“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
A few months ago I came across this website and found the conclusion VERY affirming about the blessing it has been to live in Clovis, California these past 11 years. If you don’t have time to read it, the quick summary is Clovis is ranked the #1 town in California to raise a young family!
That discovery is the inspiration for this story in that (1) I haven’t talked much thus far about what I’m doing in the present tense on this blog and (2) I think understanding this particular aspect of my life will put perspective on what you have heard thus far in my past stories.
Why I think Clovis, CA is such a great place to raise a young family… In late 2002 early 2003, it was clear I needed a change from my career working for a Medical Device Company in the SF Bay Area. Amongst the reasons it was time to move on, one of the most pressing was how it had become at increasing odds with my time with my family. Living in Santa Cruz and commuting each day to San Jose meant I was on the road often as much as 3 hours going to and from work. As I was typically working 10+ hour days, I found myself often leaving for work before the sun rose and getting home after it had set.
The person who got the shortest end of that situation was Leah. Though we were at first delighted to be living 5 minutes from the beach in our home in Soquel, during the early years of our daughters Elowyn and Gigi’s life, there wasn’t much time nor was it safe for Leah to be alone with two toddlers down on the beach while I was at work. Basically, without any family around to help her, Leah felt quite isolated and alone raising two toddlers despite being in a place others might call the most beautiful place in the world.
So… when the job opportunity to work at Community Medical Centers came up in Fresno, Leah’s heart leaped. She knew there would be family close by to help her. Her Mom and her Sister and family live in West Fresno. My Mom, and my brother also live nearby in Central Fresno, and my other brother and his wife live in the foothills northeast of Fresno. With so many family members and other old friends nearby, she knew she would have more help nearby if we needed it. As importantly, my commute would go from a 3 hour round trip to about a 1/2 hour one which would permit me to be more involved in the midday kids activities that I was missing out on due to the distance work was from home.
After the decision about moving back to Fresno was settled (see MY FIRST STORY… for details), it came down to where we might live. When Leah shared with her longtime friend that we were moving back to Fresno, she told Leah that she should move to Clovis because the schools were really good there. I would have chosen NW Fresno actually as that is where I grew up but I didn’t really want to come back here originally so it really didn’t matter to me where we landed. I just wanted Leah to be happy and letting her choose where that would be was my attempt to reconcile not being around much for her and the kids those early years of their lives.
So… I engaged a realtor who was the sister of my CPA and we targeted various Clovis neighborhoods. Thinking we could get a pretty good deal compared to what our house in Santa Cruz cost us, we started off in the $250k+ as our target cost. I knew we could afford more giving we owned a home that was half the size of what we were looking at for over twice the cost in Soquel. I just felt at the time it would be good to save some of the cash we would get from selling our home and we still had it on the market at the time and wanted to ensure we didn’t find ourselves owning two mortgages. I also knew it was easier to go up in price then down so felt it important to be conservative at what we looked at initially.
The problem was that all the houses we looked at either were a great home but not a great location or great location but a modest home. So our realtor getting to know what we were looking for had a house in mind for us by the second day of looking and she brought us to it as the last stop of the day. It was near the Buchanan Education Center which at the time was the most recently built high school in the area. We both looked at our realtor questioningly as I knew this was going to be more expensive, but we looked at the house anyway. It was a half-block from the Alta Sierra Intermediate School and even closer to a public park with playground. The house itself was spacious and had a great room that immediately drew you in as it was so light inside with vaulted ceilings and high windows. The cost was higher than our original budget range. Leah thought we can’t afford this but I knew we could. It was clear she loved the home and location so we chose it and this is where we live to this day.
Another great feature of living in Clovis is the number of other larger public parks and biking trails that are intertwined throughout the various neighborhoods making it possible to ride you bike practically to any location in town on VERY safe family friendly trails. Biking around the neighborhood, has become a favorite pastime for me and the kids to do. I can see why many families find our town so family friendly when you bike around and see so many parks filled with kids playing safely. Those who planned Clovis anticipated well how important that trails and parks go together. Several of the trails were designed with tunnels or flashing pedestrian walkways at busier roads to make travel between parks safe as well.
With all the amenities of living in Clovis understood, what made the decision such a good one was not just that it was a great location and home, but that it was walking distance to all three schools our daughters would eventually go to, Garfield Elementary, Alta Sierra Intermediate, and Buchanan High. Garfield is a Blue Ribbon school several times over and to this day have some of the best teachers in the area. We have been very blessed just how much the teachers have treated our children with such love and expert care and teaching particularly in their youngest years. Both Elowyn and Gigi have thrived in the schools and have won several academic and extra curricular awards for their various activities over the years. Leah and I feel truly blessed for what a partnership it has been with all the teachers of all three schools we have had the joy to meet and work with in raising our children.
Elowyn is now a Sophomore at Buchanan High and Gigi is a 7th grader at Alta Sierra. When I go to the various events where the kids are getting awards or the parents are getting oriented to different things the schools offer, it strikes me just how engaged all the parents who have children in these schools are. These events, especially the awards events, are ‘standing room only’. For example, just a few months ago, Gigi’s Science Fair Project was on display and we went to take a look. We could barely walk around and get to her display and were constantly having to step aside so other parents could get through the narrow passages where the projects were on display. It must be heartwarming for teachers to see such encouragement and engagement from the parents of the kids they teach each day. Likewise, in a virtuous cycle, it is with a real sense of perceived value that us parents see what we are getting from the school system. When you see the job the teachers are doing, you just know you are giving your children the best shot at making a difference in their lifetime.
Yet, Clovis is not just a place where schools value young families. We also see that value in the way our young families are sought out by the local church. Our church, Clovis Hills Community Church, for example, celebrated recently with our young families by holding a ground breaking for our new playground designed to make our church more kid friendly and inviting on the outside as it already is on the inside. We hope to see the project complete around Easter time when we expect many new families to come visit. Our church knows that NEW families is what fosters healthy growth to any community and we are eager to ensure that those new to the area know we are here for them. It is this value on young families, that drew us to Clovis Hills to begin with when we landed there nearly 11 years ago.
In fact, we found our church only after trying out a couple others that didn’t work out for one reason or another. Out of ideas where I might take my family, I suggested to my wife we just try the church that met at Alta Sierra Intermediate School gym. With it being only about a 1/2 block from our house, at least it would be a short walk home if it, too, didn’t work out. Our community of Clovis is very church friendly with the public schools permitting church plants like ours use to be to meet on their campus on Sundays. It turned out that moving to our home was most providential for the proximity to what became our first family church; we fell in love with the church the first day we visited it and both kids did as well. We’ve been attending Clovis Hills ever since!
In 2004, a year after we started to attend, the church acquired and moved on to 40 acres of land across the street from what is now Clovis North High School and the local 2 year community college, Willow International. They had just completed a large sanctuary and two separate classroom/smaller worship centers for the children’s and youth ministry. The church is now in the middle of a campaign titled, FOR HIS CHILDREN, and is the source of funding for the playground and renovations of our children’s area. We also plan to build a shaded meeting area outside our entrance to make it more inviting for visitors to come and stay afterwards. Clovis Hills is always being innovative in being family friendly. They hold regular carnivals and festivals for kids of all ages. They invite Parker, the Fresno Grizzlies AAA ball team mascot, to the campus to promote a Family Game Day at the ballpark. This coming Easter weekend, they will have a helicopter come by and drop eggs on our campus! How fun is that!
Beyond these renovations, there is much excitement about what lies ahead for the remaining 40 acres that have not as yet developed. I’m certain that God has even bigger plans for us now that we’ve landed in one of the more under developed parts of Clovis. Over the last several years, I’ve served in various volunteer roles for the church to include Family Ministry Director, Trustee and now Elder. It is exciting to be a part of it all.
I share my story to affirm Clovis as a great place to raise one’s family, and to share my gratitude to The Lord for helping me find such an amazing place for my family these past 11 years. I don’t know how I could have engineered it better than God did to make it possible for my family thrive. In fact, I’m reticent to take any credit for landing here so safely in Clovis; after all, as you may have read in my earlier story, I didn’t even want to move back here originally.
Yet God had other plans,… plans to prosper me and my family, and the blessing is He used the love I had for that family to draw me not just back to Clovis but back to Him!