The Justice Coalition consists of community members, pastors, government leaders and agencies, NGOs, church leaders and abolitionists who desire to bring holistic and lasting change to those impacted by human trafficking in the Central Valley.
CVJC is led by Executive Director Ryan Townsend and is accountable to our Board of Directors and Advisory Council.
Meet our Staff
Born to missionary parents, Ryan Townsend grew up overseas, often witnessing extreme poverty up close in cities and villages around the world. He returned to the Fresno area and graduated from Clovis West High School, later earning a B.A. in Communications from Cal State Fullerton. In his early 20s, Ryan gradually became aware that injustice was routinely met with indifference and often buried under ignorance. This realization fueled a lifelong mission of fighting for the poor and led to volunteer advocacy work with World Vision, The ONE Campaign, CASA, Freedom From Hunger, and No More Slumlords.
For 10 years Ryan served in various pastoral ministry roles, including the last eight at Northpark Community Church where he has been an ardent supporter of CVJC. Ryan’s wife, Bekah Townsend, is worship pastor at Northpark and they have three young children: Amelia, Micah, and Kathryn. An avid music fan and musician, Ryan grew up playing in bands and occasionally can still be found playing around town. His other interests include independent cinema, graphic design, fixed-gear bikes, and various other hipster pursuits.
Jessica Pittman, Founder/Associate Director
Jessica Pittman worked at Fresno First Baptist Church from 2002-2012 as Mission Director and Associate Pastor. It was during this time that she discovered that human trafficking was prevalent in her own church neighborhood, and she knew could not sit on the sidelines. She is passionate about missions and social justice issues and about building a bridge from the church to the community. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Fresno State University and a Master’s of Arts in Civic and Social Entrepreneurship from Bakke Graduate University. She founded CVJC in 2010 with a team of church and community leaders. She lives with her husband Nic and two children, Enara and Hudson, in one of the areas in Fresno known for human trafficking. She loves the ocean, traveling, music, and drinking good coffee with good people.
Christa Wiens, Education Coordinator
As an educator and a mother, Christa Wiens has a heart for young people. She sees prevention as the key and is proud to have been working with Central Valley Justice Coalition on these efforts for the past two years right here in her hometown. Teaching My Life, My Choice and Human Trafficking 101 classes are her favorite ways to be involved. As a member of North Fresno Church, she is passionate about spreading awareness to the faith community.
Vanessa Mahlmann, Administrator
Being a woman of faith and growing up in the church, Vanessa has always had a heart for others and enjoys helping people. Vanessa started as a volunteer with CVJC and now serves as administrator. She oversees the office, coordinates events, works with victims of human trafficking, and more. She loves hanging out with her family, going to the beach, and is passionate about preventing modern day slavery.
Marissa Garcia, Victim and Survivor Advocate
Marissa grew up in Selma, is Roman Catholic and still attends churches within the region she was raised. After her first international trip with the FPU psychology department, she was inspired to learn about various global issues and cultures. She loves to travel and has been to Italy, Switzerland, and India. In India, she gained an additional passion for social justice. In addition to her interests in Psychology, Intercultural Studies, and social justice, Marissa loves hanging out in coffee shops, taking road trips, and having prayer-potluck days with her family on the weekends.
Meet our Board of Directors
Ivy Huff, MFT – President
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Expressions Counseling Center
Rebekah Eropkin, JD – Secretary
Attorney, Fresno Child Advocates Inc.
Trevor Barbeau, CPP – Treasurer
Payroll Manager, Olam International
Arien Pauls – Board Member
Assistant Catering Manager, Tornino’s Banquets Inc. / Human Trafficking Advocate and Prevention Educator
Avery Culbertson, PhD – Board Member
Assistant Professor, Agricultural Leadership, CSU Fresno
Meet our Advisory Council
Rev. Dr. Randy White, Director, Center for Community Transformation
Randy White, D.Min., has been an urban activist and practitioner for more than twenty years, in some of Fresno’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. He was the Founder of the Fresno Institute for Urban Leadership (FIFUL), and for the last several years has led the global doctoral degrees of Bakke Graduate University, training leaders for city transformation on five continents. He is the author of books such as The Work of Our Hands and Encounter God in the City among others, as well as many articles on urban mission.
Alan Doswald, Director, ESA/Love Inc.
Alan is the Founder and Executive Director of Evangelicals for Social Action/Love INC.ESA/Love Inc’s mission is to mobilize Christian churches to transform lives and communities in the name of Christ. Alan was raised in Fresno and graduated from California State University, Fresno, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. Alan worked at Youth for Christ in Fresno from 1970 – 1982. From 1982 to present he has been the Founder/Director of ESA/Love Inc. He is also an ordained minister. Alan is one of the most knowledgeable leaders in the Christian community concerning the resources churches have to offer. He knows the history of the city well and has invested countless hours into relationships with local pastors and ministry leaders. He joined CVJC’s Advisory Council in 2013.
Clinton J. Olivier, former Council Member, City of Fresno, District 7
Councilmember Clinton J. Olivier was elected by an overwhelming majority to represent Fresno’s Seventh District in June of 2010, and he was sworn into office in December of that year. Olivier is on the Council Finance and Audit Committee as well as the Infill Development Committee. As part of his duties, he also serves on the board of the Fresno-Madera Agency on Aging.
He partnered with Council President Lee Brand to find savings in the 2011 budget and use it to fund a Prostitution and Graffiti Prosecutor position within the City of Fresno. Also as part of his ongoing campaign to clean up the Seventh District and other affected areas, Olivier is working with the Fresno Police Department to implement such ground-breaking programs as “Operation Reveal.” Read full bio here..
Dr. Rev. Lauran Bethell, Global Consultant, International Ministries
Lauran Bethell, M.Div, D.D., has been working for more than two decades on behalf of and caring for women who have been exploited and abused. Most recently, she serves as a consultant with grassroots organizations, encouraging the development of new projects dealing with the issues of prostitution, trafficking in persons and other forms of abuse and exploitation. While based in The Netherlands, she travels extensively throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas, teaching, training and consulting.
David Plassman, Social Work Supervisor, Child Welfare
David Plassman, a Social Work Supervisor, has worked for Fresno County Department of Social Services for 29 years. During the last 10 years, he has been working on Outcome Evaluation and System Improvement and California Partners for Permanency.
Ronna Bright, MSW – Ronna Bright was the Program Manager of Fresno EOC’s Central Valley Against Human Trafficking and the Central Valley Freedom Coalition from 2010-2014. In this capacity, she initiated and led the victim-centered response to human trafficking throughout the Central Valley of California. In December of 2014, she took a position at the Child and Family Policy Institute, as the Preventing and Addressing Child Trafficking Project Director. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminology and a Master’s Degree in Social Work both from California State University Fresno. Prior to serving in her current capacity, she served as the Director of Community Relations with the Marjorie Mason Center and also as the Central Valley Region’s co-chair for the Public Policy and Research Committee of California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. She currently serves on California’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Action Team, California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ Workgroup on Human Trafficking, and the National Human Trafficking.
Debra Rush, Breaking The Chains, CEO/President
Debra is the Co-founder and CEO of Breaking the Chains, a non-profit organization here in the Central San Joaquin Valley currently in the process of establishing Fresno’s first confidential safe house for adult women survivors of sex-trafficking. Debra is a survivor who was rescued 15 years ago, however with nowhere to go and no way to recover her life quickly spiraled out of control. Years later she would finally find redemption and a purpose as she began her arduous journey to establish a home for future survivors.
Melissa Gomez, Anti-Human Trafficking Consultant
Melissa Gomez, previous Co-Director at CVJC, directed the Central Valley Against Human Trafficking program for three years in Fresno. Melissa has extensive experience in Women’s Advocacy and mission work. She served on staff in YWAM San Francisco and Amsterdam, and in Modesto, CA as an Advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Melissa brings fifteen years of work within the human trafficking field locally and abroad. She now consults nationwide on issues such as trauma-informed care, public relations, and survivor-led leadership.
Detective Belinda Anaya, Fresno Police Vice Unit- Not Pictured
Detective Belinda Anaya began her career with the City of Fresno, Police Department in 2002. She worked patrol assignments in the Central and Southeast Policing District. Her assignments after Patrol included the Northeast Policing District’s Crime Suppression Team, the Bulldog Tactical Team, and the Violent Crime Impact Team. Her assignments allowed her to develop her investigative, interview, and informant development skills. She is currently assigned to the Vice Unit focusing on human trafficking, prostitution activity, and massage parlor compliance. She has used her skills and hard work to gain the trust of victims in her human trafficking investigations.