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Fostering Love

Several years ago I heard Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers, speak at a luncheon benefitting Words Alive. Her book was inspired by her experience as a foster mom. She shared that when her foster child, whom she later adopted, first arrived in her home, he ate a considerable amount of food and then hid more food in his backpack. His memories of hunger— real, painful hunger—were strong. I read Vanessa’s book that year, the fictional story of a young woman who aged out of the foster system, and the challenges she encountered. My heart was moved, and I decided then to consider fostering in my own life. I haven’t yet—and am grateful that hundreds of people in our community have. This month’s issue features children who have grown up as foster kids, and the families that have raised and loved them. It also includes information about some of the community supports that are available to families and foster youth. The stories are touching and inspiring. In this tumultuous election year, I quote Vanessa Diffenbaugh: “Though politics is by nature divisive, surely we all can agree that foster children need stability, safety, education, opportunity—and love.” This Christmas and holiday season, as you gather with your family, consider what makes the moment special. If you’re interested in fostering or mentoring youth, reach out to a local organization to make it happen. And if you’re not, focus on providing your family with what all youth want—love and stability.

04 BRAVO Announcements

06 NEWS On your Doorstep

14 FEATURE Fostering Love

20 ON TOPIC Tribute to Dr. Larry Wergeland

23 CALENDAR Out & About

24 BUSINESS HIGHLIGHT Village Cremation Services

26 LOCAL ORGANIZATION SPOTLIGHT Chula Vista Elks Lodge #2011



› To the PARTICIPANTS OF THE INAUGURAL SOUTH BAY PUMPKIN SMASH who showed up Saturday morning, November 12, to test their pumpkin-throwing skills. The event started at 9:00 a.m. with a 50-pound pumpkin dropped from the top of Engine T57 of the Chula Vista Fire Department Station 7, from about 100 feet. Then both San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox and Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Karen Janney launched pumpkins to cap the opening ceremony. The event was sponsored by the Eastlake Business Association and hosted by the Salt Creek Golf Club. Congratulations to the Palomar High School Panthers, clearly the Division 1 winner, who brought their A game throwing their pumpkins an estimated 175 meters. In addition, extra thanks go to the Panthers for offering the use of their winning trebuchet to

4 O U R H OMETOWN • DEC EMB E R 2 0 16

. . . great things happening in our community

individual participants. It was a smashing success. Also congratulations to winners in Division 2. Taking first place was Eastlake Middle School, second place Southwest Middle School and third to National Middle School. Special thanks go to Leo Ulloa, SUHSD STEAM Programs Coordinator; members of the NavAir Science Enrichment Program, Daniel Newell, Peter Doughetry, Robin Felver, Tanner Munson, Cristina Enriquez, Rachel Michel, Anthony Sanchez, Jaden Taylor; and our dedicated service members from the Navy Seebee’s Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, Fabian Guzman, Brittany Harkovich, Kodey Jones, and Austin Hall. This event was also made possible by generous sponsorships from The Rotary Club of Eastlake and Betty Waznis, Chula Vista Public Library Director. Pumpkins were donated by the Eastlake WalMart, Eastlake Trader Joe’s, and The Pumpkin Patch in Bonita.

Thanks also go to Hondo Framing and Emmerson Construction, Inc. for donating building supplies. Mark your calendars for next year. The tentative date is Saturday, November 4, 2017. Schools will be allowed to start building their medieval device as soon as the new school year starts.

› To the following Eastlake High School (EHS) students for receiving the TITAN AWARD

RECOGNITION AT THE EHS PTSA REFLECTIONS SHOWCASE: Valeria Kyriakides, visual arts; Darnell Carson, literature; Baylie Lazio, photography; and Aubree Blanchard, music.  This year’s program included 50 entries. The National PTA theme, “What Is Your Story?” included artwork judged in dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts.

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Awards of Excellence were awarded to Alexa Aitchison and Aoi Binun, visual arts; Raquell Carson, literature; and Giovanni MonteroIslas, photography. Awards of Merit were awarded to Vanessa Colonia, Dominique Trull, Ashley Pulido, Nina Foxx, Natalia Flores, Hailey Galemore, Ann Aguilar, visual arts; Aubree Blanchard, Pamela Basswerner, Carson Roberts, Dalton Tarde, Julio Sanchez, Jaemson Masias, Do Seok Jang, literature;  Claire Dennis, Andres Nunez, Killian Adwell, Olivia Klugg, Raul Rodriguez, Victoria Uribe, Crucificio Bernal and Alexa Rodriguez, photography. Participants showcased their works in a special reception held on November 10.  Eastlake High School PTSA’s purpose is to promote family engagement in the school and community.

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EHS PTSA is excited that these works will move on to the next level of competition. The Reflections program encourages the arts to link with traditional STEM programs. 

› To those who supported the 2016 “HONORING OUR

HEROES” VETERANS PARADE AND CEREMONY. As military veterans marched with their school-age children, the parade tugged at our heart as well as our national pride. The 11th annual parade took place on Friday, November 4, and included high school marching bands, community groups and classic cars that shuttled dignitaries and veterans alike. The marching of students with their military-connected parents is part of the parade’s tradition. “The parade is a great reminder for our students and community about the meaning of Veterans Day, and what the term ‘sacrifice’ is all about,” said Principal Froylan Villanueva. “It is also our opportunity to give thanks and recognize the

veterans right here in our own community.” The “little gem of a parade” began as a Veterans Elementary School parade around the neighborhood. It is now a full-fledged City of Chula Vista event. Military veterans, Mayor Mary Casillas Salas, neighboring schools and students each took part in the procession–still taking place in the neighborhood around the school.

› To STEVE PADILLA who won District Seat 3 for the Chula Vista City Council and MIKE DIAZ for winning District Seat 4. In a statement Mike Diaz said, “After a long year of campaigning it’s over. There is a lot of work to be done in the next four years. I will be working to improve public safety response times, recruiting good businesses to Chula Vista, reducing regulation and bureaucracy at city hall, maintaining infrastructure and improving our parks.” Disclaimer: Results in this article are based on information provided by the County of San Diego Registrar of Voters dated November 21, 2016.

Pictured (left to right): Pumpkin Smash Winners:


First Place, Eastlake Middle School, Div 2 Second place, Southwest Middle School, Div. 2 3rd place, National Middle School, Div. 2


First Place, Palomar High School, Div. 1 Titan Award Recognition - Reflections Showcase Winners: Valeria Kyriakides (Visual Arts); Aubree Blanchard (Music), Darnell Carson (Literature); and Baylie Lazio (Photography). Photos by Joshua Blue Mayo.


Advertising inquiries: Michael Monaco at Editorial Contributions: Amber Weber at Editor@OurHometownMag. com. Visit us online at Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form, in whole or part, without written permission is prohibited. OHTM Inc. is not responsible for the views of contributing writers and assumes no responsibility for errors appearing within. Opinions expressed are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the Publisher or advertisers. OHTM Inc has the right OU R H OM E TOW NMAG. CO M 5 to refuse advertising. Contact OHTM Inc. at (619) 840−7722.


/ On your Doorstep

How to be the Perfect HOUSEGUEST THIS HOLIDAY SEASON Top Tips for Tech Etiquette

Technology has become a part of our everyday lives, and that doesn’t change during the holidays. If you have plans to be a houseguest over the next few weeks, it might be time to brush up on your tech etiquette. Here are five ways you can be a gracious houseguest, courtesy of Cox Communications: Be self-sufficient: Don’t assume your host has

accessories compatible with your device. Bring your own power cords, chargers, ear buds and any other accessories you can’t live without. Don’t hog power outlets: Never charge a device in your host’s kitchen–or any other place where outlets and space are at a premium. Choose an out-of-the-way location, and make sure your device is password protected

so it’s off-limits to curious, young guests. Protect your host’s WiFi network like it’s your own: Hosts often offer their guests access to their home WiFi network during their stay. If your hosts write down their WiFi password, destroy or delete it after entering it on your device. Be appropriate: Sharing funny memes and videos

can make spending time together more fun, but remember who’s present. If any content could be deemed inappropriate for children, or offensive to someone in the room, save it for later. Know when to put tech away: If duty calls and you need to answer a few emails, excuse yourself and try to consolidate your work into one sitting. Never use personal technology at the dinner table.


DECEMBER 24TH e Comour see

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1695 Discovery Falls Drive Chula Vista, CA 91915

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Ryland Madison, director of product marketing for Cox Communications, offers one final tip on how to be the perfect houseguest. “Hosts are often too busy to capture the memories while they happen. If you take a photo or video of a special moment, share it with your host after your visit along with a follow-up thank you note. While tech is hot, traditional thank you notes never go out of style, and your hosts will appreciate the digital memories you captured for them.”

Cox Communications is a broadband communications and entertainment company, providing advanced digital video, Internet, telephone and home security and automation services over its own nationwide IP network. The third-largest U.S. cable company, Cox serves approximately 6 million residences and businesses.

On your Doorstep

EastLake Village Marketplace Welcomes Santa

Come see Santa and Mrs. Claus as they arrive on the holiday express train on Saturday, December 10 at 1 p.m. Then enjoy many free activities, including train rides, face painting, a craft activity and balloon sculptures. Children ages 12 and under will enjoy decorating a Santa hat, and all materials will be provided free of charge. Be sure to bring your camera and video equipment to record that special moment of your child with Santa. Everyone can enjoy the free musical entertainment provided by local schools that begins at 1 p.m. and ends at 4 p.m.

EastLake Village Marketplace is located on the corner of Eastlake Parkway and Otay Lakes Road. It features 30 shops and services including Target, Lowe's, Office Depot and BevMo. For information on special events held throughout the year, visit

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25 On your DoorstepHave

a Merry


Pulse Millenia Apartments has joined the Pajama Program as a new donation point. Between now and December 16, anyone interested in creating a warm, loving, bedtime atmosphere for local children in need can bring new pajamas and new books to Pulse Millenia Apartments, across from the Otay Ranch Town Center. They welcome any size of pajamas from infant through age 18 with age-appropriate books. As Chapter President of the Pajama Program, Jamie Levine serves “receiving organizations,” such as shelters and group homes, where children in need are living. These children are often shuffled between temporary living facilities. Many of them have been abandoned or abused and have never enjoyed the simple comfort of having a mother or father tuck them in at bedtime and read to them. “We will provide,” said Pajama Program’s founder Genevieve Piturro.

Since 2001, the Pajama Program has provided more than 2,000,000 new pajamas and books to children in need nationwide. A segment on The Oprah Winfrey Show airing twice in 2007 helped the Pajama Program grow to 60 chapters nationwide. For more information, visit or email Jamie at jamiel@ 8 OU R H OMETOWN • DEC EMB E R 2 0 16

MERRY Christmas


On your Doorstep


Christian Community Theatre (CCT) is known for its CYT programming for children but also provides musical theater entertainment the entire family can enjoy. The 23rd annual production of “Traditions of Christmas,” a musical spectacular, is patterned after Radio City Music Hall’s annual event. It is a musical journey through all the greatest Christmas songs and celebrations from around the world. Santa’s workshop comes alive with dancing elves, Raggedy Ann dolls and magical toys. The Rockette-style tap dancing kickline will have you cheering in the aisles. Audiences will experience the perfect collection of the sights and sounds of the holiday season and even get to sing along to holiday favorites like “White Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” A touching highlight of each year’s show is the dazzling tribute to the United States military in San Diego County. Every branch of the service gets a chance to stand and represent as their specific service songs are played and honored from the stage. The celebration culminates with CCT’s most treasured tradition of all–a living nativity, complete with live animals. Traditions of Christmas has grown to be the biggest Christmas show in San Diego, drawing over 250,000 patrons since it began. It is generously sponsored by Blanchard, Krasner & French this year. Nine performances will take place at Lincoln Performing Arts Center between December 16 and 23. Tickets and information are at Call the CCT box office at (619) 588-0206 for military discounts.

CYT San Diego is a local nonprofit organization best known for providing after-school theater arts training for students ages 4 to 18 and quality, family-friendly musical theater productions throughout San Diego County. It originated more than 35 years ago as part of CCT and is now located in six areas countywide with an annual enrollment of more than 2000 students.


Hav On your Doorstep

Christmas FAMILY FESTIVAL at Village Walk in December

The holiday festivities begin on Saturday, December 3 during the Family Festival at Village Walk at EastLake in Chula Vista. Families are invited to bring cameras and video equipment to take pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 12 noon to 3 p.m. The free festival activities include train rides, free coloring/sticker book giveaways and a holiday craft activity— decorating a holiday stocking— for children ages 12 and younger.

A magical, daytime snowfall will take place at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. during the Family Festival. The magical snowfall will continue each evening at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. through December 24 near the koi pond at Village Walk and is accompanied by choreographed music and lights. This free event transforms the beautiful shopping center’s courtyard into a snowy wonderland. Each child will

receive free “magic” glasses to watch the snow as it falls in rainbow colors. MagicSnow Systems president Adam Williams, a former magician, invented the snow formula that creates millions of special-effect snowflakes for this exclusive San Diego County annual holiday event. The eco-friendly MagicSnow vanishes upon contact, leaving no residue. “Experiencing the snowfall at Village Walk at EastLake has become a favorite holiday tradition for families who come to Chula Vista from throughout San Diego County,” said property manager Dianna Lawless. “During the snowfall, the bridge crossing our koi pond is a frequent backdrop for family holiday pictures.” Another favorite tradition is the community caroling groups who stroll through the center to entertain guests with holiday music between the 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. nightly snowfalls taking place. The 2016 caroling groups include Arroyo Vista Charter School Choir, Corona Angels San Diego Girls Softball, Discovery Charter School, McMillin Elementary School Choir, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School Choir, Mater Dei Catholic High School, South Bay YMCA Gymnastics, St. Rose of Lima Glee, and Girl Scout Troops 4148, 4252, 5109, 5135, 5466, 5567, 6044, 6128, 6133, 6144, 6363, 6949, 6953 and 6962. Village Walk at EastLake gives a donation to each non-profit school, scout troop and community group scheduled for caroling.

Village Walk at EastLake is located at the intersection of EastLake Parkway and Miller Drive in Chula Vista. Mark your calendars for the Family Festival on December 3 and the nightly magical snowfall and holiday caroling from December 3 to 24. Visit for additional information. 10 O U R HOMETOWN • DEC EMB E R 2 0 16



On your Doorstep


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Toy Donations Needed for Children It’s never too early to think about the holidays and never too late to help those in need. Now through December 9, the Chula Vista Police Activities League (PAL) is collecting donations for disadvantaged families during the holidays. Donations of cash, toys, gift cards and wrapping paper can be dropped off in the lobby of the Chula Vista Police Department, 315 Fourth Avenue, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Especially needed are new, unwrapped toys for children ages 9 through 13, and $10 gift cards for young teens ages 12 to 17. Some gift card suggestions include movie theaters, restaurants, Target, Walmart or Subway. No bicycles or electronics are needed. Checks can be made payable to CVPAL, c/o Shelly Robillard, CVPD, 315 Fourth Avenue, Chula Vista, CA 91910. Selected families are suggested by the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Chula Vista Welfare Council. Last year, CVPAL assisted almost 325 families and distributed gifts to 1,200 children.

We wish you a MERRY


CVPAL is a non-profit corporation which assists at-risk youth with the improvement of their intellectual, physical and social skills. They offer yearly scholarships and Sixth Grade Outstanding Achievement awards in addition to the holiday give-away. For more information, please call (619) 691-5146.


Food for Fines Campaign Begins

The Chula Vista Public Library is offering an opportunity to wipe away overdue fines while helping those in need during its “Food for Fines” campaign. Again this year, the library is partnering with Altrusa International, Inc. of Chula Vista, and all donations will benefit South Bay Community Services to help local families in need. Bring non-perishable food items to any library branch until do not December 23, and overdue fines will owe fines be waived at the rate of $1 per item. are also Those who do not encouraged owe fines are also encouraged to to donate. donate. Food will be accepted at the following branch libraries: Civic Center, 365 F Street, (619) 691-5069; South Chula Vista, 389 Orange Avenue, (619) 585-5755, and Otay Ranch at the Otay Ranch Town Center (Food Pavilion area), 2015 Birch Road, (619) 397-5740.

Those who

Non-perishable items such as canned vegetables, soup, tuna fish and dried pasta count as $1 worth of fines for each item. Non-nutritious items such as candy or chips, damaged containers and foods that have passed their expiration dates will not be accepted in lieu of fines. A maximum of $10 in library fines per library card will be waived in exchange for donated food. Items may be used to clear fines only— not for lost or damaged books or collection agency fees.

For more information, visit any of the city's libraries or online at  Follow @ourhometownchulavista on Facebook!



er i ost ng F Love

B why many ce to raise a family, which is The South Bay is an ideal pla family. t some children do not have a have chosen to call it home. Bu because foster care system are there Those who are placed into the . Many otionally abused or neglected they have been physically/em have e reached out to help them and people in our community hav ply affected in turn. found their own lives to be dee

14 OU R HOMETOWN • DEC EM B E R 2 0 16

FostLoervieng Carmen Gastelum’s story began five years ago when she and her husband decided to become foster parents. They hoped that someday they could have the gift of another baby. Carmen warns that it is not easy. This involved many hours of classes including homework every week, medical exams, house inspection, background research and mountains of paperwork. But, “It is one of the most beautiful and full of learning processes that every person should take,” she says. A couple of years passed, and the call they had longed for did not arrive. Then, on January 15, 2015, their social worker called to say he had a seven-month-old child that needed a change of foster home immediately. Carmen and her husband decided to see this little angel, who only weighed 15 pounds and did not know how to crawl. They decided immediately that he would go home with them as soon as possible. The social worker informed the Gastelums that the baby's parents were still working on getting their child back and that the chances were 50% that he would stay with them. What worried Carmen most were her children at home. Although their five-year-old daughter agreed with fostering in theory, they did not know how she would react to the reality of a new baby. Upon arriving home, their daughter and one-and-a-half year old son received the baby boy with much love and were eager to help him. For their family and for the baby, they only had to spend a couple of days to adjust, and they were a family of five. Months passed and the child grew. Carmen’s fear grew, too—the fear of having him returned if the biological parents met all the requirements. In October 2015, the social worker told them that the parents had missed the deadline and that the next step was to submit adoption papers. It wasn’t “until that moment I breathed again without feeling under the water,” Carmen recalls. Emi (as they call him at home) has been a blessing to this family. Carmen invites people who long for children but cannot take this path to give love to a child who for some reason is in the same situation.

Foster children need care at all ages. Currently 3,500 children are in the foster care system in San Diego County, 1,400 of whom are under five years old. Angels Foster Family Network is dedicated to ensuring that babies and toddlers in foster care in San Diego County get the best start in life. “When infants and toddlers are placed in highquality foster care, they are able to form healthy attachments to other humans. Later in life, these healthy attachments allow them to succeed academically and socially, and to become productive adults,” says Jeff Wiemann, executive director of Angels Foster Family Network. Angels also believes in focused, continuous care, which means asking parents who foster to commit to having only one foster child (or sibling set) at a time in their home, and maintaining that placement throughout a child’s time in foster care. “Young children need and deserve focused and stable care, which isn’t always possible if there are six foster children under one roof,” says Wiemann. “We also know that it’s difficult to form attachments if a child is being shuffled from one foster home to the next. Parents who foster may have an infant or toddler join them for a few days, months, or a year or more.” Wiemann says one of the greatest fears people have about fostering children is that they will be heartbroken when it is time to say goodbye. Ivonne and Junior Garcia of Chula Vista recently reunified their first placement, a baby boy, with his biological great-grandmother after he had been with them for a year. Ivonne says the sadness of saying goodbye is very deep, but the joy is greater. They are eagerly awaiting their next placement. “Fostering was the best experience we ever had, but it was also the hardest,” she says. “Honestly, I didn’t think I could do it again, but in time, the things that made me sad started to make me happy, and trust me, I never thought I’d get there. But it’s so worth it and so amazing, I can’t wait to meet the next little kiddo whose life we get to be part of.” Amy and Erwin Macalaguim of Otay Ranch agree. “People tell us all the time that they could never foster because they could never let children go,” says Amy. “And I just say that yeah, it’s devastating, but getting attached is our job because we want them to know what it’s like to be loved. There’s a scientific piece to this; if a child doesn’t learn attachment by two years old, that part of their brain closes and they have trouble growing up to be compassionate, empathetic people. Our family


FostLoervieng can deal with the heartbreak of saying goodbye, and once you see how magical pure, true love is, you realize it’s totally worth it.” The couple has had six placements over the past four years. Her own children were ten and seven years old, and although they were growing more independent, Amy felt she wasn’t done being a mother to young children. Within three days of visiting the Angels’ website, she and her husband attended an information meeting. The Macalaguims assured their children that they were going to be a foster family, not just foster parents, meaning that their feelings would always be considered when fostering. Rachael and Paul Garrison of Chula Vista took the same approach to fostering since they also had their own children at home, five and three-year-old boys. The couple had discussed fostering children later in life, but when they learned about the foster parent shortage in the South Bay, they decided to revisit their original plan. They are currently fostering a sevenmonth-old girl who has been with them since shortly after her birth. “That ‘fourth trimester’ with the baby waking up in the middle of the night and needing constant attention was a real adjustment for the boys, but after a few weeks they were in love with their little sister,” Rachael recalls. “My oldest son is very competitive so when the baby smiled at him first, he was very happy about that.” So far, she says, the best part has been “sharing love with a new baby and seeing the children learn about compassion and really blossom” in their new capacity. Wiemann says that when the San Diego County Department of Child Welfare calls Angels Foster Family Network, his agency is only able to meet the needs of one in three young children. “Only you know what’s best for your family, but we always appreciate families exploring fostering as an option, especially in the South Bay where there is such a great need.” 16 OU R HOMETOWN • DEC EM B E R 2 0 16

When foster children enter elementary school, the Chula Vista Elementary School District provides support through additional LCAP funding. Foster youth are the most vulnerable student population in schools today.

Take a moment to step away from the feel-good stories you’ve just read, and imagine being a child removed from birth parents and/or separated from siblings. Imagine being that child, trying to keep up academically, socially, and emotionally while transitioning to a new school, and new foster parents. Then, imagine repeating the experience—sometimes over and over. “Typically, foster youth are an invisible population. They are invisible because of a significant amount of transiency, movement that they experience going from school to school, district to district,” said Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D., of the Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD). With the passage of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013, California became the first state to commit to improving the educational outcomes of foster students. To enhance its services to foster students, CVESD allocated $454,496 in its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) for the 2016-17 school year. The LCAP is similar to a budget, except it covered a three-year period beginning in 2014-15. The LCAP spells out how revenue from the new funding formula will be used by school districts to meet student

needs, in particular target groups such as English learners, students from low socio-economic households and foster youth. CVESD used a portion of its LCAP funds to hire four school social workers, who provide direct social and emotional services to foster youth depending on a student’s specific, identified needs. In CVESD, there are currently 97 foster youth, a figure that can fluctuate. Social workers provide services weekly and occur on an individual, small group or whole classroom basis. They work in partnership with a variety of community agencies to support the needs and success of foster students. “What we know is that before these students can academically advance, their social and emotional needs have to be met,” Dr. Escobedo said. “They need to belong to a social network in their school so they can feel supported, and adjust to their new environment. Then, they’ll have a better chance to succeed academically.” CVESD social workers also facilitate Student Success Plan meetings within four weeks of a foster student enrolling in the District. Members at these meetings include the assigned county caseworker, the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), the educational rights holder, foster parents, biological parents (as decided by the county caseworker), the assigned teacher, the school principal and the school psychologist. “Our children have been through a great deal of stress in their young lives,” said Leticia Rodriguez, a CVESD social worker. “One thing we know is that a positive school experience can make a world of a difference. We are constantly consulting and collaborating with teachers, school staff, child welfare social workers, courtappointed special advocates and other community agencies. Our job is to make sure our kids have the support they need academically, socially, and emotionally. We know that with the right support our foster children will grow up to be anything they set their minds to.”

FostLoervieng Indeed, the human impact is extraordinary. Consider the fifth-grade student who started class at his new school in CVESD with a hoodie pulled over his head, his head face down on his desk. He could not look his classmates in the eyes. He was broken from the abuse he had suffered. Today the hoodie remains, but his head is off the desk; he can face his classmates. Academic progress has been slow but steady. “It’s a long road ahead,” Dr. Escobedo said. “The good news is that he is not on that road alone. We’re there for him.”

can sometimes be the only “stability” many students have. The federal legislation was designed in part to ensure educational rights and promote educational stability for children and youth experiencing homelessness with the ability to go to school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there.

Students move from CVESD to the Sweetwater Union High School District between 6th and 7th grade. This transition also means an increase in foster youth.

The Sweetwater District Foster Youth Education Program also provides students with public transportation passes and other pertinent community referrals so that students can be successful in school. “Our number one goal is educate children,” said Ravenscroft. “Removing any and all barriers to get into school and be successful is our top priority.”

The Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) has nearly 150 foster youth and 750 more youth in transition (homeless). SUHSD’s Foster Youth Education Program strives to address the unique educational needs of foster youth and youth in transition by working collaboratively with youth, caregivers, schools and other service providers. “Our goal is to lower negative academic outcomes, promote school stability and increase graduation rates,” said Molly Ravenscroft, Family Community Services Program Coordinator. Within the past year, the Foster Youth Education department has enhanced its ability to identify youth in transition at all grade levels. “Most of our students are doing extremely well despite their living arrangements,” said Ravenscroft. “A few hold leadership positions on their respective campuses, are enrolled in AP courses, athletics and other after-school activities.” According to Ravenscroft, the McKinneyVento Act has been instrumental in what

“Some of our students travel almost two hours one way because of the relationships they’ve built with staff and peers at their schools,” said Ravenscroft. “Our program strives to offer hope and connections to our students and their families.”

Each year, more than 300 of San Diego’s foster children “age out” of the foster care system. When students leave school and transition into adulthood,they are expected to become independent, self-sufficient and contributing members of society with little or no support from others. They transition to adulthood alone often with no guidance, financial support, shelter or sense of place. They are among the highest at risk to end up homeless, unemployed or in prison.

Various agencies and programs throughout the county offer transitional housing, education, medical care and mentoring. Locally, South Bay Community Services (SBCS) provides a variety of programs for hundreds of current and former foster youth annually. The impact of organizations such as SBCS and the community volunteers who give their time and energy for these young people is evident in each accomplishment—none is too small. In Chula Vista, SBCS’s Trolley Trestle and THP-plus offer affordable transitional housing for former foster youth and parenting youth ages 16 to 24 while they finish school or complete job training. During their stay, youth are provided with various services to help them meet their goals, such as counseling, life skills, job readiness training, financial literacy, mentoring and case management. Abraham entered foster care at four years old and spent the next 14 years moving from foster home to foster home, group homes and facility homes. He transitioned out of foster care, graduated high school and headed to California State University San Marcos for his freshman year. Without much guidance or support, the first semester was more difficult than he had expected. He was soon dismissed. “I suppose I was not fully prepared,” said Abraham. “I started weighing my options. I found SBCS and Trolley Trestle.” Abraham said he found support and a welcoming community. In addition to having someone to talk to, he also had someone to guide him and deal with situations and trauma that will probably never truly go away. “Someone has my back,” he said.

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Pictured from top to bottom: Junior and Ivonne Garcia with their godson, Jacob; the Macalaguim family; Abraham with SuMei Yu and the SBCS Trolley Trestle team (from left to right) Gisela Moreno, Tim Gonzales, and Mary Magna.

“It keeps me reassured. If it weren’t for them, I’d probably be out on the street. It's like having a big family.” Abraham is now enrolled at Southwestern College as is determined to complete his studies, return to San Marcos, earn a degree in engineering and then hopefully join the Navy. In February, KPBS will feature SBCS’ Trolley Trestle and Abraham in "Savor San Diego." Su-Mei Yu, owner and chef of Saffron Thai Restaurant, will highlight Abraham’s recent win in a county chef competition plus share more of his story of determination and hope. Programs like Trolley Trestle are possible because of community. From teaching youth how to cook a basic meal to a whole turkey feast, to offering internship opportunities or special day events, or supporting with monetary contributions to help sustain and expand services, love from community leaves a lasting impression in the lives of these young people. Abraham is no longer alone, and statistics aren’t a given. We have the power to change them—together.

Feel inspired? Visit hhsa/programs/cs/volunteers_in_child_welfare_ services.html for ways you can help a child in foster care. 18 O U R HOMETOWN • DEC EMB E R 2 0 16


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ON TOPIC Tribute to Dr. Larry Wergeland By Tina Matthias, Volunteer and Programs Manager, LCDC

It’s never easy to say farewell to someone loved by so many. Dr. Larry Wergeland has been a long-time South Bay community icon. Born in San Diego, he has traveled the world through his father's military life and his own career in the Army as an ophthalmologist. After retiring as an Army officer, he settled down in Bonita to raise his children, created his own practice at the Eye Physicians on Third Avenue in Chula Vista, joined the Chula Vista Wine Club and became a member of the Chula Vista Rotary. Throughout the years he has been a philanthropist, giving back to the community he loves. Understanding that our future relies on our children, he has generously given to organizations that promote not only a healthy lifestyle, but also getting children out to experience nature.

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Dr. Wergeland has been involved with the Living Coast Discovery Center (LCDC) since 1996. After retiring from his practice in 2005, he made the LCDC his second home. Not only has he been a staple in its growth and stability, but he has also sponsored several exhibits in his family’s name and given countless volunteer hours as a docent. Dr. Wergeland’s passion for the LCDC and what it stands for is revealed in the tours he has given over the years to thousands of children who have visited the LCDC on school field trips. The Living Coast Discovery Center has an amazing family of volunteers. Dr. Larry, as I call him, has been part of most of my adult life. Throughout the years, I have enjoyed many stories of his childhood in China and his military days in the

Middle East, including being the personal eye physician to King Hussein of Jordan. When we were submitting favorite recipes for the LCDC Volunteer Cookbook, he not only submitted his favorite Norwegian chocolate dessert, but also a camel stew recipe (which we chose to omit). Dr. Wergeland's grown children have settled in Eugene, Oregon, where he will begin a new chapter with his family and share his life stories with his grandchildren. We wish him the best and know that his family here in the South Bay will forever be grateful for the wonderful memories. He will be missed dearly. By the way, if you ever get a chance to talk with Dr. Larry, ask him to perform his Native American chant and dance....

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On your Doorstep


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Mer Have a


OUT & ABOUT Christmas




@ Third Avenue Village. This free, family event is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. Don’t miss Frosty’s Snow Hill at Memorial Park from noon to 5 p.m. where kids of all ages can play in the snow. For more info or to participate in the parade, call (619) 233-5008 or email Camille@

Monday through Friday @ Chula Vista Police Department, 315 Fourth Avenue in Chula Vista. Donations of cash, toys, gift cards and wrapping paper requested for disadvantaged families during the holidays. Especially needed are new, unwrapped toys for children 9 through 13 and $10 gift cards for young teens ages 12-17. For more info, call (619) 691-5146.



presented by Sweetwater Union High School District. All items will be donated to Stand Up for Kids, a nonprofit dedicated to helping San Diego’s homeless teens. All donations are greatly accepted. For more information on requested items and drop-off locations, contact Yvette Farina at (619) 600-5919 or labor.relations@


HO! HO! HO! COME WATCH IT SNOW @ 6 and 7 p.m. every night @ Village Walk (Eastlake Parkway and Miller Drive in Chula Vista). Bring the family for afternoon snowfalls and enjoy the community carolers. See video highlights at



@ 7:30 - 8:30 p.m. @ Southwestern College, Recital Room 801, 900 Otay Lakes Road in Chula Vista. The Music Department of the School of Arts, Communication & Social Sciences presents the Fall 2016 Music Recital Series. Free and open to the public. Free parking in Lot O. For more information, call (619) 421-6700 ext. 5895.



@ 1 p.m. @ EastLake Village Marketplace, corner of Eastlake Parkway and Otay Lakes Road in Chula Vista. Bring your camera and see Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on the holiday express train. Enjoy train rides, face painting, a craft activity and balloon sculptures. Musical entertainment will be provided by local schools from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.




01/20 TASTE OF EASTLAKE @ 6-9 p.m. @ The Venue at Eastlake, 871 Showroom Place in Chula Vista. Enjoy fantastic food, wine, brews and spirits with many of Chula Vista’s local leaders, business owners and educators. This event will raise funding and celebrate 22 years of the foundation providing vital technology funding to our local public schools. Tickets $50/person. To purchase, visit www. For more info, contact Christopher Tobin at (619) 997-6470.

Performing Arts Center, 4777 Imperial Ave. in San Diego. A musical journey through all the greatest Christmas songs and celebrations from around the world. San Diego's biggest Christmas show brings you the perfect collection of the best sights and sounds of holiday favorites. Tickets $17 online or $19 at the door. Visit cytsandiego. com for dates, showtimes and to purchase tickets.


CHRISTMAS EVE CANDLELIGHT SERVICES @ 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. @ Concordia Church, 1695 Discovery Falls Drive in Chula Vista. Come see the new worship center! For more info, visit


We wish you a MERRY


EASTLAKE BUSINESS ASSOCIATION every Monday @ Eastlake Tavern & Bowl, Eastlake; 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; www.

FARMER’S MARKET Thursdays @ Third Avenue Village Association (Third Ave. & Center St.); 3-7 p.m.





Randy Bellamy is an unlikely sort to earn his living as a funeral director. He found his calling after spending his early career with high-tech electronic firms, such as Hitachi. The expanded global markets and constant travel took him away from his family and left him tired, with a general lack of personal satisfaction. A friend convinced him to try working with a local cemetery as a family service counselor. This allowed not only more home time but also a way to pursue civic and political volunteerism with then-active Bonita Business and Professional Association, Kiwanis, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and others. Randy was also chairman of the Chula Vista Charter Review Commission and on the board of TAVA.

in Normal Heights. This doubled the business and increased its capabilities. Significant growth is also in the advance planning market. Randy says, “In each life we know a storm is coming. It can be smoother sailing ahead for our client, families and the people they love with simple advance planning.”

This community involvement drove Randy to consider a business model where more of the profits associated with funeral service remain in the community and are not distributed to corporate shareholders primarily out of state. Working with churches and fraternal halls, third-party service providers and independent, local business partners meant a simpler profile with low overhead.

Technology has come to funeral service in meaningful ways. Behind the scenes, electronic death registration and the filing of Health Department permits have streamlined the process to a more manageable level. Communicating with extended families has improved with web sites and e-mail. That being said, funeral service is still more high touch thtan high tech. Families in bereavement are in turmoil and challenged with communication. Randy strives to assist families within their culture and traditions as an important companion in the healing process. Village Cremation Services offers a number of memorial jewelry items that display fingerprints or hold small amounts of cremated remains. This personal approach to services does not conform to one-size-fits-all.

Randy opened the doors to Village Cremation Services in 2011. The ambiance of Village Cremation Services is like a modern local insurance agency, not a tired, maudlin mortuary. From a modest beginning, Village Cremation Services has now expanded into more traditional, full-burial services as well as cremations, which are more prevalent than ever before. Village Cremation Services acquired Balboa Cremation Services in 2013, a 35-year pioneer in the cremation business

It is said that if you stand in London’s Piccadilly Circus long enough, the entire world will pass before you. The parade of pedestrians on Third Avenue and F Street is Chula Vista’s version of the circus. Each person who walks by—many having already planned in advance—seem to look up at the Village Cremation Services sign with a subtle nod, a knowing wave or a wry smile that says, “We are glad you are here, but… not today, Randy.”

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Chula Vista Elks Lodge #2011

One of the best kept secrets in Chula Vista sits on nine acres of land at the end of Elks Lane off Telegraph Canyon Road. It is the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge #2011. The organization began 60 years ago in downtown Chula Vista; 56 years ago the organization moved to its present location. The current membership is 671 American citizens. A replica of the American flag made of rocks is at the bottom of the road leading to the Lodge facilities. The facility includes the Lodge, a 27-space RV area and a park with picnic area. The Lodge has an excellent caterer in R&B Catering, and the facility is available for rent for community activities. The charitable works of this organization include our schools, veterans and community in many ways. To help make dreams possible, the Lodge has contributed $205,000 in scholarships to Sweetwater Union High School District students. The Lodge has also delivered over 20,000 dictionaries to 3rd graders for six concurrent years. The students are also presented with a drug awareness coloring book and bookmark that is in support of the Elks’ “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign. The Elks also support Red Ribbon Week in partnership with the Enrique Camarena Foundation. Each month Lodge members visit the Chula Vista Veteran’s Home to play bingo with the residents and provide entertainment for special occasions. In November, the Lodge teams with the VFW, American Legion, Marine Corps League Det., Fleet Reserves Association and United States Submarine Veterans in the Veterans 6K Walk that generates funds for materials and services for the Veterans Home. The Elks also provide stockings filled with basic daily necessities along

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with a Christmas party at the facility during December. The Lodge is active with Stand Down, Wounded Warriors and the Veterans Hospital. Community work includes supporting Boy Scout Troop #895, Girl Scouts and the Daisy Troop. Grants have allowed this Lodge to provide support for the Sports for Exceptional Athletes organization and food for the South Bay Community Services Mi Escuelita Preschool along with backpacks, school supplies and a gift card to Payless shoes. It has also given $850,000 to the California-Hawaii Elks Major Project Charity that supports children with special challenges and their families with medical assistance and therapists. The project offers vision screeners who are available to schools upon request for children ages three through seven. Lodge activities include dining twice a week with local bands, dancing, karaoke and other special programs, plus an active bowling league. Breakfast is served on Sundays, and during the summer members enjoy three major picnics with music and bocce ball tournament. Every year there is an Easter and Christmas party for the families and children of their members. Also available are a Wii console, pool table and shuffle board in their social quarters. The Blood Mobile is also available twice a year for members and the community. Elks Share – Elks Care! Joining will help to build a stronger community and bring a family of caring people into your life. For more information, contact

Our Hometown Chula Vista - December 2016  
Our Hometown Chula Vista - December 2016  

Community news and events for Chula Vista