DaVita® Stories

Yonkers Centers Join Together for a Holiday Food Drive

I grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle and signed my first contract with the Army at seventeen years old. Now I live in New York and have proudly served my country as a medic for eleven years.

The German word for ‘grandmother’ is Ooma and my Ooma was the strongest woman I have ever met. As a Hawaiian woman in the South during the 1950s through the 1990s, she endured a lot of hardships and injustices, but she didn’t let any of it stop her. She became a welder and raised her three children on the basis of love and wisdom.

My Ooma was on dialysis for twelve years. She was so tired after those treatments, but she was grateful for them. The time in that chair receiving dialysis allowed her the ability to create memories with her loved ones. My fondest memory was her teaching me how to cook traditional Hawaiian food and Southern food. Her kitchen always filled with laughter and good food. I still make the Lau Lau pork on special occasions in her honor.

After experiencing great hardships as a child after my Ooma passed away and again as an adult after coming home from a deployment. I also experienced homelessness and hunger throughout my life. The hardest part of being homeless was not knowing how or who could help. I remember stealing packs of ramen noodles and canned spaghetti from the grocery store as a kid to make sure my brother and sister would have food for dinner.

I encouraged my team to support the YWCA of Yonkers’s Thanksgiving Food Drive as a result of my own experiences being homeless. The purpose behind the food drive is to help those in need throughout Yonkers, New York. We collect non-perishable food items like baby food, tuna, corned beef, rice, beans and soups. We also donated two frozen turkeys! This food filled the bellies of the less fortunate in my community which includes the elderly, single parents and children.

Teammates at DaVita Yonkers East Dialysis center, DaVita Yonkers Dialysis center and DaVita Westchester Home Center of Excellence came together as a team to contribute food to help with the food drive. We all came together to demonstrate the DaVita Core Values of Team, Fulfillment and Fun. I am truly grateful for their help and to know that I work with such wonderful people.

In the summer, my teammates and I will be organizing a toiletry drive to include hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine sanitary items, baby wipes and sunscreen. We are also discussing organizing a coat drive late next year. I would like to build upon this idea and add socks, hats and gloves. A friend of mine and I crotchet, and are going to make hats for the needy throughout the year and donate them next winter.

I am grateful for my experiences as they provide me the opportunity to be able to visualize life through different perspectives. I want to show my community that they are not alone. They matter and will not be forgotten.  My Ooma was a wise woman. She would often times say, “Little one, if you can be anything, be kind.” I strive to live by her words.

Sonja Rivera

Sonja Rivera

My name is Sonja Rivera. I am an Army Veteran. I like weightlifting, reading and horseback riding.