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Innovator of the Year Awards: Nonprofit Orange County Rescue Mission Continues to Thrive with Jim Palmer at the Helm


Congratulations to Jim Palmer, President of Orange County Rescue Mission for being selected as a nominee of Orange County Business Journal’s Innovator of the Year Award. A well-deserved honor for the man who continues to lead a team of 89 employees and thousands of volunteers in furthering the nonprofit’s mission of providing homeless individuals and families with the tools and pathways out of homelessness. Through its transitional living facilities and outreach programs, the Rescue Mission provides shelter, food, healthcare, education, job training, and a variety of other tools to support individuals in getting back on their feet. Between 1992 and today, Dr. James “Jim” Palmer has taken Orange County Rescue Mission from a single rundown facility housing of just nine homeless men in Santa Ana to a nine-facility, two county operation serving thousands of homeless and formerly homeless individuals each year. Palmer is motivated by compassion. But it is his faith and courage to approach the myriad of complex problems resulting in homelessness that drive his innovative approaches to serve those in need. Palmer established the transitional housing and comprehensive services facility, Village of Hope, the Rescue Mission’s flagship program. It serves as a model to other organizations throughout the country. The lack of quality and accessible health care for the needy led Palmer to launch Hurtt Family Health Clinics, now with three multi-service clinics in Orange County. When he learned of the plight of women trapped in sex trafficking, he created Strong Beginnings to serve that population. Palmer gained tremendous insight about veterans when his son entered the military, which led him to establish the veteran-specific services for homeless veterans at Tustin Veterans Outpost. Beyond his work at Orange County Rescue Mission, Palmer is involved locally and in various parts of government. He was the only person to have ever served on three levels of government at once, as a Tustin City Councilman, a County Housing Commissioner, and a Senate Confirmed Presidential Appointee. He oversaw a staff of 125,000 and an annual federal budget of $1.4 billion. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, community leaders throughout Southern California sought out Palmer for his expertise to provide solutions for the homeless population. In addition, Palmer led the entire Rescue Mission team to ensure it remained 100% operational throughout the pandemic. In fact, 60 men, women, and children graduated from the Rescue Mission’s two-year program amid the pandemic. Additionally, in 2020 the organization created a distance learning program for the children living at its facilities to ensure quality education for its school-aged children. Palmer is also the driving force behind the newly renovated boys home, Hope Harbor Rip Tide, which doubled the program’s beds from six to twelve during the pandemic. Furthermore, the organization expanded Tustin Veterans Outpost, an existing transitional housing facility for homeless veterans and their families. These accomplishments could not have been possible without Palmer’s dedication and leadership over the past 30 years. For more information, please contact Anna Song at (714) 247-4377 or

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