Friday, March 23 , 2018, 10:15 pm | Fair 51º


The Working Life: Erin Van Valkenburgh Leads By Example

As president of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the National Charity League, she's helping nurture a spirit of philanthropy in her daughters and other girls

Erin Van Valkenburgh says being at the helm of the Santa Barbara Chapter of National Charity League is a step out of her comfort zone, but that she accepted the role of president to encourage her daughters to welcome opportunities that require a personal stretch.
Erin Van Valkenburgh says being at the helm of the Santa Barbara Chapter of National Charity League is a step out of her comfort zone, but that she accepted the role of president to encourage her daughters to welcome opportunities that require a personal stretch.  (Jenn Kennedy photo /

Philanthropy makes so many things possible. Those willing to give back freely open doors and inspire countless others whose paths they cross. Through both her career and her volunteerism, Erin Van Valkenburgh humbly leads by example.

Raised in Santa Barbara, Van Valkenburgh attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and earned a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and food administration.

Inspired by a family friend, Van Valkenburgh was always interested in pursuing a career in the health-care industry. With a weak stomach for blood, she opted to pursue work as a dietitian instead of a doctor. She completed her general dietetic internship at the University of Minnesota Hospital and Clinic in Minneapolis before returning to work at several hospitals and retirement centers in California.

Today, Van Valkenburgh consults with staff and plans menus for the residents of Valle Verde Retirement Community and Solvang Lutheran Home.

“I have a passion for the elderly and really enjoy helping this spirited population,” Van Valkenburgh said.

She said there are numerous considerations in meal planning for the elderly, including issues with chewing or swallowing, as well as their tendency to isolate or have difficulty cooking and cleaning.

Another passion of Van Valkenburgh is volunteering. She recently took the helm at the Santa Barbara Chapter of National Charity League. Van Valkenburgh said she normally shies away from the spotlight and that taking on the presidential role was a step out of her comfort zone, but she did it to encourage her daughters to welcome opportunities that require a personal stretch.

NCL is a philanthropic organization with a mission to foster the mother-daughter relationship through a commitment to community service, leadership development and cultural experiences. There are more than 160 chapters nationwide with more than 40,000 actively engaged members — women and daughters in grades seven through 12.

Van Valkenburgh joined NCL six years ago with her eldest daughter and has happily continued with her youngest.

“My girls have grown significantly and learned how to be more world citizens,” she said. “They have been exposed to importance of philanthropy, leadership and culture — the three pillars of NCL.”

NCL requires both mothers and daughters to actively participate. Val Valkenburgh said she likes that NCL has introduced her daughters to people outside their circle of friends, while lending a hand to numerous local charities in the areas of arts and culture, critical needs, education and recreation, environment and animals, global and health and human services. Benefiting organizations include Cottage Hospital, Direct Relief International, Girls Inc., the Santa Barbara Zoo and Unity Shoppe. The local chapter, which spans from Goleta to Carpinteria, is 90 strong and volunteered 7,000 hours last year.

In addition to volunteering, NCL also plans various leadership workshops and cultural outings. As a group, they have attended local art, music and dance events. Van Valkenburgh said youth members are encouraged to take on jobs within the organization to learn responsibility and cooperation.

Van Valkenburgh is also a member of the American Dietetic Association, the California Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association. She has been awarded the National Charity League Diane Gilchrist Mother/Daughter Chapter Award for more than 250 volunteer hours and Volunteer of the Year at La Patera School in Goleta for 2004-2005.

The Santa Barbara Chapter of NCL is launching a membership drive. Click here for more information.

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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