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NEIGHBORS / SHORT TAKES : Fun on the Water : After two years of waiting, visually impaired students take a boat trip in the Santa Barbara Channel.


It was the culmination of two years of anticipation when a group of visually impaired students from Ventura County gathered at the Ventura Harbor, boarded an Island Packers charter boat and headed out for a day in the Santa Barbara Channel.

The 17 students, ages 5 to 14, came from the Oxnard, El Rio, Hueneme, Oceanview and Pleasant Valley school districts. And only two had ever been out on the water before.

While the students were on the water, several whales played nearby.

"For two years we've been doing fund-raisers," said Yvonne Rodriguez, the Braillist at McKinna School in Oxnard. "We sold hot dogs and chili dogs and had parents bring in donations." Rodriguez said the Pleasant Valley Lions and the Santa Barbara Eagles also helped cover the $750 total cost.


We were under the impression that you folks read our newspaper cover to cover, cherished it and then saved it for posterity--maybe locked it away in some vault somewhere.

Well, that's what we assumed until we heard about the Press Gang. Little did we know what happens to our newspapers after they leave our hands.

The Gang, established in 1986, is a group of about 20 seniors, men and women living in the Hillview Estates housing complex in Santa Paula. Each Thursday morning the male Gang members go around collecting old newspapers that have been stacked in front of Hillview residences.

"(Thursday) is the same day the garbage is picked up," said Gang President Marjorie Engesser. "People put the newspapers out beside the garbage in brown paper sacks and the men take them to the clubhouse."

At the clubhouse, the women flatten the newspapers and roll them into 30-pound cylinders. When a ton's worth of those cylinders have been collected, the men hop into their pickup trucks and bring the newspapers down to Oxnard's Liberty Floral shop, which is owned by Engesser's son John. John buys the newspapers and uses most of them to wrap his flowers. The rest he sells to other florists.

And what happens to all that money being collected?

It goes to local organizations in need of funds.

"We've given to the hospice, Meals on Wheels, the Ventura Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army," Marjorie Engesser said. Most recently, the Gang donated $500 to struggling Santa Paula Memorial Hospital.

Newspaper wrap-up: Engesser estimated that since it got into the newspaper-recycling business, the Gang has collected about 95 tons of the stuff.

"Every once in a while, someone offers to bring us more paper," she said. "Well, this is just about all us old people can handle."


Care for a Malcom X-presso?

The high-octane beverage will be on the menu at Charley Brown's restaurant in Ventura on Monday, during the establishment's third annual Oscar Party. Guests will have the chance to win prizes by selecting the evening's Academy Award winners.

To get folks into the movie mood, foods and drinks will undergo some name changes. There will be an Al Pacino cappuccino, the Hoffa (an extra-large mug of beer), the Frying Game zucchini plate, and so on.

And the dinner is. . . .

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