Altrusa (From left to right) Dorothy Huston served as president 1968 to 1970 of the Altrusa Oxnard chapter; Anne Mena was president from 1978 to 1980 and 1986 to 1988.

Raising hope

Oxnard’s Altrusa International chapter celebrates 50 years of service

By Chris O'Neal 04/24/2014

In 1964, several historically significant things happened: Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in South Africa; and in Oxnard, a chapter of the Altrusa International organization began. Now the club will celebrate 50 years of community service that stretches far beyond the county line.

Mary Ann Foushee is the president of Oxnard’s Altrusa International chapter. The Oxnard club with 25 members is part of District 11, which encompasses California, Arizona, Hawaii and parts of Baja Mexico as well as Sonora, Mexico, and soon will cover Nevada. For Foushee, the club’s dedication to the community is just as important as working internationally.

“The main focus of Altrusa International is literacy, not only for children but for adults as well,” said Foushee. “Anything that will help promote someone to advance in their career goals, be literate and have a better life through education is important.”

Altrusa International began in 1917 in Nashville, Tenn., as a service club for professional women. In 1987, the club opened up for men as well and shifted focus to provide literacy programs and service projects worldwide. There are chapters in the United Kingdom, India, South America and elsewhere. Maxine Thorne, a Ventura County businesswoman, was the Oxnard chapter’s first president in 1964.

For the year 2013, the Oxnard chapter raised $6,000 for various scholarships benefiting both Oxnard and Moorpark Colleges, California State University, Channel Islands, and the Regional Occupation Program in Camarillo.

Elizabeth Cornejo has been with Altrusa International for a little more than a year. Three years ago, she began fundraising to assist a high school and hospital in her home town of Quilalí, Nicaragua. After joining Altrusa, Cornejo raised another $500 to purchase projectors and other materials for the high school that her family still attends.

“This is my town, this is where I grew up,” said Cornejo. “For my nephews and nieces, this is the school they’re going to go to. If I’m able to help even a little bit, it’s not only helping my family but helping my community.”

Foushee says that she joined Altrusa seven years ago in order to better be able to volunteer and assist, whether that be through providing lunch for Special Olympics participants, volunteering at the regional food banks or even funding the sound system that permeates downtown Oxnard’s Plaza Park. Another aspect that often gets overlooked is in the lasting relationships made with other members, said Foushee.

“You make a lot of lasting friendships and that’s important as well,” says Foushee, “not the fair-weather friends, but the friendships that last through thick and thin.”

The 50th anniversary luncheon will be a celebration of the many decades of Altrusa in Oxnard. Videos commemorating the founding members will be presented and discussions will be held on future projects. For Foushee, Altrusa is both of the community and beyond it, encompassing all manner of altruism.

“You can work with cancer, you can work with ALS, food drives, anything of that nature and any basic service need of the community,” says Foushee. “I’m really happy to be a member.”

The 50th anniversary luncheon will be held on Saturday, April 26, from noon to 2:30 p.m, at the River Ridge Golf Course, 2401 W. Vineyard Ave., Oxnard. For more information on Altrusa International and the local Oxnard chapter, visit


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