Donnie's Story: "It all started with this place."

11/11/11. This is a date Donnie Wright will never forget.

Graduation Day.

Months before, Donnie would frequent our Mooney Blvd. thrift store, Rescued Treasures. He realized it cost less to purchase our secondhand clothing than to wash his clothes at a laundromat. A store employee began to encourage Donnie to get into our men's program. 

"'You're going to be fine,' she would tell me, just do what they tell you to do."

Donnie came to VRM on his 50th birthday in 2010. For some, living in the program with men you have never met is less than desirable, but as Donnie had been living in his van, our program was a welcome change.

"It all started with this place," Donnie tells me. "It was the first time I'd ever committed to anything. I decided to give it a year to see if this God is real."

If you press Donnie as to how he ended up living in his van and needed a program like ours, he simply says, "Everything. I did everything wrong. I was a just a loner that didn't believe in anything. But I grew up when I was 50." Some examples of his "growing up" was negotiating a 50% reduction in his DMV fines. "God is always going to meet me halfway."

Another transition into adulthood is increasing his credit score from 427 to 676 (between 2010 and 2015) and lowering the interest payment on his truck from 24% to 8%. This is due, in part, to having successfully landing a job upon leaving the program. 

"I was promoted after three months for implementing the same principles as the program like structure and discipline. I'm still in the program in many ways."

For the past three years, Lowe's has been the perfect constructive outlet for a man with Donnie's charisma and outgoing personality. After being hired to a low level position, Lowe's management quickly saw something in Donnie, and after a few application attempts, he was promoted to a corporate job overseeing the exteriors department for three stores (which has now been increased to five). He is currently the #5 salesperson out of 1,900 nationwide. 

This success pales in comparison to the joy on Donnie's face as he finished his story by sharing about his newfound relationships: "Today, they trust me. I didn't have that before."


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Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.