By April 1, 2016 Read More →

InterView – Jeff Pishney – Love Modesto

Jeff Pishney – Love Modesto
By Chris Murphy

Love Modesto began in 2007 when local pastor Jeff Pishney wondered why Modesto was always listed in the “worst cities lists”. Most importantly, what could he, his church community and the city at large to together to change the trajectory for good. Could his mission succeed?

Yes, it has, not only has this succeeded locally, it has spread across the USA with I am sure you have seen the “Heart Modesto” bumperstickers all over, but wondered what this was all about.

Love Modesto has succeeded because it is all-inclusive, reaches across communities, genders and religions affiliations. The projects are sustainable and the magic in this event is that it makes it easy and accessible for people to get involved, and more importantly stay involved.

ModestoView has been a proud supporter of Love Modesto for many years and will be again this year. Last year he launched a brand new 501(c)3 called “Love Our Cities.” Over 14,000 people turned out in the Spring of 2015 to Love Our Cities events across the State of California, including more than 4,000 people in Modesto. Volunteers and sponsor partners hosted over 90 projects and donated around 15,000 volunteer hours, representing nearly $350,000 worth of volunteer time. The City of Modesto proclaimed April Love Modesto Month and presented Jeff with a certificate at the March 29 council meeting.

How did this happen and what can we do to get involved?
Let’s meet Iowa native, now Modesto champion, Jeff Pishney

ModestoView: When did you move here?
Jeff Pishney: I was born and raised in Iowa, went to college and graduate school in Virginia and then came out to Modesto in 1995 to become an intern at Big Valley Grace Community Church. I was only planning on being here for a year or so, but I continued to be at Big Valley for nearly 20 years in different roles and most importantly, I met my wife here, so this is home!

MV: What was your real day job at Big Valley?
JP: When I was at Big Valley, I started as an intern then I was able to lead the college group and see the group grow from just a few young people to hundreds. They inspired me to reach out more in our community and to take this vision to the rest of our church. I eventually transitioned to leading our church’s outreach efforts which eventually started Love Modesto.

MV: What made you snap and say I am going to change our city?
JP: I got so tired of seeing Modesto on these worst city lists and hearing the negativity from different people about our city. I started thinking and asking the question, “If my church were to suddenly disappear from Modesto, would anyone even care or notice?”. I don’t think we had a lot of good answers back then. At the same time, many of our friends were moving away and so excited to get out of here. It was discouraging. I knew if I was going to stay living here, I needed a renewed passion and love for my city. I love the quote by Mahatma Ghandi “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. I wanted to be the change I wished to see in Modesto.

MV: You grew up in Iowa, do you think there a similarities to the Modesto area?
JP: I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This is a city of similar size of Modesto and a similar economy with agriculture playing a big role. There are some similarities, but there are also many differences that I appreciate.

MV: How did you find Modesto?
JP: I hadn’t heard of Modesto until a friend of mine in college came out here to work at Big Valley. He told me about an intern position and thought it would be a great fit for me.

MV: To get people involved, volunteering needs to be simple and easy was that a conscious decision you made with Love Modesto?
JP: It sure was. I know making it easy to get involved is a big part of our success. We wanted to make it simple for every person who wants to be involved including families with small children, people with disabilities, businesses, congregations, etc.

MV: Who came up with “Love Modesto” theme?
JP: This theme was birthed out of a reaction of a sad slogan I heard from some college students – “Modesto Sucks”. What if we turned this completely around? It was certainly not original, but myself and others had this idea of “I Love Modesto” and putting this slogan on t-shirts and decals to give these out. Around that time I also came across an initiative in Portland, Oregon called “Love Portland”. I knew “Love Modesto” was the name.

MV: What is one of the results of Love Modesto that has fulfilled you the most?
JP: There are so many, but one that fulfills me so much is hearing about the high percentage of people who continue to volunteer and have pride in our city. The volunteer day is just a catalyst to spur people on to continual involvement in our city, neighborhoods and schools.

MV: Other cities were so excited, what made you “go national”?
JP: I was handing out Love Modesto signs to people and this couple came up to me saying that they did not want to put a Love Modesto sign in their yard because they live in Ceres. They told me that if we came up with a Love Ceres sign, they’d be happy to put up a sign in their yard. I asked them if they would lead Love Ceres and they said yes! Since then, the word has spread and we have talked with and have helped over 100 other cities … with dreams of helping thousands of cities all over the world.

MV: If you had a magic wand and unlimited budget, what change would you make in Modesto?
JP: I want to see as many people as possible in our community reaching out and caring for others. This is really what Love Modesto is all about – loving our city year round and not just one day a year. What if everyone knew and looked out for their neighbors? What if our schools were amazed by the number of people wanting to volunteer? What if our city became know for the overwhelming amount of loving foster families and known for how hard we work at keeping families together in the first place? Everyone can and should do something to make our city a better place to live!

MV: What drives you to be the person you are?
JP: It’s my Christian faith and appreciation of people from all different backgrounds that has been and continues to be the motivation for who I am striving to be.

MV: What is one fun fact about you that people don’t know?
JP: Growing up in Iowa, my family owned and operated Dairy Queens, so Butterfinger Blizzards were a part of my everyday life in childhood!

MV: What is your goal for next year and how can the community help?
JV: One of my big dreams is to see every one of our 64 Modesto schools have as many community partners as possible to meet the needs of each school. I encourage businesses, congregations, service groups, etc. to dream big with me on how they can be a part of helping to make our schools the best they can be. To learn more, check out

MV: Describe your ideal day here in Modesto USA.
JV: Being with my family and going to one of the many amazing area parks, riding bikes, going out to eat together at a local restaurant and along the way seeing so many great people who reside in our city.

MV: Our signature question – Beatles or Stones?
JV: Umm, neither? I’m a U2 and Coldplay kind of guy. (Chris’ note – U2 and Beatles are fundamentally Beatle-influenced, so we will put this in the Beatle category)
Jeff Pishney, Executive Director
209-566-9343 •<>
Love Our Cities, Inc. Love Modesto • 1401 F Street Modesto, CA 95354

Love Modesto – April 23 – 9 am Meetup 11th and I Streets
Food, vendors, directions and possibilities.

Posted in: community, featured

About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.