VALLEY CENTER, Calif. — There's nothing like having great neighbors. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Valley Center to test my comfort zone with some comfort food.
"We enjoy helping others. We enjoy trying to give to others," said Guy Venuti.
He was sitting next to his wife Ri under a gazebo in their beautiful home garden.
I went to Valley Center because I heard about Ri's legendary rice pudding but first the couple told me about how deep their spirit goes. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Guy and Ri Venuti ran toward the heartache as volunteers on a federal disaster team.
"It was a heart wrenching experience," said Ri who as a psychologist who was called upon to comfort critically ill people until they died. "I fed people through tubes I changed diapers, whatever needed to be done I did," said Ri.
Which even included asking her husband to help her place the deceased into body bags.
"That is still right there it's just something you don't want to see, and we saw it over and over and over again," said Guy.
The Venutis figured if they could help strangers, why not continue that love back in San Diego?
"Absolutely. We are blessed to have this home," said Ri.
Their property used to be an avocado orchard owned the Disney Family and the Venutis welcome their neighbors to walk this 7-acre wonderland and take what they want.
They have a 'Garden of Giving' where they insist their neighbors peruse then pick whatever they want.
"The most beautiful people, the most caring, giving, loving people," said Connie Cross.
She is a longtime friend who enjoys the healthy hand outs but prefers the sweet stuff.
"Ha! The rice pudding ministry. Oh this lady is known for her rice pudding," said Connie who attends St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church with the Venutis in Poway.
When neighbors are down in the dumps, Ri delivers her cure all comfort food.
"Oh here you go," said Ri while handing me a bowl of her dessert.
I didn't have the heart to tell her that I can't stand the stuff. Until now.
"Wow," I said while gobbling the treat down. "Not even for a news story would I devour a whole bowl if I didn't like it!"
Whether it's helping a city underwater like New Orleans or telling friends to help themselves, we could all use neighbors like these. I have to think if their property was owned by the Disney family then that makes their home the happiest place in Valley Center.
"There you go, it's our happiest place for sure," said Guy and Ri.
Guy and Ri have been married for 42-years and yes they'll even share their rice pudding recipe. If you're interested send me a message on my Zevely Zone Facebook Page and I'll pass it along.