Shirley Ann Vaughn-Merchant, well known in the Sacramento community for her work mentoring at-risk African American women, died Monday of pulmonary fibrosis at Mercy San Juan Hospital. She was 65.
She was active in several organizations, particularly Sistas Helping Sistas.
Mrs. Vaughn-Merchant was born in Galveston, Texas, and graduated from Central High School there in 1964. In 1965 she enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving in the United States and Japan and rising to the rank of sergeant before receiving an honorable discharge in 1972.
In 1973 she moved to Sacramento and during her more than 30-year professional career here she worked at Grant High School, the Franchise Tax Board, the Nehemiah Housing Corporation, the Small Business Administration and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Mrs. Vaughn-Merchant was a devoted member of Faith Fellowship Community Church in North Highlands and also attended Antioch Progressive Baptist Church and Trinity Baptist Church. She was continually involved with programs that develop self-esteem in African American children.
Her daughter Candace Vaughn said her mother's love of children defined her. "She loved being in children's lives and being able to mentor them and help them along the way," Vaughn said.
Mrs. Vaughn-Merchant was particularly active in Sistas Helping Sistas, a Christian mentoring program for young women in crisis. The program partners young women with adult mentors who provide them with support, educational information and opportunities, and basic life skills. Working with this program, Mrs. Vaughn-Merchant mentored hundreds of young African American women. She was affectionately known to others in the program as "Mrs. Shirley."
Mrs. Vaughn-Merchant also served on the board of directors for the Miss Black Sacramento Scholarship Pageant. Johnnie Stewart, assistant director of the pageant, said: "She loved people. No one was a stranger to her. When you became her friend, you were her friend for life. No matter what happened."
As a community advocate she was active in several organizations, including the Sacramento chapter of the NAACP and the Sacramento Urban League.
"Anything that involved kids, she was ready," Stewart said. "She didn't join clubs or anything like that, but she wanted to work with programs that influenced the lives of youth."