The City Center Team
Jim Duran is a lifelong resident of the City of Ventura and is currently the leader of three very successful nonprofits that serve the marginalized and under resourced.
Jim began his career in the restaurant industry and at the age of 23, became the General Manager of Casa Maria Mexican Restaurant, owned by Host/Marriott. At the age of 25, he was recruited by Sbarro LLC as a District Manager in Northern California. After four successful years, Jim returned to Ventura.
Upon his return, Jim worked as a quality control supervisor and product development manager for a local cannery, the old Las Palmas Chili Factory. At the same time, Jim helped his aunt start a house cleaning business, which he eventually owned, operated, and sold. Jim became the administrator of a local senior living community and in 2010, The California Assisted Living Association selected Jim as “Executive Director of the Year”.
In 2004, Jim and his team planted The River Community Church, where he serves as the Senior Pastor. He also serves as the Executive Director of Tender Life Maternity Home and The City Center Transitional Living. Jim has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts Degree in Theology from Channel Islands Bible College and Seminary.
Jim has been honored with: The Golden Triangle Award, one of The Ventura Family YMCA’s most prestigious awards. He was honored with the “Hometown Hero” award and “Ventura’s Citizen of the Year” by the Ventura Chamber of Commerce. In 2019, he received the “Heroes Among Us” award from the Ventura Police Community Foundation; in 2020, the first ever Legacy Award from the City of Ventura; and in 2022 the “Outstanding Servant Award” from the Salvation Army.
Jim is past Chairman of the Board for the Ventura Chamber of Commerce and The Ventura Family YMCA. He is past Vice President of the Ventura Buccaneer Youth Football organization. He served as the Co-Ministerial Chair for the NAMI Walk and Co-Chair for the Measure “O” Campaign. Jim also chaired the Ventura Chamber’s Political Action Committee for two election terms. Jim and his wife, Pam, serve on the board of MarriageWell, a non-profit organization that provides support for couples to achieve excellence in their marriages. He is actively involved with solving the homeless crisis in Ventura County by partnering with the Downtown Ventura Partners and being involved with the Ventura Social Service Task Force.
Jim and Pam have been married for over 30 years and have six children, two daughters-in-law and four incredible grandchildren. Jim’s passion is to serve his community and to be a blessing to his neighbors through partnerships and collaboration.
Ralph and Melanie Shankle were sweethearts in Michigan in their younger years and then in Ventura in the early 80's. After a couple of years, they moved on separately and had families of their own.
Ralph, a father of two sons and two grandchildren, spent 18 years managing a heavy truck dealership as a master mechanic for a company here in Ventura. After the company was sold, he found his calling as House Manager and part of the ministry team at the Ventura County Rescue Mission in Oxnard.
Melanie moved back to Michigan, and having three daughters and six grandchildren, spent eight years as a phlebotomist then went into banking for 18 years, gradually becoming Head Teller/Loan Processor.
During the Covid pandemic, Ralph and Melanie rekindled their relationship. Melanie moved back to Ventura, and they were married in 2021. They both decided to receive the blessing of becoming On-Site Managers at The City Center, believing that they were separated so that they could work on their personal testimonies in order that God would be able to use them to minister to others.
Ralph's E-mail: email@example.com
Melanie's E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
With over 30 years of experience in ministry, Rick Barnes has served in non-profit organizations including the Ventura County Rescue Mission, the Children’s Hunger Fund, and Joni and Friends. Rick’s experience at the Ventura County Rescue Mission included managing all aspects of the mission’s drug and alcohol recovery program and resources for homeless guests. On an international level, Rick served at the Children’s Hunger Fund, which ministers to children and families in dire poverty by evaluating and delivering food and essential resources to local churches while promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rick also had the privilege to serve with Joni and Friends, which ministers to children and families with disabilities while promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ through building strong relationships.
While serving internationally, Rick has traveled to El Salvador, India, and eight African countries. He has an undergraduate degree in Urban Planning and master’s degrees in both Christian Counseling and in Christian Leadership. With Rick’s education, experience and care for people, he looks forward to interacting with the residents at The City Center as a case manager.
Brandi Brown was born in Oxnard. Her parents separated when she was young, and her mother and sibling moved around a lot while her mother was in her addiction. Brandi started using drugs and living on the streets at the age of 11. At 15, she had her first child and then had two more while still living the only lifestyle that she knew.
When Brandi discovered she was pregnant with her youngest daughter, Jaime, Child Protective Services became part of her life, which she can now say was one of the best things that happened to her. Brandi started her relationship with God, joined and graduated from Prototypes and then began her journey at The City Center in July 2017. Brandi left the program before she graduated thinking she could manage life with her daughter on her own, but after six months, she asked to return to finish what she had started there. Brandi feels by God’s grace, she was accepted back into The City Center. She has since graduated the program but still lived on campus.
Brandi held several jobs while living at The City Center with her most recent position at Malibu Hills Treatment Center in Malibu Canyon. As much as she enjoyed working and helping others in addiction, it became a financial hardship with a daily round trip of 84 miles from home to daycare and work. Brandi prayed and asked God what her next move should be while seeking counsel from her mentors. A position at a local Starbucks became available at the same rate of pay. She still felt a little unsettled, because her passion is to help people in recovery, but she also wanted a faith-based program. Brandi is so grateful to The City Center and to The River for the love and support that was shown and taught to her, she wanted to return it to someone else.
Two days after giving notice at Malibu Hills, Pastor Jim Duran offered her the position of Assistant House Manager at Tender Life. All she could think of and feel is that God is so awesome and wonderful! By staying faithful and true to herself and asking and trusting in God, she is being blessed and shown favor. Brandi is excited to see where these new life moves will take her, and she is anxious to be a blessing to others as she continues to grow and put God at the center of her life.
Jane Exell was born in Flint, Michigan the third of eight children. She graduated from the University of Michigan School of Nursing in 1972 and began a career as a Registered Nurse. Because her husband, John, served in the US Navy and they moved often from 1973 until 2003 when John retired, Jane’s experience was comprehensive and varied having worked in both military and civilian hospitals.
In 2003, Jane and John moved to Ventura. She felt God had prepared her to be autonomous in the community as a Home Health Case Manager. She retired from Home Health in 2010 to care for her elderly parents who moved from Michigan into the Exell home.
In 2016 Jane developed the position of Faith Community Nurse in her church. It was in this ministry that she was able to combine the physical and spiritual for a more holistic approach to healing. She retired from this position in 2018.
Ever since Jane “stumbled” into the arms of Jesus in the mid 1970’s, it seems that God has brought broken women to her for encouragement and prayer. While John has been involved at The City Center, she felt that becoming a mentor there would be a great next step. Jane had been a mentor for nearly two years when she was asked to consider serving as the Mentor Coordinator. God spoke clearly through her pastor that this is where God wanted her. She began serving in this position in March 2021.
Jane and John are members at Redeemer’s Church in Ventura, and she assists monthly with the Elementary Sunday School. They also are co-leaders with another couple in a small group.
Jane develops her creative side in the kitchen. She loves to cook, especially with the fresh produce John grows in his garden. Jane and John dance for recreation…to just about any genre of music. She is the mother of two adult children.