ANNOUNCING: Mission Motors

Visalia Rescue Mission just announced their new social enterprise: Mission Motors“Driving the ministry of Visalia Rescue Mission, while providing the community with reliable transportation at a great price.”


What started as a soup kitchen in 1981 has transformed into a full-time homeless and recovery ministry serving people just like Henry Leon, ”After I started drinking, that led me back to heroin and meth. It was only a short time later that I ended up back in jail again and looking at life in prison.” 

This was Leon’s life eight years ago before coming to Visalia Rescue Mission. In 2011, Leon graduated from the Mission’s residential recovery program. After graduation, he started to work in the contact office at their men’s shelter, while going back to school for his drug and alcohol counseling certification.

“I had a desire to work with people and show them there is a better way to live life. There is a hopelessness so many in addiction carry.”

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He accepted a position as a counselor for the Mission’s men’s program in January 2012 and married Betsy, also a Mission graduate, the following month. They have been employed with the Mission for the past six years, and now, Henry is taking on the Mission Motors challenge.

“Our thrift department has always accepted vehicle donations, which were sold or recycled to financially benefit the Mission,” said development director, Ryan Stillwater. “Now, we’re just giving it a name and a more tangible purpose.”

While phase one of Mission Motors involves reselling or recycling donated vehicles, the longterm vision is to provide vocational training for the men and women currently enrolled in or graduating from their program — which is appropriately named the Life Change Academy. Ultimately, the Mission wants to evaluate and service donated vehicles on-site.

Executive Director, Al Oliver, has had a diverse career in ministry, as well as in business. After seeing a similar automotive operation at Union Gospel Mission in Spokane, WA he was ready to make Mission Motors happen. “Mission Motors will fulfill a longtime goal of ours,” Oliver shared, “to provide our residents and graduates with a whole new skillset that will allow them to provide for themselves and their families.”

Visalia Rescue Mission’s thrift director, Sherri White, shares in the excitement as well, “Spokane’s auto operation showed us a whole new side of a thrift enterprise and our Mission is ready for a new opportunity like this.”

To get involved, you can donate a used passenger vehicle right now. It doesn’t have to be drivable or pretty, as the Mission makes even the most broken of things (or people) into rescued treasures.

To donate a car, click HERE.

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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.