Where They Need to Be

My wife woke me before the sun was up on December 20, 2010. Her water broke and our twins were born later that morning. A few days later on Christmas Eve, I was on Mooney Boulevard buying the last little (half-dead) tree left on the lot. I came home to a dark house and decorated the tree so my family would have the most cheerful Christmas morning possible. We hated the thought of waking up at home with our new babies still in Kaweah Delta’s NICU, but weighing in at just three-ish pounds apiece, the twins were exactly where they needed to be.

At Visalia Rescue Mission, our Life Change Academy residents face that reality everyday as they are separate from homes and relationships in order to spend a season on self-care and recovery. They are missing out on their kids’ sporting and school events, birthdays and other milestones in the short-term, to be more present, available, and stable for the longterm. They are exactly where they need to be.

Before coming to us, one of our 2018 graduates, Teresa, was in jail and was facing seven years in prison. “I just opened a bible and started praying,” she told me. “I’ve been clean for 20 months now and I’m going to have a new grandson next month, which I’m excited to be sober for. I feel at peace now, which I didn’t feel before.”

“I’m just thankful to God and to Visalia Rescue Mission.”

For Julie, our Thrift Online Coordinator, her story is a bit different as it involved homelessness, addiction, and nearly froze to death one winter right here on Visalia’s streets. Her daughter pleaded with her, “I need you to be a grandmother! I need you to be my mom again!” Something in her daughter’s plea broke through and Julie never used drugs again from that moment on. For Julie, that moment of desperation was exactly where she needed to be.

Visalia Police Department released their 2017 annual report and I was shocked to see the increase in “Transient Related Calls for Service”. Over the past ten years, the number of calls has increased by 918% (nearly 5,000 additional calls in 2017 compared to 2007). While these calls and the number of homeless are at an all-time high, Visalia’s unemployment numbers are back to early-2000’s levels (7.2%). While the causes of homelessness are often complicated, one thing is clear, there are too many exactly where they are not supposed to be.

With numbers like this, you may be asking yourself: how should we respond as a community? How should I respond personally? How can I be a part of the solution?

We invite you to come alongside us and serve the Teresa’s and Julie’s. Volunteers have an innate ability to convey value towards those they serve. Just by showing up, they communicate to our guests and residents: You matter and I want you to succeed! Interested? Join us on Thursday, March 8th at our next Volunteer Orientation and get the bigger picture. 

Together, we can help others get to where they really need to be.


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.