In recent months, De’Vika Stalling drove around Lompoc looking for “my kids.”
That’s because the mother of one counts the hundreds of youths who attend the United Boys & Girls Clubs programs in Lompoc as her children. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of facilities and programs, she said she missed and worried about them.
It’s that devotion that led to Stalling, 44, recently receiving the Lompoc Valley Woman of the Year Award from the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“I was very shocked,” Stalling said. “I’m still in awe. I’m very grateful. It’s been hard to receive because I feel like I don’t do anything special.
“This is my passion, and I’m just living it out. I’m just doing my part in the world, and I’m just very grateful people think that’s great.”
She said the organization typically serves more than 350 youths a day through various programs.
Stalling said she has worked for the organization for about 13 years, starting as an activity leader at the Hapgood Elementary School site and worked her way up through the ranks to become club director more than three years ago.
The Lompoc Unit is part of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.
When she started with the organization, she also worked as an assistant preschool teacher through another nonprofit organization.
“I wanted to expand and work with different age groups, so I applied for a job here and ended up loving it,” she said, adding that she kept both jobs for about three years.
Youths and issues related to youths extend into her volunteer work.
“I’m all for working with our youth in the community and being an advocate for them,” Stalling said.
She serves as vice president of a new organization, Future, and on the Youth Leadership Lompoc Valley Board of Directors and the student attendance review board for the Lompoc Unified School District.
“I do whatever’s needed, I really do. If it has to do with our youth and investing in them, I’m there,” she said.
Stalling was born and raised in Lompoc and attended Lompoc and Maple high schools. She did not attend the Boys & Girls Clubs as a youth.
“I feel like if I did, it might have saved me from a lot of trouble and less gray hairs on my mother’s head,” she said.
She said she moved away from the Central Coast for 10 years, living in Southern California and enjoying the city life. However, she realized she didn’t want to raise her now 15-year-old daughter, Sydney Douglas, in a large city and returned to Lompoc 15 years ago.
The award comes after months of turmoil for the Boys & Girls Clubs, which had to lay off staff as the pandemic forced the closure of programs.
“My heart dropped because I said, where are all these kids going to go?” she said. “Even through the whole pandemic, I would sometimes drive around town and see if I saw any of my kids. I’m like, ‘I miss them. What are they doing?’ I’m very excited we’re able to open up again.”
Early last year, she received the Pat Warego Award from the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.
“No work is more important than providing mentoring and guidance to our youth and fostering our nation’s further leaders,” Congressman Salud Carbajal said of her new award. “Your work with the United Boys & Girls Club in the Lompoc Valley will leave an impact on generations to come and help shape our community’s future.”
The Lompoc Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 awards were handled virtually because of the public health orders.
In addition to Stalling, other award winners were Lompoc Vision newspaper founder Victor Jordan as Man of the Year, Scott Reardon as Volunteer of the Year, and Superior Home Health Hospice and Senior Services with the Small Business Excellence Award.
“We felt it important to honor the time and commitment of the men and women who make Lompoc a better place, even if a formal banquet wasn’t possible,” Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Amber Wilson said.
Videos about each 2020 award winner can be found on the chamber’s You Tube channel, available by clicking here.