Sitting in his office overlooking the expansive Bridge to Life campus in Fairfield, Mission Solano Executive Director Ron Marlette can't help but count his blessings.
There are many, he says, including his dedicated staff and volunteers, their families, the community, county, faith and other officials, and even the clients themselves.
Though the homeless sheltering program has grown and served thousands in Solano during the past 15 years, Marlette is quick to point out that the battle against homelessness is far from over and that there's still much to be done. From increasing available bed space to growing program offerings and more, ideas continue to bloom.
There's a slight lull in activities in the organization right now, the director advised, which offers some time to breathe, consider and reflect on what has been, what is and what will be. That is, before the Oct. 4 banquet honoring partners and celebrating Mission Solano's 15th anniversary, which was in May.
So Marlette has been pondering the state of the organization and whether his staff has all the tools it needs to see the mission into the future.
"If you don't grow as an organization, you go. I fully believe that," he said.
Leadership training has played a key role in staff development and Marlette expressed pride in the blossoming of his employees, many of whom have been with him from the organization's inception in 1998. There may come a day when he steps back, he said, and he's confident that his group will be ready, willing and able to run the show. Until then, he plans to continue operations with a guiding hand.
Next up for the Mission Solano team is completing the Bridge to Life Campus on Beck Avenue. That means constructing a professional kitchen that will not only serve residents on a daily basis but also allow for culinary arts courses. In partnership with Solano Community College, the program would help students -- including Mission Solano clientele -- get all the education they need for a foray into the culinary profession.
Also on the build list is a professional-grade laundromat, which will teach clients laundry skills and give them real-life experience through contracts the mission hopes to get from businesses. Perhaps local hotels could use the service, Marlette said, or maybe even the local jail.
An education center will prepare clients to take their GED or other diploma programs and provide them with more space for life skills training. An Urban Institute, meanwhile, would offer a place for teaching others about cultural issues and allow ministers and other interested people "to be a part of what we're doing," Marlette said.
The chapel is a much-anticipated project. It is slated to hold 200 people and offer spiritual respite for all in the community.
An estimated $2.5 million is needed to finish the expansion, so increased fundraising efforts will also be pursued.
Long-term hopes include low-income housing for clients. Often upon graduating from various Mission programs, participants aren't ready to be on their own, Marlette said, and clients can use any ensuing failure as a crutch not to try harder.
"We want to keep that habit from forming," he said. "Failure is a part of life. Failure is a part of success."
To address the need for a post-graduation step, Mission Solano is in talks to buy the Travis Boulevard property that currently houses the organization's community outreach center.
There's no doubt that more challenges are ahead, but Marlette emphasized that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. And the county's homeless, he said, are definitely worth every effort.
With hope, prayer and continued community support, Mission Solano will continue to serve those in need, he said.
"In this community, if somebody wants help, they're going to get it," Marlette continued. "I had many people tell me it couldn't be done. ... Anything can be done if you have the right people behind you."
For more information on the Oct. 4 banquet, which the community is invited to, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 580-8490.
For more information about Mission Solano, go online to www.missionsolano.org.
Follow Staff Writer Kimberly K. Fu at Twitter.com/ReporterKimFu.