Page 1






BRAVO Announcements


NEWS On your Doorstep


FEATURE Traditions


SCHOOL NEWS Classroom Library Makeover




Joseph Amaro



HIGHLIGHTS Mainline Insurance Chayo Moreno


CALENDAR Out & About

EDITOR'S LETTER This month, we are celebrating. We are celebrating holiday traditions and the legacy of Our Hometown Magazine. For the past six years, the goal of the magazine has been to connect residents both to each other and to key resources to help bring the Chula Vista community, from Bayside Park to the Otay Lakes, closer together. We have highlighted good things happening throughout Chula Vista in education, business, government and nonprofits. Individuals have shared stories—sometimes painful ones—with the purpose of providing hope to others. I have laughed and I have cried while reading these, all of which are available at https://issuu.com/ ourhometownmag. My heart is bittersweet as I write because this December 2019 issue is the last printed publication of Our Hometown Magazine. After six years, we are closing the magazine as you know it, full of gratitude for our readers, contributors and advertisers. I am especially grateful to Michael Monaco and Melissa Monroy. Michael, owner of Our Hometown Magazine, hired me in early 2014 as editor and is quite possibly Chula Vista’s #1 fan and advocate. His passion for helping others and his positive outlook on life are unwavering and inspiring. Melissa has been the best graphic designer and colleague I could have asked for. She makes all content I upload look terrific and works wonders in short timeframes. Thank you, both, for your encouragement and dedication. Although this is the last printed issue, it is possible that Our Hometown Magazine will find new life online. Please visit our Facebook page or ourhometownmag.com for updates in the new year. Michael, Melissa and I will miss connecting with you each month, but I know we’ll find new ways to stay engaged. It’s our hope that you will, too. Just because Our Hometown Magazine won’t be showcasing the generosity and thoughtfulness of residents and business owners doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. So, as my Grandpa Afman used to say at the close of every family Thanksgiving and Christmas (since this issue is about holiday traditions), “Keep on keeping on.”


I remember Chanukah was a family time, and we lit the candles as a family. — S A N DY S C H E L L E R

I wish you the merriest Christmas, the happiest Hanukkah, the best new year possible and sincere, heartfelt thanks.




/ Great things happening in our community





› To all PARTICIPANTS OF THE 4TH ANNUAL SOUTH BAY PUMPKIN SMASH – GAME OF THROWS. Teams from all over South Bay descended on Eastlake Middle School on Saturday, November 2 to compete in a live pumpkin throwing contest. Teams from middle and high schools showcased their design and manufacturing skills and laid siege on the field using a medieval device commonly known as a trebuchet. As per tradition, the Chula Vista Fire Department conducted the opening ceremony by dropping a 120-pound pumpkin from over 100 feet up. Congratulations to the winners: Division 1 First Place San Ysidro High School


ADVERTISING INQUIRIES: Michael Monaco at Sales@OurHometownMag.com. EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTIONS: Amber Weber at Editor@OurHometownMag.com. VISIT US ONLINE AT: www.OurHometownMag.com. Copyright 2019. 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 to refuse advertising. Contact OHTM Inc. at (619) 840−7722.

Division 2 First Place Bonita Vista Middle Division 2 Second Place Eastlake Middle New this year was the Open Division. This division was for non-educational teams like church youth groups, scouting clubs and City officials. Our very own City Councilmember Mike Diaz took the time to build and design a device, and his effort paid off. Open Division Team Fetchez La Vache with the Diaz brothers and friends took First Place, barely holding off Second Place father, son and grandparent Team Hernandez the Destroyer. Special thanks go to all the generous sponsors:

Supervisor Greg Cox, Baldwin & Sons – Otay Ranch, Republic Waste, Rotary Club of Chula Vista-Eastlake, the family of Stephen Ablahad, Neisha’s Dance & Music Academy, and Dixieline Lumber. New this year was a children’s art area graciously sponsored by Children’s Primary Dental. South Bay Pumpkin Smash 2020 is scheduled for Saturday, November 7 at Eastlake Middle School.

› To the CITY OF CHULA VISTA for ranking #2 in the nation for supporting immigrants. The New American Economy (NAE), a bipartisan research group, released its second annual Cities Index which assesses how well the top 100 largest cities support immigrants. Chicago was ranked number one with Chula Vista coming in at number two. Last year, Chula Vista ranked number three in the NAE City Index. Chula Vista City leaders are pleased with the increased score, which includes perfect scores in three subgroups – Economic Empowerment,

Inclusivity, and Community. Mayor Mary Casillas Salas said, “Chula Vista is proud to be a diverse and welcoming city. We are thrilled with the increased rating from the NAE.” NAE was formed in 2010 by corporate executives including Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch to reframe immigration reform. Their goal is to secure the borders and prevent illegal immigration, create more opportunities for immigrants to join the United States workforce, and help in the effort of legal status for all undocumented immigrants. Fifty-one factors were used in the annual City Index to determine how well a city is helping immigrants succeed. To view the complete list from the New American Economy, visit https:// bit.ly/2QgjQc4.

› To OTAY WATER DISTRICT for receiving the Service Provider of the Year Award from the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce. This award is presented to an organization for its corporate identity and first impressions, and overall service to customers

Hope and Healing… Hope opens the door to healing  and a brighter day. The Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce presented the District with the award at its 32nd Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Oct. 30 at the San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista. For more information on the Otay Water District, visit otaywater.gov.

including creativity in assisting customers, responsiveness and timely attention to its customers, problem solving, customer awareness and staff availability. "Despite the many challenges to the water industry across the state in the last decade, Otay Water District has exercised fiscal responsibility and invested strategically in technology and its employees to provide safe and reliable water, wastewater, and recycled water service to the Otay Mesa community while keeping its costs down," said Otay Mesa Chamber Executive Director Alejandra Mier y Teran. "We are pleased to recognize the Otay Water District with the Service Provider of the Year Award." "We are especially honored to receive this award from our customers in Otay Mesa," said Otay Water District General Manager Mark Watton. "The employees of our water district share a culture of innovation and customer service that will continue to provide value to all of our customers, including our Otay Mesa residents and businesses."

› To EVERYONE WHO DONATED, WALKED, PARTICIPATED AND VOLUNTEERED IN THE 2019 VETERANS WALK that provided a Christmas dinner party for over 300 residents at the Veterans Home of California - Chula Vista. Your generosity toward the 18th Annual Veterans Walk, held on November 2, brought in the most donations to date. The great majority of our veterans served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, ranging in age from about 60 to some over 100 years old. We will never forget what these veterans have done for us, and now during the holidays, we are honoring their service to country. A special thanks to veteran Ron Oeding, who printed 360 Walk T-shirts with sponsor acknowledgements, and to Rick and Carolyn Click, who both volunteered by taking pictures at the Walk.

Dealing with health, financial, relationship  issues, etc.?  Come find out about hope  and healing at the Christian Science Church. Located  at 41 “I” Street in Chula Vista. Christian— about the life, love, healing,  and vision of Christ Jesus. Science— the spiritual fact that you are  the loved child of God… God’s healing love and care  are always with you.

Come discover God’s healing power. Christmas Fellowship/Potluck Sunday, December 15 (following worship service) Sunday Church 10:00 a.m. Sunday School 10:00 a.m. Wednesday Testimony Meeting 7:00 p.m. Thursday Sermon on the Mount Reading  6:15 p.m. (Via Conference Call) Step 1: Call 1-646-5588665; Step 2: Press Mtg. ID No: 255 942 377#; Step 3: Just press # Tuesday - Saturday Reading Room 10:00 a.m. -2 p.m. Closed Sunday, Monday and holidays (bookstore/library) at 300 Third Ave. at “F” Street 619-422-6400

Explore: prayerthatheals.org

The Walk is always the first Saturday in November. For information about participating next year, please contact Hank Schanstra at (916) 221-2709 or hendrik. schanstra@calvet.ca.gov. O U R H O M E TO W NM AG.CO M 5


/ On your Doorstep

Chula Vista Files Criminal Complaints for Illegal Marijuana Dispensaries The newly formed Neighborhood Protection Unit (NPU) in the City of Chula Vista has filed its first criminal complaints for illegal marijuana dispensary operations. The complaints filed arise from search warrants recently executed at two illegal marijuana dispensaries that had been operating at 3521 Main Street and 3444 Main Street in Chula Vista. These dispensaries are now closed. In total, six defendants are being charged with multiple misdemeanor offenses. “The NPU’s initial focus is to shut down all unlicensed marijuana businesses operating illegally within the City, and to criminally prosecute all those involved,” said Chula Vista City Attorney Glen Googins. “These unlicensed dispensaries are operating in open violation of State and

6 OUR H OME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9

City laws and create serious public health and safety risks to the community.” Ultimately, it is the City’s intent that NPU prosecution efforts and diversion programs will help address other issues of crime and disorder adversely affecting the quality of life in Chula Vista neighborhoods. The NPU’s Criminal Prosecutor is funded by Measure A, a voter-approved, half-cent sales tax dedicated to enhance public safety throughout the City. The City also is in the process of permitting licensed commercial cannabis operations including retail, manufacturing, research and testing facilities. The City anticipates the first licensed commercial businesses will be open in 2020.

On your Doorstep

Welcome Winter at Village Walk at EastLake Enjoy free daily holiday activities, including a magical snowfall, from December 7 – 24 at Village Walk at EastLake. The holiday celebration begins on Saturday, December 7 with the annual Holiday Family Festival from 12 – 3 p.m. Santa will listen to children’s wishes and pose with them for parent picture-taking. The Holiday Family Festival also features free musical entertainment, rides on the Holiday Express Train, a magician, hand-blown balloon creations by Santa’s elves and a magical snowfall experience at 12, 1 and 2 p.m. During the event, children ages 12 and younger can make a keepsake wooden star ornament at the Holiday Craft Station. The celebration continues into the evening. The Discovery Charter School Chorus from Chula Vista, under the direction of Christa Crawford Valency, will perform at 5:30 p.m. before the snow begins to fall at 6 p.m. The student choir will perform again at 6:15 p.m. before the second snowfall at 7 p.m. A costumed snowman will be a special guest at the December 7 evening snowfalls. The nightly snowfalls at 6 and 7 p.m. will continue through December 24 to transform the courtyard near the Koi Pond into a holiday wonderland. Each night’s magical snowfall is accompanied by choreographed lights and music, and children receive free holiday headbands and “magic” glasses so they can view the snow falling in rainbow colors.

Nightly, between the magical snowfalls, community caroling groups will stroll through Village Walk at EastLake to sing favorite holiday songs. The caroling groups include: 12/08

Girl Scout Troop 6363


Southwestern College Jazz

Vocal Ensemble


South Bay YMCA Gymnastics Team


Girl Scout Troop 5


Cub Scout Pack 5


Girl Scout Troop 5538


Pasacat Philippine Performing Arts


Girl Scout Troop 6044


AMP Vocal Fusion


Girl Scout Troop 5283


St. Rose of Lima Glee


Girl Scout Troop 6888


Girl Scout Troop 6113


Girl Scout Troop 6971


First United Methodist Church

12/ 23

South Bay YMCA Gymnastics Team.

Village Walk at EastLake will also host other familyfriendly activities. On two Sundays, December 8 and 15 from 4 – 6 p.m., a costumed snowman will welcome visitors to a giant, illuminated snow globe, which will be located near the Children’s Play area. Visitors may bring a smart phone or camera to take pictures. At no cost, a professional photographer will also be available to take and text visitors their picture or video in front of the Snow Globe. The beautiful European style shopping center will feature carolers singing in Spanish in honor of the beginning of Las Posadas, a nine-day Hispanic holiday. On Dec. 16, AMP Vocal Fusion will sing, on Dec. 17, Girl Scout Troop 5283, and on December 18, St. Rose of Lima Glee will sing. Caroling will occur between the 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. snowfalls. All holiday events are free at Village Walk at EastLake, which is located at the intersection of EastLake Parkway and Miller Drive in Chula Vista.

Need A Job After all that Black Friday Shopping? Census Bureau Now Recruiting! The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting hundreds of temporary census takers in San Diego in advance of its Nonresponse Follow Up Operation for the 2020 Census. The pay rate is $20.50 per hour, and those interested can apply online at 2020census.gov/jobs. The primary purpose of the Nonresponse Follow Up Operation is to count people in person at housing units who have not self-responded to the decennial census questionnaire. Census takers visit and enumerate those households. This operation requires more field workers than any other operation for the national population count, which occurs every 10 years. Nonresponse Follow Up is an integral part of the 2020 Census program that ensures a complete and accurate count. It influences how hundreds of billions of dollars from more than 100 federal programs are distributed to states and localities each year. For more information about 2020 Census jobs, call 1-855JOB-2020.


On your Doorstep

Join the Chula Vista Climate Action Challenge Do you want to learn how to fight the climate crisis and reduce your greenhouse gas footprint? Join your neighbors in the Chula Vista Climate Action Challenge. Over 80 homes have already joined and helped reduce 250 tons of CO2. It’s easy! • To participate, go to www. cvclimatechallenge.com and create an account. Make sure to fill out the “my energy profile” to learn about your carbon footprint. • Review over 100 carbon-saving actions that include information and local resources to help get you started. Actions include low-cost, quick changes or more long-term changes based on your interests. Each action you take will earn you points for every pound of carbon reduced. • Join a team or community group and see what others in Chula Vista are doing. There are currently four community groups (Chula Vista Recreation Department, Bike Walk Chula Vista, Living Coast Discovery Center and South Bay Eco Justice on Tap) that you can join, or you can create a new one. Users can provide feedback with messages on actions or between teams to provide information about how the action worked for you. One of the popular resources that is included on the site is the Energy Sage ICLEI Solar Marketplace (www.energysage.com/p/icleiusa-solar), about solar systems that residents can install without giving their contact information to a contractor. The City is aiming to get 500 homes to sign up over the coming months and needs your help! Sign up, then invite your friends and neighbors to join the challenge and your team. If your community group would like to receive a presentation about the challenge or you’d like to learn how your group can participate, please contact conservation@chulavistaca.gov or (619) 476-2442.

8 OUR H O METOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9

Chula Vista Brush Clearance Project Begins Brush clearance will be in Chute Canyon and Choya Canyon areas The City of Chula Vista and Urban Corps of San Diego County began conducting fire protection brush clearance in the Chute Canyon and Choya Canyon areas of Chula Vista on October 1. The project is made possible by a $200,000 grant from the California Fire Safe Council to the Urban Corps of San Diego County. With fire season a year-round reality in California, residents are encouraged to be proactive in preparing for wildfires and have a plan in place should one occur. An important preventive measure includes maintaining a defensible space behind homes. Urban Corps will clear brush through February 14, 2020 (intermittently) between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Brush clearance activities will The City of Chula cover 44 acres.

Vista and Urban Corps of San Diego County began conducting fire protection brush clearance in the Chute Canyon and Choya Canyon areas of Chula Vista on October 1...Urban Corps will clear brush through February 14, 2020 (intermittently).

Residents in the affected areas will receive door hangers announcing the brush clearance and defensible space brochures from the California Fire Safe Council. Where needed, the City will request access to the open space behind homes. Property will be kept free of damage and debris. The Chula Vista Fire Department recommends residents visit Ready, Set, Go! (www.chulavistaca.gov/ departments/fire-department/ ready-set-go) to learn about other valuable tips in preparing for wildfires. For more information regarding brush removal in Chula Vista, please call the Chula Vista Public Works Department at (619) 397-6000 or Urban Corps at (619) 235-6884.

About Urban Corps of San Diego County Urban Corps of San Diego County is a certified local conservation corps and charter school whose mission is to provide young adults with the tools to expand their career opportunities through education, life skills training, and paid work experience on projects that benefit our communities.

On your Doorstep



On your Doorstep

1 0 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9


On your Doorstep

Real Estate Update: Owning vs. Renting Courtesy of Minnie Rzeslawski, ReMax 24k

Which is best? Is it better for you to rent or buy a home? Before you decide, here are some questions to ask yourself. How long will you stay in the home? In general terms, it takes three to seven years to break even on a home. If you are thinking about buying a home and selling it in two years, it is unlikely that buying will be cheaper than renting, although it has been seen in the San Diego market recently. Do you think of or need your home as an investment in your retirement plan? Most people are used to their homes being a store for wealth that they can liquidate in retirement as part of downsizing their lifestyle. Although we have recovered from the market, the price of your home can still fall. Are you financially ready? Owning a home is a financial commitment that requires planning how homeownership fits into where your life is headed. Crunch all the numbers. Principal interest, property taxes, property insurance, homeowners’ association fees and of course maintenance are part of the financial landscape. Are you prepared for the down payment and closing costs? Down payment is the lump sum payment that funds your equity in the property. They vary and can be as low as 3% to 20% or more. Plus there are additional buyer fees such as closing costs on top of the down payment that can range from 1% to 3% of the purchase price.

Can you afford the monthly mortgage and its components? Generally a mortgage includes loan principal and interest, plus homeowners’ insurance and property taxes in one payment. If you are placing anything below 20%, add private mortgage insurance to that equation. Are you emotionally ready? Can you handle the stress? Life-changing events can lead to stress when buying a home. From a large mortgage or loan, a change in living conditions or a change in residence to other life changes such as marriage, switching careers or having a child, home buying can be stressful. Are you ready for commitment? Many decisions will need to be made, such as picking a real estate agent to represent your best interests, choosing your neighborhood, and maintaining your new home. Taking care of your biggest investment can be gratifying, but only if you are ready. “When you are ready, the first step is to contact a reputable, qualified, professional, real estate agent. This is mandatory,” says Minnie Rzeslawski, a realtor at RE/MAX 24K. “By contacting an agent, it’s possible to find a less expensive home as well. Agents will have details and listings you may not have found on your own.” It can be difficult to make a correct and viable decision on a home when you’re all on your own. Reach out to an agent who is knowledgeable, experienced and has a contract negotiating background.

Annual Energy Benchmarking in Effect for Commercial and Multifamily Buildings Through an Assembly Bill that was approved in 2015, the State of California requires that all commercial and multifamily buildings over 50,000 square feet benchmark and report their building’s energy consumption annually by June 1 at the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager web portal. Benchmarking is a great way for building owners to track their consumption and even compare it with similar buildings in the same climate zone. Tracking may uncover malfunctions on solar production or air conditioning systems, for example, and can help a building owner make important decisions when considering investing in solar and battery storage, or in new appliances or retrofits. For more information, visit www.energy.ca.gov/ programs-and-topics/ programs/building-energybenchmarking-program. If you’d like assistance getting started on your benchmarking efforts, City staff can help. Contact Barbara Locci blocci@chulavistaca.gov.


On your Doorstep

Tips for Spotting Scam Crowdfunding Campaigns By District Attorney Summer Stephan

As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters. We’ve all been scrolling through a social media feed when a fundraising campaign catches our eye. Either someone is raising money for medical expenses, a friend’s daughter is collecting funds for a school trip, or your old college roommate is creating a life-changing product but needs cash to get it to the market. Websites such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Indiegogo are online platforms that allow people to donate towards charitable causes or innovative new products. Instead of having a single large investor, crowdfunding raises money through hundreds of individual donations. As successful and popular as crowdfunding can be, there is a growing trend of fraudsters using the platform to swindle money from unsuspecting victims.

are saying. If most of the comments are negative, it could indicate a scam or a poorly-managed campaign. • Finally, look at the refund policy of the campaign. If the campaign fails, is it possible for you to get your money back? Taking time to research the cause will make you better equipped to snoop out good campaigns from bad ones. If you have already contributed and found out the campaign was a scam, here’s what you can do: • Ask for a refund directly from the crowdfunding website. Kickstarter or Indiegogo allow you to cancel your donation if the campaign hasn’t closed yet. • Some websites let you get a refund automatically if the crowdfunding campaign doesn’t meet its donation goal. • Report the campaign to the Federal Trade Commission or the state attorney general if you discover a scam.

Here are some steps that you can take to ensure that the crowdfunding campaign you are considering is honest:

• Finally, leave a comment warning other people on the crowd funding website about the possible scam.

• Research the creator of the crowdfunding campaign. Is the creator part of any lawsuits? Does the person asking for donations have a social media account that verifies their story? Do you know anyone who can vouch for the creator or their campaign?

I’m proud of our community’s generosity when it comes to helping someone in need, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from supporting a genuine campaign. Now that you know how to prevent, identify and report crowdfunding scams, you can feel more comfortable donating to a cause you care about.

• Consider whether the project or story seems reasonable and realistic. For example, is this organization promising a trip to the moon for a $100 donation? Does this mother really have 10 children who all have a rare disease requiring multiple surgeries? • Look at the comments on the platform. Kickstarter and GoFundMe have comments on their respective campaigns that allow potential donors to see what past donors 1 2 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9

District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 29 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.

Vacancy on Measure A Citizens’ Oversight Committee The City of Chula Vista is accepting applications for a District 3 representative on the Measure A Citizen’s Oversight Committee (COC). Measure A is the half-cent sales tax measure to fund public safety staffing and services that was passed by Chula Vista voters in June 2018. Collection of the tax began in October 2018 and has since helped to fund several new firefighters, police officers and dispatchers with more planned. Each of the four City council districts in Chula Vista is represented by an appointed citizen on the Measure A COC. A new representative from District 3 is needed to fill a current vacancy on the 12-member Committee. Interested parties are asked to view the requirements and apply by December 6 at https://www. chulavistaca.gov/ departments/city-clerk/ boards-commissions. The Measure A COC regularly meets the second Thursday of every month in the Chula Vista Police Department Community Room at 6 p.m.

On your Doorstep








An Outpouring of Love ...and Presents By Melissa Monroy

As a little girl, Christmas in my family included a family dinner on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ SAN house. was joyous and cheerful, and we always T A VIt S I T S before midnight on the 24th. When opened Ipresents my parents divorced, Christmas tradition suddenly became a two-day celebration. This meant more family, more love, more fun...and a ton more presents. As I’ve married and had a child of my own, Christmas has since gotten a bit more complicated. These days, it’s a whirlwind trying to split the holiday between all of our families in two days…especially when my husband is Santa’s helper (delivering packages for UPS). It almost seems impossible to squeeze in quality family time amidst all the chaos, but every year we manage to make it work. It’s exhausting, but so beautiful, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.





There is one thing, though. I want my daughter to understand that the memories we share with our families mean more than the presents we receive. When I came across an article on the premise of gratitude and the four-gift challenge, I knew I had to give it a try. On the morning of the 25th, she gets from us four items: a want, a need, a wear and a read.



My daughter doesn’t have a huge stack of presents from her parents, but I can tell you there is a tremendous amount of thought and love put into each box under the tree. Her book box is filled with her favorites, and her wear box includes new tees and pajamas, a new jacket and jeans, socks and accessories. Her need is usually the hardest for me to choose. This is because creating long-lasting family memories is the most important gift of all. This box always contains some sort of experience: season passes to a local amusement park, cooking lessons or a family board game. Saving the best for last is her want. This is my favorite to watch her open because I know there is little chance for disappointment. This box is the one she has been asking for, S gets the item on the A Rshe and I love to see her reaction when W G top of her wish list. KIN

12/ 25/ 201 6



12/ 25/ 201 6

1 4 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9

When my daughter grows up and looks back at this tradition I’ve created, I hope she can appreciate my attempt to teach her about quality over quantity. But most importantly, when she looks back at our crazy Christmas tradition of running from house to house, I hope she remembers how lucky she is to have so much family around to celebrate with and how much fun she had running around and playing with all of her cousins. My wish is that everyone is just as lucky, or loved.




On your Doorstep

1 6 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9


My Last Chanukah with My Mom By Sandy Scheller

Chanukah is a holiday that doesn’t mention G-d.* It is a story about oil that should have burned one night and instead burned for eight nights. It tells of Judah the Maccabee and his small army defeating the Seleucids who tried to force the people of Israel to accept something they did not believe in. History really doesn’t change; we just have to remind ourselves never to forget. As a child we received one present a night for eight days. It was something small and yummy. We had the greatest potato latkes (pancakes) with sour cream and applesauce. To this day when I go to a deli you can find me eating this, other than during Chanukah. The donuts are filled with pure joy. Although they inserted jelly, I preferred chocolate. So did my mom. Ruth loved chocolate on everything. I remember Chanukah was a family time, and we lit the candles as a family. The first night we lit the lead candle and then “plus one.” The next day we lit the lead candle followed by two and so on. As a tradition, we never used the candlelight for anything but time to reflect and enjoy. It took 30 to 45 minutes for the lights to go out. I loved watching the last five minutes because the bright light turned to an ember and then went out with smoke. I have compared life to the Chanukah candles. I loved having my grandparents over, and my mother’s mother would sing songs completely memorized. We also always had chocolate coins and spun the top called a dreidel. The dreidel was used so that Jews could study the Torah illegally. At the first sign of the Seleucids approaching, the Torah was hidden and replaced by the dreidel. The dreidel has four sides meaning NUN (do nothing), GIMUL (the player gets everything), HEI (the player gets

half the pot) and SHIN (the player has to give one coin or whatever s/he is playing with). December 2, 2018 was the beginning of Chanukah last year. We had just finished Thanksgiving, a time to appreciate everything we have. I spent Chanukah with my mom at Paradise Village with other Jewish residents. We lit the candles, sang songs and ate chocolate. It was such a happy time. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this would be my last Chanukah with Ruth; she passed away suddenly 19 days later. I believe that G-d had a menorah and wanted Ruth for his lead candle.

I can’t imagine Chanukah this year without my mom. I think of her every day, and it has been tough not celebrating Jewish holidays with her this year. She suffered so much as a Holocaust survivor, but it was tradition and faith that got her through the worst of times. My love for family, friends and my Chabad temple will get me through this year. I have my own family, and I can only do what tradition has taught me. Let's see what lessons I can pass on to my friends and loved ones. After all, I believe in the words of Ruthie: “Do you want some more chocolate?”

*The author has followed the Jewish practice of removing a letter from the name “God” as a symbol of respect to Him. O U R H O M E TO W NM AG.CO M 17



By Michael Monaco

Growing up, my childhood holiday seasons were, for the most part, like many people’s—decorating a tree, visiting Santa Clause in the mall, attending Christmas Eve Mass, and waiting anxiously for the morning when I could rip open packages and play with a new toy. To this day I can only remember a few toys that were memorable. However, I’ll always remember one special Christmas as a child. In 1971 my family moved from Washington State to Northern California. That holiday season we traveled to Los Angeles to visit friends and take in all Southern California had to offer. We visited Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and San Diego. Nearly 50 years later I can still remember the trip and will never forget it.





1 8 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9



Our Holiday Tradition of Traveling

Later in life when I grew up and had a family of my own, I began the usual holiday traditions—hanging lights on the house, decorating a tree, taking the kids to see Santa, wrapping gifts, and waking up Christmas morning to witness the tornado of flying wrapping paper, giggles and smiles. While those were great times, again I can only remember a few Christmases that really stood out. After our twins (Andre and Sarah) turned 21, my wife, Sabrina, and I changed things. Since 2014 we have travelled on or near the holidays to celebrate Christmas, which also is the twins’ birthday. (That’s right—Andre and Sarah were born on Christmas Day. Now that’s a Christmas gift!) We’ve celebrated in San Francisco; Prague; Vienna; Budapest; New Orleans; Ottawa, Canada; and Kauai. We often switch from a hot destination to a cold one. This year we’ll be in Washington State. I can honestly tell you that every Christmas has been memorable since we started travelling over the holidays, much like my family trip to Southern California as a child. We plan on continuing this tradition for as long as we can because it helps keep us together and engaged. I hope whatever tradition your family celebrates creates wonderful memories.




/ News

Los Altos Elementary Receives Classroom Library Makeovers

When students and teachers started school on a recent Monday at Los Altos Elementary School in southern San Diego, they walked into surprise “Scholastic Classroom Makeovers.” Work on the classroom sets took place over the weekend, unbeknownst to teachers. A “reveal” took place in the teachers’ lounge before students were welcomed at the start of the school day. Students squealed with delight at bins on their desks filled with the new books—and at the sight of Clifford the Big Red Dog. He was among the "dog-nitaries" on hand. Scholastic Education, the educational books and materials company, donated 7,000 books to Los Altos, or about 300 new books for every classroom. The intent is to share the instructional benefits and student excitement that classroom libraries engender, and promote the importance of independent reading. The donation brought tears of joy to some teachers. “This is my first year teaching after three years off,” said third grade teacher Rachel Kennerson. “I had always taught upper grades. I had many, many upper grade books but very few lower grade books. I was struggling to get books. I had many people donate. But this is huge. Kids love new books to dig into…Thank you.” Scholastic Education chose Los Altos because of its small school size and high priority on developing a strong reading culture, one that understands the importance of independent reading, and actually builds time into their daily schedule for “structured independent reading.” Their goal is to make the book selections within the classroom libraries as current, relevant and compelling as possible, across the entire school. Principal Santos Gonzalez said the school focus is literacy. “We have really been pushing literacy here for the last 5, 6 years,” she said. “It’s ingrained in our culture…My teachers spend a lot of their own money on building their libraries. We have spent some of our money as a school as well on books…I am so grateful to Scholastic.”

2 0 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9

Brian Chernow, vice president of sales at Scholastic Education, a division of educational books and materials publisher Scholastic, said the makeover was just as gratifying for the company’s employees. “We’ve outfited every classroom with over 300 new books,” Chernow said. “We’ve redecorated the poster boards in the hallways and helped create a rich culture of literacy throughout the school. We were very impressed with how the classrooms looked.”

School News





Innovative Instructor and VEX Robotics Coach in Sweetwater District Joseph

Meet Joseph Amaro, a Sweetwater Union High School District teacher dedicated to educating students via creative and innovative instruction since 1995. For more than 20 years, Amaro has worn several hats in the Sweetwater District, most recently as an engineering, robotics, and advanced manufacturing ROP/CTE instructor at Montgomery High school, home of the Aztecs. Prior to his current position at Montgomery High, Amaro worked at Sweetwater High, Bonita Vista High, Chula Vista High, Southwest High and Eastlake High School teaching auto shop and regional occupation program (ROP)/career technical education (CTE) courses. For the past four years, Amaro has been the coach and mentor of the Sweetwater District’s competitive VEX Robotics Program, introducing students to the world of robotics. As such, Amaro oversees all 25 schools involved in the VEX Competitive Robotics Program. Amaro believes robotics is changing the lives of students “one robot at a time,” and he luckily plays a small part in that. “It motivates me year after year the amazing opportunities that robotics students are realizing in their lives,” said Amaro. “Young men and women are attaining goals never before imagined. They are attending the colleges and universities of their choice. I see students attaining careers that were not even in existence ten years ago.”

2 2 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9

Currently, the Sweetwater District is the only high school district in San Diego County that supports a middle school league and high school league with over 70 teams. “What our district has done over the last four years is to set a model for schools nationwide,” said Amaro. Due to that model, last year the Sweetwater District program was asked to host the annual California State VEX Robotics Championships in March, over a four-day period at Montgomery High. This year after the State Championships, Amaro was asked to be a Judge Advisor at the Annual VEX Worlds Championships. “Having that experience totally energized and strengthened my resolve to get as many students in our community from elementary school through high school involved in robotics.” According to Amaro, he has always had a servant’s heart interfacing and engaging in young people’s lives and seeing what project-based learning can do to motivate their desire to learn. “I don’t consider myself as just a teacher,” said Amaro. “I believe my role as an educator is to provide proper emotional and intellectual support, along with various curriculum knowledge they will be able to use to make informed decisions as to their future career path. I am in the business of changing lives. I am having a great time.”






I love what I do, made possible by meeting challenges and hard work. I am an insurance broker assisting clients with their Medicare options in San Diego and in the South Bay area. It began when I was a young girl in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I developed a strong love for basketball, practicing daily. It paid off when I was offered a basketball scholarship by Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ. I then went on to play at USD in San Diego before finishing my degree at San Diego State University. I was fortunate to be part of the USA Women’s Basketball Regional Team, made up of college players from Arizona, California and New Mexico. The USA team played against the Australian Women’s National Team in cities starting in Brisbane, Australia down the coast to Sydney. For a young, small-town, 19-year old girl, it created an incredible memory.

My reward for the hard work and

challenges is that I can now give

back to nonprofit organizations in the South Bay,

San Diego and

Las Cruces, New Mexico.

After graduating with a B.S. in graphic design, I worked for the San Diego Union, now Union-Tribune. After a few years, I was promoted to the management team, knowing my skills as a captain in my college playing years would be used. Shortly thereafter, I decided to do sales, which meant owning your time, your income, and the sky was the limit.

2 4 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9

I read every book from Zig Ziglar, Harvey Mackay, and many other successful sales gurus, and attended sales seminars. I believed I could take one idea and use it to move forward. After working at Pacific Bell, now AT&T, Junior Achievement, and other sales positions, I decided in February 1999 to pursue my master’s degree in organizational management at the University of Phoenix. At some point, I decided to work insurance sales, working in various areas of insurance, but nothing seemed to feel or fit “just right.” I then received a call from United Healthcare to join their team of exclusive agents to represent Medicare options. As a firm believer of three slogans, “Every situation has a silver lining,” “Every opportunity only knocks once,” and simply “gratitude,” I took the opportunity. It felt right, and it fit from the moment I had my first appointment with my first clients, a senior couple.

My reward for the hard work and challenges is that I can now give back to nonprofit organizations in the South Bay, San Diego and Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’m also a proud member of the Chula Vista Charitable Foundation, Southwestern College Foundation Board, and Home Start Board of Directors. Please visit ChayoMoreno.com for more information.


Mainline Insurance is an independent insurance agency that specializes in finding affordable insurance for contractors and small businesses. Here are some of our fantastic team: Ramses G. Hernandez Ramses was born, raised and still resides in Chula Vista with his wife Elvia and three children. Ramses has spent the last 10 years at Mainline with a focus on bringing insurance solutions to our local business owners. In his spare time, he enjoys discovering new places to eat, especially on Sundays after church services. Those searches will stretch from San Diego to the culinary region of the Valle de Guadalupe. Ramses is a Middle School Growth Group Leader for his local church in Eastlake. He's a great contact to reach out to if you'd like to have your middle school or high school boy get plugged into a faithbased group of peers. Ralph Rivera Born and raised in San Diego, Ralph resides in Chula Vista, is happily married to Tricia Rivera and is a proud father to Cole and Cadence. Ralph has been in the insurance industry for 19 years. His experience started at a local home and auto insurance agency. He then moved to an agency who focused specifically on business insurance and found this to be his home in the insurance world. Coming from a family of self-started business owners, Ralph identifies with the small business owner and their

daily challenges to create successful enterprises. His passion is to help connect business owners with valuable solutions to these challenges and create opportunities for them to thrive. In his free time, you can find Ralph at his son's little league (Chula Vista American) where he coaches and serves as a board member. Janine Mendoza Janine was born and raised in Sacramento, where her insurance career began. Obtaining her insurance license in 2001, Janine has almost 20 years' experience in all aspects of the industry, eventually settling in San Diego where she found Mainline. She has specialized in commercial insurance since 2007 and continues to broaden her expertise by providing excellent service and product knowledge to new and existing clients. Most of Janine's spare time is spent in the kitchen cooking and creating; she's famous locally for her homemade treats and dinner parties. She has been reaching out to working moms through her social and professional circles, showing them how to prepare quick, fresh and healthy meals without breaking the bank. Her instruction has helped many with the daily struggle of meal preparation, and she continues to support her community through volunteering at local school lunchrooms by serving and prepping student meals. For information, visit www.mainline-ins.com/.




FILM FORUM. Friends of the Chula Vista Library invite you to a free film presentation @ 5:40 - 8 p.m. @ Chula Vista Civic Center Auditorium, 365 F Street in Chula Vista.

4 “ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES” Rated PG. Discussion with creators Costa Dillon and Steve Peace will be held after the film. 11 “THE FAREWELL” Rated PG. 100 Minutes.


December 2019 STARLIGHT PARADE & CHILDREN’S FAIRE @ 2 – 8 p.m. @ Third Avenue Village. This free, family event returns


skating, train rides, snow

dedicated to helping San

to ring in the holiday season with tons of festive activities. Take pictures with Santa, sled on Frosty’s Snow Hill, decorate ornaments and more. Visit

Diego's homeless teens



JINGLE HOLIDAY BOUTIQUE @ 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. @ Sienna Otay Ranch, 1290 Santa Rosa Drive in Chula Vista. Enjoy photos with Santa, carolers and one-stop shopping for everyone on your list. For more information, call (619) 779-7400.


HOLIDAY DRIVE The entire Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) is hosting a collection for dictrict students. All items witll be donated to Stand Up for Kids, a non-profit



@ 3 – 9 p.m. @ Kimball Park, 12th Street and D Avenue in National City. Enjoy this free, family event with ice hill and a Ferris wheel. Check out Santa’s Village, a car show, food trucks and entertainment. For more info, visit www.nationalcityca.

and students within VILLAGE WALK IN DECEMBER. For more info, visit shopvillagewalk.com.

7 HOLIDAY EVENT @ Noon - 3 p.m. Bring the kids and your cameras to snap a photo of your child with Santa. Take a free train ride around the shopping center, make a free holiday craft and enjoy afternoon snowfalls at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. 7-24 NIGHTLY SNOWFALL @ 6 and 7 p.m. Watch the snow fall near the Koi Pond and experience a Winter Wonderland in San Diego. Enjoy community carolers between snowfalls-- just like magic and completely free. 08, 15 GIANT SNOW GLOBE @ 4 - 6 p.m. The perfect photo or backdrop for your holiday cards and social media posts. Meet Frosty and receive a free photo and video via text from professional photographers.

2 6 OUR HOME TOWN / DE CEM B ER 2 0 1 9

SUHSD. To find drop-off locations or to learn more, call Julie Walker at (619) 427-1370 or Cecilia De La Riva at (619) 691-5578.



JINGLE MINGLE @ 4:30 – 7 p.m. @

1420 East Palomar Street in Chula Vista. Join St.

merriment. Share the warmth of the season by bringing a new blanket for PACE participants. RSVP to Mary Johnson at (619) 591-0600 or mjohnson@ stpaulseniors.org.




Paul’s Plaza for tasty libations, nibbles and


FREE HOLIDAY EVENT WITH SANTA @ 1 – 4 p.m. @ EastLake Marketplace, 2275 Otay Lakes Road in Chula Vista. Enjoy free train rides, free holiday craft activity (elf hats), visits and photos with Santa, balloon sculptures, face painting and holiday entertainment provided by local school and church groups.


@ 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. @ Chula Vista Civic Library, 365 F Street in Chula Vista. Join the City of Chula Vista and the South Bay Historical Society to learn about Holocaust survivors that settled in the South Bay. Enjoy brunch with Mayor Mary Salas and hear survivor stories. $50 donation. To reserve, visit BrunchwithMayor.com.




Profile for OurHometownMag

Our Hometown Chula Vista - December 2019  

Community news and events for Chula Vista

Our Hometown Chula Vista - December 2019  

Community news and events for Chula Vista