Meet Erika: Vivalon’s Nutrition Manager Who is Making a Tremendous Difference for Our Homebound Neighbors
After her grandmother died in 2013, Erika Vaughn spotted a Craigslist job posting for a Meals on Wheels driver at Vivalon. She remembered when her grandmother received such kind care from Vivalon as they delivered her meals and helped her with transportation to her day programs. “I decided this would be a good way for me to give back,” Erika explains.
Erika applied as a driver, and nearly 6 years ago she became Vivalon’s Nutrition Manager. She now oversees two of our most critical programs: Meals on Wheels and Vivalon Nourish. Every day, she ensures homebound older adults and people living with chronic health conditions receive meals, delivered to their doorsteps by her team of drivers.
She starts her day at 6:30 am, getting the meals ready, checking the routes, and taking phone calls from clients. “I’m very hands-on, even as a manager,” says Erika. “I want to connect with the volunteers – they make my day because they are all special people. What I like best about my job is making sure that our older adult recipients receive proper nutrition that helps them age with dignity. I go to work each morning knowing I am going to be able to help people. And when I go home at the end of the day, I know I have done something meaningful to improve the lives of others.”
Erika is a wonderful mother of four, a loving daughter, and an inspiration to everyone she meets—from clients to coworkers. “I’ve worked with Erika for 10 years,” says Yvonne Roberts, Vivalon’s Chief Donor Relations Officer. “She is one of the staff at Vivalon who truly embody what it means to give selflessly. She inspires me and our supporters; we have even had donors make their gift in her honor to recognize her dedication. She is so committed to the Meals on Wheels mission and is driven to change people’s lives for the better through her tireless efforts to personally guarantee that if someone in need calls, they will get a meal that same day.”
Even as the pandemic caused a food insecurity crisis, Erika’s commitment never wavered. “I was signing up a Nourish client for a Monday delivery,” Erika recalls. “She told me that she had no food to get her by until Monday and asked if we could just get her something to eat for the weekend. I told her let’s hurry and finish the application and that I promised that I would bring her a few meals and some fresh fruit. She then said, ‘Can I ask you something, but I’m so embarrassed,’ I told her she could ask me anything, and then she said that she was down to her last 4 tissue paper because she’d been using tissue since she ran out of toilet paper. I told her to go no further, ‘I got you.’ I packed her meals and some toilet paper and drove over to her house. When I gave her the package, she started crying and said, “You don’t even know me but here you are.” I told her that she’s now a part of our Vivalon family and that we would see her on Monday.”
As it turns out, a neighbor had seen Erika drop off the food, and they stopped her as she was leaving the client’s house. The neighbor told Erika that Vivalon was a lifesaver. “I was in tears when I drove away,” says Erika.
Vivalon’s home-delivered meals truly change lives, and it’s all thanks to Erika and her remarkable team. Combatting food insecurity will always be one of our highest priorities, which is why we celebrate March for Meals. It’s one of the most important times of the year for our program as we remember the historic national nutrition program for seniors that was brought forth in 1965, which cast light on the needs of older adults. Today, these meals are more critical than ever.
If you would like to support March for Meals, you can donate here or sign up to become a volunteer here. You can also shop at United Markets. When you use your reusable bag, United Markets will give you $.05 that can be donated to Vivalon. A portion of sales of See’s Candy at their stores will be donated as well. Visit them in San Rafael or San Anselmo to support March for Meals.