At left, Camarillo residents Laura Hrabovsky and her daughter Izzie help paint our Joel McCrea gymnasium during National Painting Week on June 1. Below, Cody Hanks, manager of the Ventura Sherwin-Williams store, and Brandt Schoenbeck, district manager for Sherwin- Williams, offer their time and supplies during the event. The gym has never looked better! [Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers]



(Thanks to the Camarillo Acorn for this story, originally published on August 10, 2018.)

The frenetic energy generated by 130 or so playing children was almost bursting through the walls of the Boys & Girls Club of Camarillo last week. It takes a certain type of person to handle the noise level, but luckily Carlos Flores, the club’s new director of programs, is well equipped for the challenge.

“I grew up as a ‘club kid’ in Oxnard,” Flores said as he headed to his office, which is off to the side of the club’s recreation room. “I was already kind of used to it.”

Outside his office door, a little boy wearing a T-shirt and missing two front teeth flashed him a grin. Flores smiled back and gave the kid a high-five. Then he closed the door, silencing the nonstop din. As he settled behind his desk, Flores admitted that after he grew up and returned to the nonprofit organization in 2015 as a youth development worker, he’d almost forgotten what it was like inside a busy Boys & Girls Club.

“Yeah, it gets a little loud,” he said. “As a kid, you know, you’re not really paying attention to how loud it is. But once I came back I said, ‘Man, it’s really loud.’ Especially when there are 400 kids here.”

It comes with the territory, said the 26-year-old former window washer, who was promoted to director of programs in April. Summer vacation hadn’t started yet, so the club was jam-packed with more than 400 children, ages 5 to 18, taking part in after-school programs.

The time he spent as a youth development worker at the club— leading kids in games, sports and activities—was good training for his new post. “I really loved it,” Flores said of working as a youth development worker. “I fell in love with the job and just working with the kids in general.”

As program director, Flores still gets to interact with the kids while also overseeing the club’s daily activities, managing a staff of 16 youth development workers and making up the employees’ work schedules, among other duties. “We feel very confident in Carlos taking on this leadership role,” said Roberto Martinez, CEO and president of the Camarillo club. “He really cares about the kids, and his values show in his work ethic and concern for our members.”

Developing activities and programs that are both fun and educational is a littleT:10”easier during the club’s summer day camp, when there’s fewer than half the number of kids inside the center than when school is in session, Flores said. “When there’s fewer kids, we’re able to put them in smaller groups and have more hands-on time with them,” he said. “We’re able to implement things that we don’t normally get to do during the school year when there are so many kids here.”

Before being hired three years ago, Flores was working as a window washer for his uncle’s startup business in Oxnard. But due to his work shifts, he found himself with hours of extra time during the middle of the day. “Window cleaning is usually done early in the morning when the businesses are closed, or late at night when the businesses are closed and you’re not disturbing the customers,” Flores said.

“I had my days free. I had a couple of friends who were working here, and they kept saying, ‘Come work over here, Carlos, it’s really fun.’” His days are full now—and noisy—but Flores gets satisfaction knowing he’s helping young lives, he said. “A lot of the kids started coming here in kindergarten, way before I got here, so they’ve seen staff come and go,” he said. “It’s funny, because they still remember staff members who worked here years ago. That just tells me how much of a difference our staff makes on all the kids.”



In collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club of Camarillo and local chef Rachel Main Holst, Community Memorial Health System (CMHS) recently developed and launched a nutrition education program that takes underserved youth into the kitchen for hands-on, healthy cooking classes. Designed with the goal of improving diet choices and enhancing the overall health of children and their families, the program focuses on exposing participants to a variety of nutrient-dense ingredients such as kale, squash, and collard greens, while also teaching them how to use more familiar ingredients such as ground beef, rice, and cheese, in healthier ways.“It’s important to provide safe and positive opportunities for children to make choices about what they do and do not want to put in their bodies,” said Chef Rachel Main Holst. “Forming and following healthy habits during the formative years makes it more likely that a child will carry those habits into the rest of his or her life.”

“Beyond health and wellness, there are numerous long-term benefits to learning how to cook,” continued Holst. “It is an excellent opportunity for children to develop and strengthen their confidence and self-assurance, and to learn that they have the power to create something the way they want it to be.”

During the afternoon event, groups of 10 youth took part in highly interactive, small-group kitchen workshops supervised by two chefs, a CMHS Registered Nurse, and a member of the CMHS outreach team.  The workshops began with an in-depth hand washing lesson emphasizing the importance of good hand hygiene for safe food handling and overall wellness.

Next, participants learned about the importance of hydration and how much water to drink on a daily basis, as well as how to “design” their plates using optimal quantities of fruit, grains, protein, and vegetables! Finally, the little chefs headed into the kitchen for closely-supervised chopping, measuring, stirring, and finally – eating!  The menu for the day? Chef Rachel’s Squash Chili and Healthy Bones Kale Salad.

“It’s amazing to watch the kids become more open to trying new things just over the course of one workshop,” said Evelyn Scott, RN, Outreach Manager for Community Memorial Health System.  “Being engaged with the cooking process gets them excited about eating what they’ve prepared – even if it includes ingredients they’ve never heard of or wouldn’t normally like.”

Every participant took home a CMHS Healthy Kids cookbook, complete with five nutritious recipes and highly-visual summaries of all the educational components of the workshop. “Our hope is that the information we provide and the enthusiasm of the kids will inspire other members of their families to try new foods and make healthier decisions,” said Scott.


On Thursday, November 15th, the Club hosted our annual Thanksgiving Feast, where members of our Board of Directors, parents and community volunteers served a delicious Thanksgiving meal to more than 400 kids and their families. Big thanks to the Grapple Group for sponsoring the event!

We're not sure exactly when the Feast was first held, but we know it's been a tradition for many years, and for many members, it's their favorite day of the year. Throughout the room on Thursday, you could hear kids say things like "Yumm, this is so tasty!".

The Feast was a wonderful opportunity to reflect and remember the importance of community, fellowship and saying thanks for all that we are lucky to have.

A big thank you to Tracy Saunders ( for all the great photos in our Thanksgiving Feast slide show:


We are excited to announce that we have selected Vanesa Libranda as our 2018 Youth of the Year. We have seen much growth and leadership coming from this bright young leader. No matter the adversity she faces, she has not allowed circumstances to dictate her attitude toward striving for a better future.

Being part of a military family, Vanesa has accepted the role of being the oldest, and remains a pillar of strength and support for her mom and siblings while her father serves in the US Navy. Vanesa is a leader in the classroom and is an exceptional student. She has maintained an excellent academic pace in times of adversity. Club staff has noted that Vanesa always makes new members feel welcome, and blends in with all social groups at the Club. Other Club members gravitate toward Vanesa because of her strong, positive character.

Vanesa is always willing to help staff around the Club or help her peers with homework. We consider Vanesa and leaders like her to be essential assets for the positive development of all our Club youth, and we congratulate her on being our 2018 Youth of the Year!


On December 20, 2018, the Camarillo Boys & Girls Club was transformed into a holiday wonderland, as the Camarillo Rotary Club put on its 27th Annual Kids Holiday Party with Santa, pizza, magicians (thank you, Paul Dwork), balloon animals and wrapped presents. This year, Rotarians entertained approximately 190 kids ages kindergarten through 3rd grade.

A big thank you to Tracy Saunders ( for all the great photos in our Holiday Party slide show: