being purchased. Additionally, the fire revealed some additional existing walls and structures that will be incorporated into the renewed design of the Gardens.
Nicole also shared illustrations of several of the planned features of the Gardens, including the Welcome Center, nursery, amphitheater, and the Rotary Plaza, a viewpoint and seating area that will be constructed with the financial support of multiple area Rotary Clubs.
If you would like to donate time or money to the Gardens' restoration and development, please visit Thank you, Nicole, for an encouraging look at the process that is underway to surmount the setback of the Thomas Fire and bring the Ventura Botanical Gardens to reality!
Club Member N.K. Khumalo: Lessons Learned
From South Africa to the United States
At our meeting on Monday, March 19, Rotary Ventura South member Nkosi Khumalo, better known to his fellow members as "N.K.," told the inspiring story of his personal and professional journey from his homeland of South Africa to his current home and business location in Ventura. Along the way, he applied many of the basic life-lessons his mother taught him, and added to those with guidance and input from friends and mentors.
One of those lessons from N.K.'s mother can also be attributed to Ben Franklin, to whom is attributed the adage of "early to bed, early to rise." N.K. noted that he gets up every morning at 5:30, thanks to a pattern his mother set for him at an early age when the family operated a chicken business. "I hated getting up for those chickens," said N.K., "but I love those early hours now. I can catch up on emails and hit the gym before the day gets started."
N.K. related the story of his early years as a partner in an information technology business that he and his brother created in South Africa in 1999. "We went through tough times for over a year with a handful of employees," he said, "but with persistence, we managed to grow quickly." The brothers eventually took the company public and tripled the share price, finally selling the business that then employed more than 500 people. It is now the largest information technology business in South Africa.
N.K.'s entrepreneurial spirit is still going strong as he creates a private equity business to purchase baby boomer companies. His advice to others? "Focus on people," he said, "especially those who have given you a leg up along the way." N.K. is also focused on giving back. He has started a program of scholarships at two high schools in Ventura, beginning with four $5,000 scholarships in the initial year, then doubling the number of awards each year thereafter until the goal of 100 scholarships per year is met.
Thank you, N.K. for sharing your inspiring story!
Rescuing Thousands of Pounds of Produce
That Would Otherwise Go To Waste
On Monday, March 12, members and guests of Ventura Rotary South learned the remarkable story behind Food Forward, a non-profit organization that rescues 300,000 pounds of surplus produce each week from fruit trees, farmers markets, and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. Jill Santos (pictured above), the Ventura County Branch Manager of Food Forward, explained that 100% of these fresh fruits and vegetables is donated to over 300 hunger relief agencies across eight counties in Southern California.
"In the United States," said Jill, "one in six people lack access to nutritious food. Those below the poverty line frequently rely on inexpensive, high-calorie fast food that lacks nutritive value." That's where Food Forward steps in.
Jill stressed that the organization relies on volunteers who are willing to harvest and/or pick up surplus produce from public and private properties, including backyard fruit trees. Farmers wanting to help fight hunger make their unsold produce available, and it is also groups of volunteers who pick up and help distribute these fruits and vegetables.
"The mission of Food Forward is very simple," said Jill. "It is to fight hunger and prevent food waste by rescuing fresh surplus produce, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same."
If you find yourself inspired by this story, visit or call Jill at 805-630-2728 to get involved or to learn more.
Dave Brennan, PhD
Dec 17, 2018
ISIS 2.0?
No Regular Meeting
Dec 24, 2018
(Christmas Eve)
No Regular Meeting
Dec 31, 2018
(New Year's Eve)
Kimo Hildreth
Jan 14, 2019
Cyber Crime
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