Welcome! Don and Leslie have been full time Realtors in Ventura County for over 30 years. It's been fun watching as "little" Victoria Avenue (and many other streets) have morphed into what they are today.

Just as our local communities have evolved, we've seriously considered for the past several years how we could someday "give back" and "finish well" - expressions that can mean a lot of things to different people.

As part of our research into opportunities for service, in early 2013 we contacted a Peace Corps recruiter who helped us start our journey. But our new path wasn't going to be as straight and easy as we thought! And so we began a transition into something completely different from the routines we've known for the past 30 years - and have begun a path that's leading into the exciting unknown. This will be our story!

Hurricane Ida – and back to Louisiana

Right on schedule, Ida came up the gulf early September and hit Louisiana (again). Both Leslie and I were called up and it seemed like we were coming back home. This is what we experienced over about 2 months:

This trailer park had just been brought in to New Orleans airport for FEMA personnel temp housing, Covid check-in and testing, and initial staging.

Obliterated trailer. We saw this repeated multiple times.

Walking back to our car towards the end of a day, I stopped to realize this was the frame of a trailer twisted into a pretzel. People told me there were tornadoes inside Ida.

This trailer had been sitting on a raised slab and was totaled.

I never found out the status of the people who used to live in this missing bedroom.

For a lot of people, everything was lost.

Many homes smashed by fallen trees.

Common community scene. Blown shingles everywhere.

Hard scrabble neighborhoods were hit hard.

FEMA Corps interns seeing destruction for the first time.

My partner. Our DSA (Disaster Survivor Assistance) cadre is tasked with going door to door, engaging with the community.

Business, especially the fishing industry, was hit hard. The tide surge left many boats high and dry.

More damage.

A common sight.

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3 covid deployments

At the beginning of the pandemic, FEMA was tasked with setting up mass vaccination sites and our Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) cadre was called up to provide the needed assistance.

Our first assignment was the St. Louis metro area, but technically we were on the other side of the Mississippi in Belleville, Illinois, working with the St. Clair County Health Department which was understaffed for handling the crush of people wanting to get vaccinated.  Our team was set up in the basement of the county’s Emergency Management Office to man the telephones, and in essence, we became a call center for setting appointments, answering questions, etc.

But this was February and we caught a blizzard! Leslie had never driven in snow (SoCal girl) but quickly got the hang of it. Being an old Minnesota guy, it was fun driving through snow drifts again!

Woke up in the morning to find this – but I knew the blizzard was coming and the locals told me to put my wipers up so they wouldn’t freeze!

Basement of the Emergency office.

Because of Leslie’s help, this lady had delivered this orchid plant to the Emergency Office but to Leslie’s regret, we’d already been transferred to Philadelphia. A team mate took this photo and sent it to Leslie.

A few days later…

After about 3 weeks or so setting up and manning the call center, FEMA sent us to work at the downtown convention center in Philadelphia, handling crowd control in the great hall. There was a crush of people wanting their shot. The line extended out the building and down and around the block, but there was almost a festive, party vibe and the crowd was always good-natured and patient. There was a wide row with 5 folding tables on each side with a corpsman from the Navy doing the shots. We helped direct people to the open tables. Frequently, after getting their shot, young women would literally dance their way back up the aisle towards the exit while the waiting crowd clapped, cheered and yelled. Long days, lots of people, but standing all day.

We weren’t allowed to photograph anything inside. This photo came off the internet.  This was when things were getting set up. The AP comment: A COVID-19 vaccination site is set up at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

People wait in line at a FEMA Community Vaccination Center at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This too came off the internet and shows the medics giving the shots. We heard many times they were excellent.

After a month in Philly, FEMA transferred us to Waldorf, MD, just south of Washington, D.C. Each of the three mass vaccination deployments were so different from each other. Waldorf was our first (and only) drive-up deployment. And – this is where we both finally got our shots! Our job was to verify appointments and verify basic medical information with the occupants. After we “cleared” them, they were directed to the next set of tents were the actual shots were given. Nobody got out of the car. Shots could be given through both sides of the vehicle and it was not unusual to have 4 people in a car.

Don slacking off as usual!

Don and Leslie verifying information and answering lots of questions.

Don working with a client.

We worked 7 days a week, rain or shine.

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Hurricane Laura in Louisiana

Both Leslie and I were called up by FEMA to serve in southern Louisiana after hurricane Laura. We generally are called up together, but are assigned to different teams. Generally, our teams work relatively close to each other so that Leslie and I can share the same hotel. Because of damage to the area, we stayed in New Orleans and commuted 2-3 hours to the southern area of the state.

Unfortunately, hurricanes disproportionately affect the lower socioeconomic portions of any region, and southern Louisiana is no exception with an abundance of mobile homes. But people close to the coast also tried to get further away by moving their RVs north a bit, and riding out the storm, like this Wal-Mart parking lot.


Wal-Mart parking lot.

These are just some examples of mobile home structural protection (or lack thereof) in a hurricane and why people try to flee…

This was someone’s home.


Rips the wall off, but leaves the sofa.


Utterly obliterated.


This was originally an RV people were living in.

But sometimes bad things happen in addition to the direct damage from the hurricane.

This tree was a bull’s eye on this home.


The right part of this house is simply gone.

Our Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) cadre, at the beginning of every disaster, works 7 days a week from 7am to 7pm (sunrise to sunset), for the first several weeks. Then the hours are cut to 10 hours a day, then about after a month plus or so we get one day off.  On her day off Leslie and some other teammates visited a former plantation in Thibodaux that is now a working tourist attraction. We love seeing America on our various deployments!

Leslie at an old entrance to the plantation.


Former slave quarters.

An old boiler used for the sugar cane.

Leslie and her teammates.


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Huge Mississippi river flooding in the delta

Here it was during what should be flooding season from a hurricane, but the mighty Mississippi had significantly flooded earlier in the spring and summer putting the counties of Warren, Issaquena and Sharkey under water.  The water was still standing 3 months and longer in some areas.  Standing high over the dock and gazing at Louisiana far across the river, it was hard to fathom that the water was over 3 feet deep where I was standing – just outside a small, hidden country hangout for the locals.

I loved this deployment. Leslie wasn’t with me on this deployment, but one aspect of being Reservists with FEMA is that Leslie and I love seeing America, not as tourists passing through, but living and working with the locals.  Mississippi has MEMA (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency) and I loved working with them as they introduced me to delta life.

Only in Mississippi did  work daily, out in the field, with the State’s emergency first responders. On all my other deployments in other states FEMA worked in the field by ourselves, in our 8 person teams, out in the communities affected by the disaster.

Because we were working with MEMA, they knew the back country local places, far off the beaten path of outsiders. This is where we frequently came for lunch.

We also work frequently with sharp young people who are interns under FEMA Corps, a part of the AmeriCorps program (like the Peace Corps which is overseas, AmeriCorps is working within the US).

Because the river frequently floods, all houses are built on stilts. Small hamlets are called “fish camps” where a half dozen or so homes are built close to the river.

I like to learn about the history of the area, the major income sources of work for the community, to hear the culture of the community. The delta is a rich source of Americana, good and bad, that has occurred over the centuries.

Meeting our MEMA partners everyday in Vicksburg, I drove past the huge Vicksburg National Military Park where the decisive battle was fought for control of the Mississippi. Because extensive details were kept of the battle between the Confederates and Union, it is known where individual men died in the battle that raged for days, and they were buried where they fell. Today, one can drive through the park and see how the battle ebbed and flowed, read all the highly detailed descriptions of the various States’ units that fought in that battle, and see an “Ironside” that was recovered from the mud of the river and now rests at the entrance of the Park.

And it’s said Teddy Roosevelt got his nickname here!

We learned about cotton, watched it being harvested, taken to the gin mill and how it’s sold around the world.

I learned a lot about America on this deployment!

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Hurricane Michael – Florida

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle in the middle of October while Leslie and I were working in North Carolina. FEMA transferred Leslie to Tallahassee and I was just south of Alabama in Marianna. There were no hotels available so I stayed in Dothan, Alabama, and commuted everyday.

The primary damage in the area was snapped in-half pine trees. I learned on this deployment that it was very common for families to have maybe 40 acres of land planted in pine trees for future harvest. They were considered inheritances for future generations. But Michael wiped it all out and made those long term (40 years) investments worthless.

More snapped trees…

We had Thanksgiving day off so Leslie invited me to come down to Tallahassee where she had Thanksgiving dinner waiting for me!

One crazy thing on this deployment was time zones.  When my team worked in the small town of Sneads, it straddled time zones between Eastern and Central – literally.  We could watch our cell phones switch times just by walking a short distance. Why the locals put up with that I have no idea!

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Don's building a replica of a 1930s era biplane at Camarillo airport. Over the past several years, he's had numerous students help in building the plane. Track the Tiger Moth progress here!