Welcome to Willard

Written By: Kaci Thomas

Last Sunday, as I was making my way the few blocks to church, I was moved to tears.  For some reason, after six months of meeting at Willard Intermediate, it was JUST this week that I was struck by the beauty of the palm trees lining Ross Street as the sun rises. 

In my defense, I’m not a morning person, so I don’t always notice things in the early hours.  Add to that the fact that our first few months meeting at Willard were in the midst of a hard personal season, and I wasn’t always good at being present in the moment and noticing my surroundings.  But as much as the belated nature of this realization can be blamed on my inattention, I have to think that part of it is God’s goodness in continuing to reveal the beauty of Willard to me as Reunion continues to learn about our new home.

I was hooked on this neighborhood the moment I pulled up to tour the school.  You can’t help but feel the depth of history in this area of Santa Ana when you lay eyes on the incredible, massive fig tree sprawling across the front of the school building, planted over 100 years ago.  The roots of that tree run deep, settling further into the soil every year it stands watch over an evolving community.

Willard Intermediate is nestled in the middle of countless apartment complexes, rising high on every side.  That alone would make it feel like the hub of the neighborhood, but as the morning progresses and neighbors begin to make their way outside, it’s quickly apparent that Willard Intermediate is the heartbeat of this neighborhood. 

As a community that loves Santa Ana deeply and wants to know and love our neighbors, we were so excited to move in.  I decided to ask around and share some of the things Reunion loves most about Willard.

“My favorite part of Willard is how it's a central part of the immediate community. The whole block is a social hub even if school isn't happening.” –Sean

“Willard meant saying Yes to a new community.  Personally, deciding to make the move with Reunion, and say yes to volunteering and jumping in.. it all centers around the school. Had we not moved to the school, I don't know if I would have said yes to community so quickly.  So, Willard as a whole, literally means community for me.” -Tatiana

“I love the conversations we get to have with the neighbors, and I love giving donuts to the kids playing out front of the school on Sunday mornings.” –Jessi

"My favorite part is definitely the proximity to the community of Santa Ana.  I'm so glad we are present within the community we are hoping to reach." -Amy

“My favorite part of Willard is the fact that there are families hanging at the school at all times, and there’s always a game going on the soccer field.” –Nathan

“My favorite part of Willard is Carlos, the school custodian who is with us every Sunday.  I love his smile and support of our community.  And I like that we are part of the history. The tree has been there watching over the school and the neighborhood and now our Reunion Family also. And I love that our Reunion Family wants to be family with all the people of Willard and DTSA.  I love lots of stuff.” –Keaton

For myself, I think my favorite part of Willard is that life is always happening.  When Reunion moved into Santa Ana, we said we want to partner with what God is already doing in this city.  When you walk the streets of Willard, there are signs of God at every corner and in the eyes of each of His children living under the watch of that majestic fig tree.

The more time I spend walking the streets of Willard, the more excited I am about the future of Reunion as we love Santa Ana one person at a time.  If you want to hear more about our community, and the ways we are stepping in to actively love our community one person at a time you won’t want to miss our new series Let it be Known, starting the week after Easter.

Starting April 8th, we’ll be exploring the Biblical call to love your neighbor, and what that means for us as a community in the coming months.  You won’t want to miss hearing the stories shared, as Reunion begins to learn what it looks like to live life with neighbors experiencing homelessness, un- or underemployment, single parenthood, and immigration status anxiety.  We have a lot in store as we lead up to launching a community resource center in the Fall, so we hope you’ll join us!

Nathan David