Nourishing Marin’s Community: The Transition to Vivalon Café

Nourishing Marin’s Community: The Transition to Vivalon Café 

 

For decades, the Jackson Café has stood as a cherished gathering place for older adults to find community and nutrition in Marin County. Week after week, it has welcomed seniors who gather for lunch, forging friendships, establishing new connections, and enjoying a delectable and affordable homestyle meal. The Jackson Café has become synonymous with warmth, camaraderie, and good food. 

 

On January 2, a new chapter begins with the opening of the Vivalon Café at our Healthy Aging Campus on 999 Third Street in San Rafael, representing a significant stride forward in Vivalon’s mission. This fresh and inviting space will carry forward the legacy of the Jackson Café, embodying cherished traditions, community values, and culinary excellence. It marks not just the continuation but the evolution of a vital community resource. 

 

The Vivalon Café is set to be more than just a place to dine; it aspires to be a focal point for the community, mirroring the attributes that have made the Jackson Café a beloved gathering place over the years.  

Let’s express our gratitude to those who have contributed to the enduring legacy of the Jackson Café while we welcome those who will be carrying on the mission. 

 

Meet Stacy: Jackson Café Culinary Director and Chef 

 

Stacy and her husband, Chuck, entered Jackson Cafe with dreams of transforming it into a bustling hub of culinary delights and social activity. Their vision included elevating the menu, hosting events, and creating a vibrant dining experience. However, their enthusiasm was met with an unexpected twist when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

 

Undeterred by the challenges, Stacy and Chuck developed a to-go model that not only sustained the cafe but also allowed them to serve the community during the pandemic. The Jackson Café became like her home during that time as they served lunch meals to go, provided congregate meals for the county, and delivered emergency services at San Quentin, which earned them a civilian service award from Governor Newsom for their dedication and fearlessness. 

 

For Stacy, Vivalon holds a special place in her heart, especially after experiencing personal losses. It was her mother’s interest in the Italian class at Vivalon that initially connected her to the organization. Throughout her time serving our community in the Café, her ties grew stronger.  

 

“I had a long-term catering client for 20 years,” Stacy recalls. “Every year I would do all of her real estate open houses, holiday parties, summer BBQs, and other catering events. She started developing dementia, and to watch the mind of a woman who was at the top of her game deteriorate was difficult. Seeing how Vivalon, not just as an organization, but individual staff members who went out of their way to help her, was really wonderful.” 

 

Another Jackson Café experience that Stacy fondly remembers is collecting paintings at thrift stores from an unknown artist. “I kept buying them because I just loved them. They were fun and colorful and really wonderful. Well, one day I’m walking through the lounge at Vivalon, and I hear a name get called and it was the name of the artist. As it turned out, I had been collecting his work and hanging it inside the kitchen, and he was one of our clients all along. I brought him into the kitchen to show him how much I love and appreciate his art. It was a completely a happy moment for both of us.” 

 

Through her conversations with members, she began to discover a common theme among older adults—feeling invisible and lacking purpose, particularly among aging women. This realization ignited a bold decision in Stacy. 

 

“I have always had high profile clients—presidents, senators, actors, etc. But here on the opposite end of it, I’m working five days a week in a social service agency. It really started to make me think about my own place in the world and my own aging. The more I talked to our members, particularly our women members, I started to hear the same story again and again. I saw the lonely part of aging. I thought to myself, ‘I’m 65 years old, and I’m starting to feel that same sort of thing.’ Not that I don’t feel well. I feel great. I feel vibrant, but I’m not taken as seriously or command the level of respect I may have 15 years ago. From these conversations with people at Vivalon, I decided I was going to do something completely bold and break the age barrier.” 

 

At 65, Stacy has chosen to pursue her long-time dream of entering the entertainment business. Her role extends beyond providing meals; she and her team create a backstage environment that contributes to the success of every show. Looking ahead, Stacy envisions a future filled with catering for major events in the music business. She will also be staying busy as the in-house caterer at prestigious venues like Chase Center, Oakland Arena, and Stanford and plans to maintain a strong relationship with Vivalon, potentially collaborating on special events and cooking classes. 

 

Stacy’s story is a testament to defying ageism and pursuing one’s passions regardless of societal norms. She encourages everyone to take bold leaps, rise above ageism, and embrace the countless opportunities that life presents. In Stacy’s world, the word “can’t” does not exist; instead, she enjoys making decisions and figuring out how to turn dreams into reality. Her story is a celebration of resilience, passion, and the endless possibilities that come with embracing change, your age, and pursuing your ambitions. 

 

Meet Baptiste Pierru: Vivalon Nutrition Programs Manager 

 

Baptiste Pierru comes on board with almost 14 years of culinary expertise and a passion for creating a positive impact within the community. 

 

Baptiste’s journey into the world of culinary arts began in France at the age of 19, where he spent three years pursuing a culinary degree in cooking and service. Post graduation, his desire to travel the world led him to London, where he honed his skills as a chef in diverse restaurants, including Japanese, British, French, and Italian establishments. His journey eventually led him to the U.S., where he continued to refine his craft in various restaurants. 

 

His transition into the realm of community service started at Sunrise Senior Living, a retirement center. His three years there inspired Baptiste’s passion for helping people in need while managing and working alongside a large team. Baptiste discovered his affinity for the values embedded in nonprofit organizations while managing the kitchen staff and volunteers at Guide Dogs for the Blind.  

 

“I had a great opportunity at Guide Dogs for the Blind, working as a kitchen manager, that opened my eyes to the nonprofit world,” explains Baptiste. “I fell in love with working with nonprofit organizations. It matched my values and reflected how I wanted to be treated and treat people in the workplace. Not only did I gain knowledge about cooking and management, but this was where I started to work with volunteers.” 

 

An exciting chapter unfolded when Baptiste assumed the role of Director of Culinary at Aegis Living in Corte Madera. Managing a team of 30, he not only gained valuable insights into large-scale management but also cultivated strong relationships with residents. Despite his enjoyment of the role, Baptiste found himself yearning for a workplace that aligned more closely with his values. 

 

“I loved my job, but it was hard for me to transition from the nonprofit to the for-profit business,” he says. “I lost some of the values that I like to foster at work, so when I found the opportunity at Vivalon, it seemed to meet all that I was looking for in my work life, including management, working with volunteers, and supporting a great organization with great values.” 

 

Upon his arrival at Vivalon, Baptiste wasted no time immersing himself in the intricacies of the organization. His focus centers on the Vivalon Café at the new campus, where he aims to establish a strong nutrition program.  

 

One of the most notable evolutions at the Vivalon Café is the exciting partnership between Vivalon and Community Action Marin (CAM). The new Vivalon Café will offer a variety of healthy meal options prepared by chefs from CAM’s Central Kitchen and Kitchen Apprenticeship program using fresh seasonal ingredients from its Production Farm. The beautifully plated meals—consisting of hot entrees, sandwiches, salads, and soups—will be served in the café by trained and dedicated Vivalon volunteers. 

 

“Vivalon and Community Action Marin’s mission of serving vulnerable populations are very closely aligned, and we’re thrilled to partner with an organization that shares our values and strong commitment to our community,” says Anne Grey, Vivalon CEO. “Community Action Marin is committed to utilizing fresh, local and seasonal organic foods, and in doing so they support the health and well-being of our members and guests, as well as our local farms and food entrepreneurs.” 

 

Acknowledging the groundwork laid before his arrival, Baptiste commends the meticulous planning and organization led by Stephanie McNally, Vivalon’s Chief Programs Officer. This preparatory work has facilitated a smoother transition and allows him to concentrate on building relationships, particularly with the dedicated volunteers at the Vivalon Café.  

 

“One of my goals is to reassure the volunteers that they can be comfortable working with me and to communicate any information they need about the transition,” explains Baptiste. “Understandably, there are concerns, and I want to be the voice of comfort. Actually, I have worked with some of the volunteers at other organizations. I knew they worked at Vivalon, but I didn’t reach out to them before I arrived so seeing me in person at Vivalon was a surprise. We were all excited and happy to see each other. On the first day, we shared some great memories. Their prior experiences with me have helped the rest of the team feel more comfortable, and it created an atmosphere for open communication from the start.” 

 

As Baptiste takes the reins as Nutrition Manager, he looks forward to fostering a safe and welcoming environment for Vivalon’s members.  Baptiste Pierru’s deep-seated passion for culinary arts, combined with his broad experience and dedication to community engagement, makes him an invaluable contributor to Vivalon’s pursuit of fostering healthy aging and overall well-being. 

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