Staff

Deborah Johnson
President/CEO
deb.johnson@cavaf.org

Vanessa Williams
Executive Director
vanessa.williams@cavaf.org

Ashley Hulcy
Program Director - Supportive Service for Veterans and Families 
ashley.hulcy@cavaf.org

Marianela Rios
Program Director - Grant Per Diem
marianela.rios@cavaf.org

Deborah Johnson

Deborah Johnson is the President/CEO of the California Veterans Assistance Foundation. She is an honorably discharged Wisconsin Army National Guard veteran with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

Deborah enlisted in the Wisconsin Army National Guard in 1985 as a senior in high school and reached the rank of Sergeant (E-5).  She was with the 107th Maintenance Company and served 9 years and 9 months.  She served during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm from Aug 1990 to Aug 1991 where she received the Army Commendation Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal and the Liberation of Kuwait Medal. In addition, she was Troop Command Soldier of the Year for 1987 and received the Wisconsin Guard and Reserve Military Achievement Award.

Deborah started her career with homeless veterans in 1996, as an Office Manager working at the Veterans Assistance Center at Fort McCoy, WI for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.  In the fall of 1996, the Veterans Assistance Foundation (VAF) took over operations of the homeless programs and she was promoted to Executive Director in 1999 where she stayed until January 2009.

In January 2009, Deborah transferred to the California Veterans Assistance Foundation in Bakersfield and was named President/CEO in December of that year.

Professional Affiliations:

  • VFW District 6 Commander (16-17)
  • Homeless Veteran Committee Chairman, VFW, Dept of California (3rd appt.)
  • Education and Training Committee, VFW, Dept of California (15-17)
  • State Surgeon, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Department of California (14-16)
  • Past All-State Post Commander, VFW Post 1468, Bakersfield
  • 2016 Humanitarian of the Year – Community Action Partnership of Kern
  • 2015 Igniting Hope Award – Stewards Inc.
  • By-laws and Manual of Procedure Committee, VFW National Convention (2015)
  • National Aide-de-Camp, Veterans of Foreign Wars (2012, 2013, 2015)
  • Chairman, Women Veterans Advisory Committee
  • Member At Large, Kern County Homeless Collaborative (Veteran Representative)
  • Member At Large, Past Chairman, Kern County Veterans Collaborative
  • Board Member, Kern County Network for Children
  • Board Member, California Association of Veteran Service Agencies (CAVSA)
  • Co-chair, Kern County Veterans Stand Down
  • Board Member, VFW Foundation
  • Board Member, VETFUND Foundation
  • Member, California Women Veterans Leadership Committee
  • Member, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV)

Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams is the Executive Director of California Veterans Assistance Foundation.  She is a Bakersfield native and has a Bachelors of Science in Human Services Management.  Vanessa is a mother of four children, two girls and tow boys; one child with Down's Syndrome.

Vanessa has worked within the nonprofit industry for the past 13 years. She has dedicated the focus of her career with improving the quality of life within Kern County, primarily the disabled population. Thus applying herself to ensure that all Kern County residents’ needs and goals are not forgotten within the gaps of the economy. Vanessa Williams joined CVAF in 2015 as a Case Manager for Step Up, TIP, and Rally Point programs. In late 2015, Vanessa attained the role as Program Director. She had the opportunity to work closely with upper management and expand on her knowledge of CVAF’s purpose within Kern’s Homeless Collaborative.

In December 2016, Vanessa was promoted to Executive Director. In her professional endeavor, she works closely with local community service providers and VA partners to end veteran homelessness.

Professional Affiliations

Kern County Homeless Collaborative

Coordinated Entry and Assessment Committee Chair

Kern County Call to Action-Healthy Kern

National Down Syndrome Society 


Ashley Hulcy

Ashley Hulcy is a Bakersfield native and is an honorably discharged Navy Veteran working towards her Bachelor of Science in Human Services with a concentration in Management degree from the University of Phoenix (30 Units remaining)

Ashley enlisted in the United States Navy in 2007 as a Boatswains Mate, she was assigned to the mighty war ship, USS Nimitz out of San Diego Ca. While attached to the Nimitz she was forward deployed, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from October of 2009 to August 2010. She deployed in the Western Pacific in show of force 2007-2008, she has completed numerous other missions during her 4 years of active service and continues to contribute to United States Navy service as an active enlisted service member in the U.S. Navy reserves; Naval Air Station Lemoore Ca. Through a combination of Active and reserve service she has 10 years of military experience.

Ashley started her career with the California Veterans assistance foundation in February of 2014 as a case manager under the Gant and Per Diem programs. In December of 2014 Ashley was promoted to Program Director for GPD and had been overseeing the operations of the GPD Programs unit June of 2017

Ashley voluntary transferred to the SSVF program June 2017 and is excited to continue to contribute to the outstanding mission of the California Veterans assistance foundation. As a Veteran helping other Veterans.

Professional Affiliation’s

VFW Post 97  Bakersfield, CA

United States Navy Reserve 


Marianela Rios

Marianela Rios is an honorably discharged Marine veteran from Newark, New Jersey.

She enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1985 following her graduation from Barringer High School. After graduating boot camp, she was assigned to the 2nd Supply Battalion based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During the course of her military career, Marianela reached the rank of Corporal (E-4), and following her honorable discharge in 1990, Marianela continued her service in the reserves until 1993.

Soon after moving to Bakersfield in 1998, Marianela worked as a correctional officer for the state. In 2000, she transferred to California City Corrections Center, a federal facility for US Marshall and Immigration inmates. She quickly moved up the ranks and was promoted to Counselor, followed by Drug Treatment Specialist.  From 2001 - 2008 she supervised the Life Quest Substance Abuse Program.  Marianela was then promoted to Case Manager and continued working with California City Corrections until 2013.

Marianela’s service with California Veterans Assistance Foundation began in 2016 as a Case Manager with the Step Up, TIP, and Rally Point programs.  In 2017, Marianela was promoted to Program Director for the Grant and Per Diem programs.