Posted: Thursday, Apr 23rd, 2020
Visit Ventura Celebrates Our Wholly Unique Volunteers
Yes, it’s National Volunteer Week — April 19th-25th, if you should be thanking a volunteer — but here at Visit Ventura we celebrate our volunteers every time they walk through the Visitors Center doors. They come in for their shifts dancing and pumping their arms. They come in wearing floral shirts that would make the colorblind cry. They’ve got smiles that light up a town and multi-faceted skills that put Leonardo Da Vinci to shame. A couple of pilots, an artist, a former Rolling Stone columnist, a naturalist, a college professor. The list goes on.
Not that they make any fuss about themselves. They come in and — maybe after a short dance — get to work/play. They do everything you might imagine — answer phones, answer questions (some questions, impossible to imagine), conduct inventory — and plenty you can’t. They are a treasure trove of all things Ventura. Some of their families go back four generations. Their knowledge is extraordinary. Outdone only by their willingness to help. With anything. At any time. Yes, Max Ruffcorn’s slated day to volunteer is Sunday, but you can pretty much find him at the Visitors Center any day of the week. He also volunteers at the Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center, the Museum of Ventura County and the Albinger Archaeological Museum. Which tells you much about Max.
And there are stories behind the smiling faces (this is Part Two of the stories; for Part One, please click here). Stories that surprised even us. To honor our volunteers for National Volunteer Week, we asked them to tell us a little bit about themselves. No surprise, they performed the task in ruthlessly efficient fashion, and often with a wicked sense of humor.
We learned many things…
We learned that they are as wise as Winston Churchill.
Meet Lee Warner.
Raising a family, working for the local school district for 38 years, being a volunteer for the Ventura City Council Mobile Park Committee, the Ventura Education Partnership, AYSO coach and director, and the Ventura Botanic Garden has provided me with an abundance of opportunities to help our community. A quote by Winston Churchill has inspired me. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” My successful life in Ventura has been a continuous journey of meeting great people. After retirement, I was encouraged by friends to volunteer at the Visitors Bureau. Another Winston Churchill quote is relevant to my life. “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, and an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” I have had great opportunities.
We learned that they are citizens of the world and unabashed lovers of life.
Meet Linda “LB” Botts.
I have worn many hats over the years. I worked as a tour guide in Spain, sold my paintings and sculptures when living in Europe, worked as cook, bartender, barista and bottle washer at an Italian Trattoria in the South of Spain, was an artist and artist’s model in both San Francisco and Europe, was an estate caretaker on the island of Hydra in Greece at the time of the overthrow of the government, had a catering business, and worked in many bars, restaurants and small retail businesses along the way. I lived in Europe for most of the ’70’s, then returned to the Bay area and went back to work in journalism related to the music industry. The magazine moved from San Francisco to New York one year in the dead of winter, and I was one of those who decided to remain on the West coast.
My passions: Love nature, love music, love food and wine. Champagne and Caviar? Yes! Reading a good book and doing crossword puzzles are my delights. Art and antiques. Friends. Flowers. Peace n’ Love! Hat parties! Laughter! And Love!
We learned that our volunteers have some special memories, and are only star-struck as an afterthought.
Meet Pattie Riddenour.
My absolute favorite memory of being affiliated with Visit Ventura occurred almost three years ago. I was so privileged to be part of big group of Venturans celebrating three moms for Mother’s Day, organized by Brent of “dude. be nice.” We went to three locations (Serra Cross, City Hall, and the pier) to surprise three moms. The group — 100-plus — wore “Ventura dude. be nice” t-shirts, rang cow bells, sang songs, and generally made three moms really, really happy! Oh, and we got to see Kevin Costner, who was a good friend of one of the moms!
We learned that they like to have fun with the English language, use qualifiers with happy abandon, and are really funny (and wise) parents.
Meet Jan Whitcomb.
I was born and almost raised in Ventura; left for four critical years between 9 and 13… When I was old enough to live on my own, I picked Ventura to live, as it is my jam. Haha. Not really sure how to use the word “jam” in a sentence, but it sounded groovy to me… I like to read, but only if it’s from the Jack Reacher series by Lee Childs. I love to sing, but only for myself. I really like to garden, but only if it doesn’t feel like a chore, and I like to hike, but only if it doesn’t feel like exercise (Just kidding, I love exercise)… My favorite passion is my children, calling them and telling them how things should be done all the time. They love that about me…
We learned that they have had the wind beneath their wings. And that they see the humor in their life’s education.
Meet Diane Van Arsdall.
While living in L.A., I took nine months to travel through Mexico and Central America. While living in San Francisco, I took a year to travel around the globe. And, the pinnacle of my travels and tribulations was sailing from the Caribbean to California.
I have a B.S. in Business/Marketing and an M.B.A. I did all of my academic teaching credential work, but didn’t finish student teaching. I did all of my academic work for a doctorate in education, but didn’t finish chapters 5 & 6 of my dissertation. Currently, I may be the most educated substitute teacher in the Ventura Unified School District.
We learned that they gobble up life, and that they can be surprised too; often on several fronts.
Meet Lyle Hotzler.
I try to play golf twice a week. I also enjoy Tai Chi and Yoga classes and walking on the Promenade and in downtown Ventura. I’m a tour guide on bus trips with the City of Ventura, and I’m active in my church. I also enjoy travel, and I’ve been to all fifty states. Trains and riverboats are my favorite means of transportation and relaxation… I’m also the reason Visit Ventura has established tools to recognize counterfeit bills.
One of my fondest visits was with a couple from Iowa. I found out the lady was a former student of mine!