The Justice Coalition is led by Executive Director Ryan Townsend and Founder Jessica Pittman and is accountable to our Board of Directors.
Meet our Staff
RYAN TOWNSEND, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
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. In his late teens and early 20s, Ryan gradually became aware that injustice was routinely met with indifference from the general public. 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.
Ryan has over 16 years of experience in nonprofit work. He has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Cal State Fullerton and an MA in Ministry, Leadership and Culture from Fresno Pacific University. Currently, Ryan is involved in leading public awareness for the Central Valley Freedom Coalition which includes nearly every agency involved in Central Valley anti-human trafficking work and a co-founder of Pledge 2 Stop Trafficking, a collaborative project organized alongside Central Valley Community Foundation.
Ryan’s wife, Bekah Townsend, is worship pastor at Northpark and they have three children. 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, not smiling in photographs, graphic design, fixed-gear bikes, and various other hipster pursuits.
JESSICA PITTMAN, FOUNDER
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, OFFICE 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 the Justice Coalition 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 human trafficking and exploitation.
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.
ARIEN PAULS, YOUTH PROGRAM MANAGER
Arien Pauls is a driven advocate and an active leader in the Central Valley of California, fighting the issue of human trafficking by collaborating with local agencies and sharing her personal experiences to help implement change for victims and survivors of human trafficking. Until her hire date in July 2020, Arien served on the founding board of the Central Valley Justice Coalition with the focus of educating and preventing the sexual exploitation of youth. She has also served her first two-year term on the California CSEC Action Team Advisory Board. Arien has also worked as a volunteer as a lead victim advocate for adult women at Breaking the Chains, an organization that provides services to victims and survivors of human trafficking. She is a trained facilitator for My Life My Choice; a curriculum to prevent the sexual exploitation of adolescent girls and educates the public on human trafficking to shift the culture and understanding of the issue in her community. She has worked with both juvenile women and adult males in the criminal justice system to address the impact of human trafficking. In 2018, Arien was named Unsung Hero of the Year by the United States Congress.
Her other interests include creating art for her small business, vintage memorabilia, parenting her daughter and wedding planning, as she will marry her best friend in December 2020. Currently, Arien is enrolled at Grand Canyon University, pursuing a B.S. degree in Justice Studies.
Meet our Board of Directors
Ivy Huff, MFT – President
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Expressions Counseling Center
Avery Culbertson, PhD – Secretary
Assistant Professor, Agricultural Leadership, CSU Fresno
Trevor Barbeau, CPP – Treasurer
Director of Operations, Payality Inc.
Yvonne Romero – Board Member
Community Relations Coordinator, Fresno Bee (Retired, 2019)
Dr. Rev. Lauran Bethell, Board Member
Global Consultant, International Ministries
Meet our Advisory Council
Rev. Dr. Randy White, Director, Center for Community Transformation at Fresno Pacific University
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 worked with the Fresno Police Department to implement such ground-breaking programs as “Operation Reveal.” Read full bio here..
David Plassman, Social Work Supervisor, Child Welfare (Retired)
David Plassman, a former 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.
Tina Maldonado, Fresno Police Chaplaincy, Project STEALTH Director
I was born and raised in Fresno and moved to Selma 8 years ago with my husband and son. My relationship with the Fresno Police Department began in 2012 when I volunteered to be a C.O.P. (Citizen on Patrol). This experience opened my eyes to see the needs in our community and also to witness all that our officers were doing on a daily basis to meet those needs. In 2014 I was hired by the Fresno Police Chaplaincy. I began as a report writer for runaway youth, but quickly became the Director for Project STEALTH. I found more than an amazing job; I found my passion! I currently oversee Project STEALTH, host the Teen Police Academy and am a Fresno Police Explorer Advisor. I am blessed to have found my passion in working with youth. My job is both fun and rewarding and I get to work with amazing people in the Chaplaincy as well as law enforcement officers and detectives.
Melissa Gomez, PACT Project Coordinator, Child and Family Policy Institute of California
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 directs the Preventing and Addressing Child Trafficking Project, working with ten counties across the state of California.
Sarah Johnston, Project Coordinator, Central Valley Against Human Trafficking
Sarah is a victim advocate and community leader. In her current role as the Program Manager for Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission’s Central Valley Against Human Trafficking project. and Chair of the Central Valley Freedom Coalition, she leads the Anti-Trafficking movement in the Central Valley of California. During her 3 years with the project she has served as both the Outreach Coordinator and Case Manager providing comprehensive trauma-informed client services, advocacy, outreach, training, public awareness to a six-county region including: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties. Sarah was instrumental in facilitating and launching the 2019 Fresno City Mayor’s Initiative to Combat Human Trafficking to address trafficking through a collective impact project and serve as the backbone agency facilitator. Sarah has experience in providing comprehensive services to victims of trafficking and has facilitated training and education on human trafficking related issues. Prior to joining Fresno EOC, Sarah worked with the HOPE Anti-Human Trafficking Program at the International Rescue Committee in Sacramento. She has a passion for eradicating human trafficking and developing a community wide trauma-informed response to address the injustices in her community, especially those suffered by women and girls. Sarah was named Fresno EOC Community Action All Star 2018 and is a Rise Up Gender Equity Initiative Fellow. Sarah has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and International Relations and a Minor in Human Rights from the University of California, Davis. Sarah is passionate about creating local and regional partnerships and firmly believes it is only through collaboration that we can end trafficking.
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.