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NEIGHBORS / SHORT TAKES : Civic Pride : The Onyx Club will present nine Afro-American girls to the community at its 30th annual ball.


Nine girls from throughout the county, ages 16 to 17, are busy these days preparing for the Feb. 27 debutante ball sponsored by the 20th Century Onyx Club of Oxnard. It will be the group's 30th annual ball.

The club was founded 32 years ago as an offshoot of a Miss Bethel Contest of the Bethel A.M.E. Church. The Onyx Club soon set out "to provide cultural, social and intellectual opportunities for the development of the youth of our community." The group provides a scholarship each year to help a girl continue her education.

Have there been any changes of philosophy since the early days? "They had the same goals then as they have now," club President LaRita Montgomery said. "We're making sure that African- American young ladies are being introduced properly and are sharing cultural experience they wouldn't have gotten elsewhere."

Montgomery said the girls benefit from taking part in community service, family activities and other social events leading up to the ball. "I think they will become better people, better women, if nothing else," she said. "They will become better community people--not so selfish."

For more information on the ball, call 983-8016.

Onyx addendum: There's one family that's particularly geared up for the ball. And well they should be. With the participation this year of Amber Holloway, the family will have had five debutantes through the years.

Holloway's aunt, Edith Koontz, was one of the first Onyx debutantes. Then came her two sisters, followed last year by niece Renee Johnson.

"The times--as far as education is concerned and striving for education and having the ability to go to college--that hasn't changed in the last 30 years. It really hasn't," Koontz said. "Youth just need to be presented with ideas. They need to be assured that they can make it."

In these tough economic times, it's nice to know that, beginning Saturday, Girl Scout cookies will be on sale--for the same price as last year.

We don't know about you, but we can take some responsibility for the 495,902 boxes sold by Ventura County Scouts last year. And we plan to be involved in this year's sales, at least when it comes to those peanut butter sandwich things.

If a bird in the hand is really worth two in the bush, a group of visitors from Santa Barbara should have their hands full Friday.

About 25 people will be spending the morning bird-watching at the Ventura Game Preserve, at the northwest corner of the Point Mugu Naval Air Station.

Paul Collins, a naturalist from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, will be the group leader. He said the 500-acre freshwater habitat daily attracts thousands of migratory waterfowl--including ducks, geese, gulls and terns.

"When the birds are out on the water, they are protected from terrestrial predators," he said. "Coyotes don't like to get wet."

While there, the ducks can forage and feed, storing up for the remainder of their migration.

Collins said the 80-year-old habitat, consisting of man-made ponds, was formed by a group of farmers who wanted a place to hunt ducks. "It's the only private duck-hunting reserve in the central coast area," he said.

The Buenaventura Art Assn. gallery is alive and well.

For some folks, this announcement is old news. For others, it may come as a major surprise.

It seems that since the Momentum Gallery shut down last month, folks at the Buenaventura Art Assn. gallery have received a number of calls wondering why they are closing. The confusion? Well, the Momentum Gallery is run by the Ventura Arts Council. See the problem?

"Ventura Arts Council sounds like Buenaventura Art Assn.," said Betts Waite, a member of the latter, which has been around for 27 years. "There are so many newcomers to the town and so many in the east end that never come down this way. They get mixed up."

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