Vince Beresford Fights Slavery through His Dream Job

by Sierra Neiman, first posted June 2018

“In June 2016 I had the opportunity of a lifetime,” Vince Beresford recalls with a smile. Beresford, a 2010 Portland Seminary D.Min. graduate, had just landed a job with a civil rights organization in Los Angeles when In-N-Out Burger approached him for consulting. While known most broadly as the first drive-through hamburger restaurant in California, In-N-Out Burger means more than Double-Double burgers and hand-cut fries. In 1984 the company founded the In-N-Out Burger Foundation to work toward stopping child abuse and to offer hope to abused children. Roughly three decades later, In-N-Out’s unwavering commitment to helping communities become stronger and safer motivated their desire to also address sex and labor trafficking, as well as substance abuse. “So with my consultant ‘hat’ I made recommendations,” Beresford relates, “…and then [In-N-Out] said to me, ‘We feel like the Lord told us to ask you to come start this foundation. We feel like God said you’re the guy.’”

Vince BeresfordWhat put Beresford on In-N-Out’s radar? When asked whether he has a background in non-profit work and social justice issues, Beresford responds, “I’ve always gravitated toward people who don’t have a voice.” But just how much of always is hyperbole? As Beresford begins to divulge his life story, it is clear his interest in marginalized people springs from knowing that life firsthand. Born in a homeless shelter to a teenage mother, Beresford spent his early childhood in the Los Angeles foster system, bouncing from one home to another until he eventually reunited with his birth mother, who was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Beresford guesses that over the course of the next ten years, he and his mother lived in every shelter in Los Angeles, until moving in with a close friend who worked as a prostitute. Beresford explains he didn’t understand the negative connotation of the word prostitute at first, because this woman was one of the nicest people he knew. Those without much voice in society have long been Beresford’s favorite people.

After being kicked out of military school when he was in seventh grade, Beresford began dealing drugs. But his story took another turn when he “got suckered into” joining a friend at a waterski camp, where he heard about Jesus calling God Abba. Beresford says that because of his own “massive father issues,” the concept of God as a loving daddy who “adopts” him into God’s family “wrecked” him. For Beresford, “wrecked” meant “accepting God’s adoption offer” and subsequently becoming a youth pastor in 1987 and working in non-profits and churches since then. Beresford has also invested energy in his own education to better equip him for leadership. When he bumped into Leonard Sweet at a conference where both Beresford and Sweet were speaking, Beresford heard from Sweet about Portland Seminary’s D.Min. program, and he knew it would better align with his passions than the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership he was then pursuing. He made the switch, and “absolutely loved it.”

When Beresford reviews his past work, he says a highlight was looking out on his congregation when he was senior pastor, and seeing that numerous Pasadena street performers were attending his church. While that is among his best memories of vocational ministry, he considers his current work as Executive Director of In-N-Out’s Slave 2 Nothing Foundation his “dream job.”

Slave 2 Nothing, established in 2016, works to set people free from slavery, whether that is slavery to another person or a substance. The heart of Slave 2 Nothing’s work is “creating awareness, prevention, protection, and partnerships” and “assisting survivors by encouraging and supporting effective programs and solutions.” This looks like Slave 2 Nothing supporting existing organizations that combat trafficking and substance abuse, awarding grants of $2,500 to $50,000 to each of 48 organizations in 2017 alone. It looks like In-N-Out printing human trafficking, substance abuse, and child abuse prevention hotlines on all their food bags and delivery trucks, and covering all costs associated with running Slave 2 Nothing so donations go 100% toward combatting slavery. During fundraisers, In-N-Out even matches donations 3:1. Additionally, Slave 2 Nothing’s work looks like connecting individual victims of slavery with resources such as drop-in centers, safe houses, and residential and transitional programs.

Beresford speaks enthusiastically about “Cindy,” a woman who broke out of being horrendously abused and trafficked by her family, but who was merely “existing,” unsure about stepping into a healthier life. Slave 2 Nothing connected her with an organization they support that offered the guidance she needed, and now Cindy plans to return to school. “Her whole face looks different. There is a light there that hasn’t been there for years.”  

“I get to hang with all the best human beings!” Beresford reiterates. “Everyone has a huge heart and an incredible story….This is the best environment I’ve been a part of, hands down.”