Jim Palmer

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NAME:  Jim Palmer
HOMETOWN:  Tustin
PROFESSION:  President, Orange County Rescue Mission

“Hello, my name is Jim Palmer, and my dream is for everybody to work to improve their community - one neighborhood at a time. Ultimately, that will have the most significance in this world.”

Jim Palmer knows what an impact a simple offer of help can have on a person, and he wants to see communities come together around this idea.

Palmer’s drive started when he was just 14. A family who lived down the street from his Newport Beach home suddenly became homeless.

“I called my teachers, my school principal, I even called city hall. Nobody could help, so I said, if nobody’s going to do it, I’ll just do it.”

That instinct has guided his life. Palmer is now president of the Orange County Rescue Mission, the largest non-profit faith-based organization in the county helping the homeless.             

In his 20 years as the mission’s leader, he’s created stability instead of temporary solutions for the homeless in Orange County.

“When I first started, this place was beat up, run down and depressing,” Palmer said. “People were just being temporarily warehoused.  I didn’t see hope or an opportunity for life change.”

“Now we’ve got the Village of Hope—formerly the Tustin Marine Corps Air Base—a campus with resources to help people get back on their feet. We’re opening facilities in the Corona/Norco area. We opened a rescue mission in the Temecula/Murrieta area. We’ve launched the first mobile legal clinic, and we’ve started outreach in Southern Orange County.”

Palmer became the first and only American citizen to hold three levels of government simultaneously—while chair of the Orange County Housing Authority, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to oversee AmeriCorps Vista; and most recently he served on the Tustin city council.

“The other roles allowed me to keep a better perspective and have a high level of partnership.”

But, Palmer’s work is not done. He says communities need to partner to operate these programs, not governments or large institutions.

“It’s not about the dollars or number of facilities. It’s about the lives we’ve been able to touch and help change. That’s my focus and should be the community’s, as well.”

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