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    Former homeless man finding purpose and friendship at Fanuel Park
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Nov 17, 2019 | 660 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Matthew Israel Christian at Fanuel Street Park in Pacific Beach.
    Matthew Israel Christian at Fanuel Street Park in Pacific Beach.
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    Once homeless, Matthew Israel Christian has found a new home — and purpose — in a most unlikely spot: Fanuel Street Park in Pacific Beach. Christian (name legally changed), a New Jersey native, routinely spends his daytime hours cleaning the park on the bay at 4000 Fanuel St. A cross between goodwill ambassador and landscaper, Christian daily sifts playground sand to remove debris, rakes lawns and picks up trash.  Speaking with the very Christian Matthew about Fanuel Park, you quickly grasp the park means a lot more to him than most. “I do feel at ease here, at home,” he said. “It’s a great energy place. It’s very peaceful. If you show up on a day like this where the bay is glistening, kids are happy, and everything seems like it’s right in the world — that’s when you realize this place is special.”  Added Matthew: “I like this kind of work. It's kind of Zen-like where a person can just forget about their problems.” Would Matthew like being compensated for his volunteerism? “I don’t know if I feel comfortable getting paid for this, to be honest with you,” he replied. Matthew takes park uncleanliness personally. “To see the sand being inundated with tree debris, it’s kind of like having a beautiful home and having it fall to disrepair,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense.” Matthew keeps a scrapbook of cards people have sent him appreciating his clean-up efforts. “If it wasn’t for these people, I don’t know if I could have gotten through being homeless,” he confided. “It’s about hope versus hopelessness. There are people who care. There are a lot of kind people.” Of being unsheltered, Matthew said: “I was homeless sleeping on the sidewalk for 4 1/2 years. That bothered the heck out of my back. I felt like a pariah just because I had financial problems. You’re just trying to find a place, like when it’s raining. It’s very lonely at night. It’s not easy.” By his admission, Matthew has been financially challenged nearly all his life. “My jobs have been mostly driving jobs or lower-skilled manual labor,” he admits, while noting, “I’m 53 years old. I have no criminal record. I’m a normal person coming from a working-class family.” As his friends will attest, Matthew is one of the more atypical unsheltered people you’re ever  likely to run across. “I’ve known Matthew since I moved to PB three years ago,” said Johanna Schnell. “He is a positive, sincere volunteer at the park, focused on keeping the children safe. It goes deeper than sweeping and sifting. When people see Matthew taking care of the park, everyone benefits. His presence truly makes a difference. The park shines brighter when he’s around.”  “He’s just a nice human being,” said Carlee Gee. “He is unassuming, kind, just doing the best he can.”’ “Sometimes, I would bring him food or a backpack of clothes,” said Dorothy Gison. “He gave that backpack to a friend, didn’t use it. He’s very kind, approachable. He’s never asked for money or anything. His neighbors want to help him. We just don’t know how.” “Matthew is a truly special man,” said Peter S., who met Matthew when he moved from Connecticut to PB in 2016 and has since befriended him, offering him both work and lodging. “He has a beautiful soul and a heart of gold… he consistently gives to others less fortunate than himself.” Regarding Matthew’s situation, Peter S. said, “Matthew is challenged in ways that are difficult to define. He’s unable to hold a job, which pays near enough to support him. He has difficulty accepting help.” Nonetheless, Peter S. noted, “Matthew has proved himself 100% trustworthy, takes care of my home when I travel, has a wonderful relationship with my son, drives my car and is a true friend and de facto member of my family.” Of Matthew’s future, Peter noted: “Matthew should be paid to do what he and the community love, caring for Fanuel Street Park. Government ought to find a grant or position that can pay him enough to be on his own for contributing so wonderfully to our neighborhood.” Matthew proposed his own solution for enhancing city parks maintenance. “I’m hoping they’ll start an adopt-a-park program where people could do raking, sweeping or picking up litter,” he said. “It could be like an army of volunteers making our parks cleaner and safer for kids. It would be a great example.” Regarding his status, Matthew said, “Maybe this is my lot in life. I’m not crazy. Right now I have housing. I’m able to contribute and make a difference. I guess I have to count my blessings. I have faith in the creator, the savior.”  Asked the purpose of life, Matthew answered, “To be a blessing to yourself … and a blessing to other people.” Matthew tithes at least 10% of the money he makes or people give him, to worthy charities.  “That’s what life’s about … being part of the solution,” he concluded. “That’s what’s taught in scripture, being a steward of wherever you are on the planet.” Want to help? Neighbors and Pacific Beach residents can come together to help Matthew Israel Christian at gofundme.com/f/matthew317.
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    Pacific Beach artist turns seasoned surfboards into precious paintings
    by VICTORIA DAVIS
    Nov 16, 2019 | 5147 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Pacific Beach native JohnMichael Becker is a surfboard street artist.
    Pacific Beach native JohnMichael Becker is a surfboard street artist.
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    The kitchen, an art studio. The street, a gallery. At least, that’s the case for JohnMichael (Mike) Becker, a Pacific Beach native, and surfboard street artist. “It’s a lot more intimate working outside where people can watch,” said Mike, who makes a business out of taking old, unusable surfboards and turning them into works of art. “People are more likely to come up to you and ask about what you’re working on and why.” While his most common workspace is on the north side, anyone cruising along La Jolla Cove will likely catch a glimpse of Mike hard at work, taking acrylic paints to board and creating scenes of sailboats in the sunset, sharks coasting near the shores and sea turtles gliding above coral reefs. Mike often takes requests on the spot from passerby-turned-customers, as well as lets his younger audiences help with painting the coral reefs. “I’ll let the kids grab the brush and dab a little on the reefs and they get super excited,” said Mike, who was also recruited last year to paint the mural on the side of Ohana Café on Pearl Street. “My nephews and nieces have done parts of my paintings as well.” Mike, who typically charges between $500 and $700 for his boards depending on size, has also been brought a handful of snapped boards. For one, he turned the board’s break into a massive shark bite. “The great whites have been out here since I was a kid,” said Mike. “They’re residents. That’s why I paint them as well.” Mike, age 59, also paints more abstract and unconventional scenes on boards, such as Eddie Van Halen with his Frankenstrat above an exploding a volcano. Mike’s artistic inspirations stem not only from growing up in Pacific Beach during the ’60s and ’70s – swimming with the bat rays in Mission Bay at Crown Point – but also derives from Mike and his wife Julie Becker living in the Hawaii countryside for 20 years, “embraced by the islands, the people and the ‘Aloha’ culture.” “He has always looked for different things to paint on, like shells and old picture frames,” said Julie. “When Mike started doing surfboards, that’s when things went crazy. Everyone wanted one. But I can’t say I’m surprised because he’s been an amazing artist from the beginning.” Mike, who has been “doodling in the books” since Crown Point Jr. Elementary, added, “I used to give everything I made away as gifts to people. It was Julie who inspired me to turn this into a business.” When Mike and Julie moved back to Pacific Beach four years ago to be closer to family, Mike was quick to turn his home on Pacific Beach Drive into both an art studio and a place friends, family and perfect strangers could come to purchase painted boards, shells, motorcycle helmets, and picture frames. Mike puts his painted surfboards out on the front lawn with a window sign that reads, ‘Surf art for sale.’” Anyone is also welcome to walk through the house and into the back yard where mike sands and primes the boards before painting. “We live right next to a stop sign and so people have to stop their cars anyway,” said Julie, an artist herself who creates leather purses made from cowboy boots and denim pockets, all hand-sewn with dental floss. “I’ve seen people just sitting in their cars looking over here. We’ve even gotten visits from park rangers who just want to watch Mike work.” Mike added, “If I can create a little window that people can look in for a few seconds a day, if not longer, and the painting eases whoever is looking at it, then I’m doing my job. If you look at my work and it makes your heart smile, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do here.”
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    Rickaroons are naturally delicious energy bars made in Pacific Beach
    by VICTORIA DAVIS
    Nov 15, 2019 | 6688 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Chocolate Blonde, with dark chocolate and coconut, is Rickaroons’ bestseller.
    Chocolate Blonde, with dark chocolate and coconut, is Rickaroons’ bestseller.
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    Rickaroons were created by Rick LeBeau.
    Rickaroons were created by Rick LeBeau.
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    From whole-wheat to gluten-free, to totally flourless, Pacific Beach’s energy bar company Rickaroons has spent six years trying to perfect an all-natural macaroon recipe that still tastes all good. “You don’t have to convince someone to eat an apple because it’s gluten-free,” said Grant LeBeau, son of Rickaroons creator Rick LeBeau, and co-founder of the company. “It’s the same for us. Rickaroons have ingredients that happen to be gluten-free. “We’re not an imitation of another product. We didn’t try to reverse engineer bread by putting in 50 filler ingredients to get to a bread-like product. Rickaroons are just naturally gluten-free and naturally delicious.” Rickaroons officially began business in 2013 when Grant and Rick began selling their energy bars — made with shredded coconut, coconut palm nectar, cocoa beans, dark chocolate chips, sunflower lecithin, and blended almonds — at local farmers markets. But the original “Rickaroon” was created 12 years before when Rick set out to make a gluten-free cookie for his girlfriend, who at the time was battling multiple sclerosis. “This was back before we had all these gluten-free options and the doctor said she had to cut out gluten from her diet,” said Grant, who was in middle school at the time. “She told my dad, ‘If you love me, you’ll make me a chocolate chip cookie that I can eat.’” Rick — who was also a vegan triathlete — had a cookie business with his girlfriend called “Ultimate Naturals.” The two shared a love for baked goods and his girlfriend’s request for a wheatless cookie became the foundation of Rick’s Rickaroons. Though Ultimate Naturals was not able to be sustained through the 2008 recession, Rick says he, “never stopped improving the recipe for Rickaroons.” “I would make them as often as I would run out, which was usually every couple of weeks,” said Rick. “And I always had the intention of starting up the cookie company again.” In 2012, Rick and Grant joined forces after Grant graduated from college and collaborated with Grant’s sisters, Stevie and Christina Schweighart to help oversee sales, marketing, graphic design, and accounting. Rick, the team’s only baker, began coming up with new flavors like Megaroons, with chia seeds and cacao nibs, Mocha, with dark chocolate espresso, Peanut Butter Protein with peanut butter, pumpkin seed protein and dark chocolate, as well as Mint To Be. “That one’s my favorite,” said Grant. “It’s our answer to a Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie. But our Chocolate Blonde with dark chocolate and coconut, that’s been the best seller since day one.” “I love them all,” added Rick. “Whichever one I’m eating is my favorite.” The Chocolate Blonde, originally called “The Origaroon” was the prototype Rick gave to his girlfriend as her own, custom-made chocolate chip cookie. While she was able to see Rickaroons gain speed up until 2015, Rick’s girlfriend eventually passed away. Rick and Grant make sure Rickaroons stays connected to its roots, participating in fundraisers such as the Susan G. Koman: Race for the Cure, San Diego County Credit Union Walk MS, and Walk MS: San Diego. Rickaroons is also available at more locations than just on Amazon or the company website. Megaroons, Mint To Bes, and Mochas can all be found at Jimbo’s Naturally!, Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market, Juice Kaboose, and Cardiff Seaside Market. Each box of Rickaroons holds 12 cookies and is priced at $25. Currently, Rickaroons is also working on a nut-free and chocolate-free line of cookies. “It’s funny how there are so many different groups of people that end up gravitating naturally towards Rickaroons,” said Grant. “We’ve had women tell us that we were their food-of-choice during pregnancy and for breast-feeding because our cookies are higher in plant fat and lower in sugar. So, it’s fun hearing who we end up being supported by and who we end up working for.” Grant added: “Like it says on our site, this all starting for ‘love for a strong woman and a healthy lifestyle.’ We’re excited to continue to share our family’s recipe and mission to feed the world in a way that’s good for the planet, good for their bodies and good for their taste buds.” Are Rickaroons a dessert or a healthy snack? Both. Rickaroons were created by Rick LeBeau as a clean-burning energy food for pre or post workouts. Since LeBeau is both a lifelong health-conscious athlete and a lifelong dessert connoisseur, Rickaroons turned out to be a delicious dessert as well. So eat Rickaroons any time of day and feel good about the dietary choice you've made. For more information, visit rickaroons.com.
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    Mission Bay girls tennis nets first league title
    Nov 14, 2019 | 2944 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    The Mission Bay High School girls tennis team.
    The Mission Bay High School girls tennis team.
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    Mission Bay High School girls tennis team won league for the first time in school history on Oct. 15 with the help of coach Trong Tong. Standouts are singles player Ryan Stone who remains undefeated and the doubles team of Amanda Edmunds and Sonja Cayetano, who came in second place.
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    Veterans gather on Mount Soledad to celebrate Veterans Day
    by DAVE SCHWAB
    Nov 13, 2019 | 27097 views | 1 1 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    The San Diego Salute Formation Team airplanes performed a “fleur de lis” flight maneuver at the event for the first time. DON BALCH / VILLAGE NEWS
    The San Diego Salute Formation Team airplanes performed a “fleur de lis” flight maneuver at the event for the first time. DON BALCH / VILLAGE NEWS
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    Military planes painted the sky overhead, the Marine Band San Diego played patriotic tunes, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot presented the colors and a true American hero was honored at the traditional Mount Soledad Veterans Day ceremony Monday, Nov. 11.

    Hosted by the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Association (MSNVM), this year’s ceremony’s special plaque honoree was senior chief petty officer Kenton Stacy and his family. A U.S. Navy volunteer, Kenton chose to be in one of the military’s most dangerous occupational specialties, an explosive ordinance disposal technician. After more than 50 combat missions, Stacy was severely injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in 2017 in Syria. 

    Kenton has received numerous awards for his distinguished valor, including a Purple Heart, two Bronze Star medals and three Navy Achievement medals. In 2010, he was named USO Sailor of the Year.

    Veterans Day on Nov. 11 traces its roots back to World War I, which ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the armistice with Germany went into effect ending the war to end all wars. Originally known as Armistice Day, the U.S. federal holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954. 

    Distinct from Memorial Day, a U.S. public holiday in May honoring those who’ve died in military service, Veterans Day honors all who’ve served, living and deceased, in all U.S. armed services.

    Stacy’s plaque will join more than 5,200 others enshrined on the walls surrounding the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial at 6905 La Jolla Scenic Drive South. Honorees include U.S. presidents, 12 Medal of Honor recipients, generals and celebrity veterans.

    Congress members Scott Peters and Susan Davis presented a proclamation honoring Stacy. Mayor Kevin Faulconer also spoke, noting “the military is in San Diego’s DNA. Today is about coming together as a community to honor these heroes for their lifetime of patriotism and courage serving our nation.” 

    Of the Mt. Soledad memorial, Faulconer said, “It is a special place for all San Diegans. It’s the only memorial in the United States that honors veterans both living and deceased from the Revolutionary War to the war on terror.” 

    Of memorial plaques, Faulconer said, “They put a face to the names of our heroes and captures a moment in time for that veteran, reminding us of their great commitment to our country.”

    Master of ceremonies Marc Bailey quoted immediate past San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman in noting, “Leadership is a shared responsibility. That’s what you have represented up here on every single one of these plaques, and every one of our veterans who’ve ever served this nation. Each and every one is a leader.”

    Sgt. Neil O’Connell, USMC Ret. and president of MSNVM, thanked those assembled for “supporting us in every endeavor.”

    “We should especially thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said O’Connell, who added Wi-Fi is now available at the memorial, “for eventually having a virtual tour created here to give stories about each and every veteran. We also have created an endowment so that this memorial will remain funded  … to teach our youngsters and our citizens about the sacrifices of our veterans preserving their legacy.”

    Keynote speaker was Capt. Oscar Rojas, Commodore Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group One. 

    The ceremony was capped by a performance by the San Diego Salute Formation Team.

    Asked what it means to be a vet and the significance of Veterans Day, Brian T. Grana said, "Vets are thanked profusely for our service on Veterans Day. For me, and in reality, I like thanking the citizens who allowed me to serve and wear the cloth of our great nation. 

    "When thanked, I typically respond with: 'Thank you for paying my salary and being the type of American citizen worth fighting for.' The first part often elicits a chuckle; the second part, a pregnant pause and an 'I will try harder.'"

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