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Q and A Longtime Lodi volunteer Donna Phillips now focusing on family, deep ancestry

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Posted: Friday, January 14, 2011 8:36 am

Donna Phillips has a passion for her community, whether it involves improving the land around her home on Lodi Lake or working theater productions and First Friday Art Hops. After 10 years of serving Lodi as a volunteer in the arts, Phillips is stepping down to enjoy time with family and friends and to research her ancestry. 

Phillips talks about the numerous organizations she’s been a part of and how volunteering became a fulfilling part of her life.

Q: How did you get involved in arts and volunteering in Lodi?

A: My husband and I had the Ryde Hotel for a number of years. Laura Heinitz lived out there and she moved to Lodi about six months before I did. She was really involved on the Lodi Arts Commission.

While on the commission, I started working on the (Lodi Arts) Foundation.

Q: What did you get out of volunteering?

A: Wonderful opportunities to express myself, contribute and to support Lodi, just like so many other people do. There are so many others who work their fingers to the bone.

Q: Why did you feel the need to get so involved?

A: I was first involved with Lodi Lake. We established Friends of Lodi Lake. I used to say, “Well, I can’t just sit here and complain about what’s going on at the lake, I need to do something.”

Q: What did you do before volunteering?

A: I worked for United Airlines for 38 years. I was a flight attendant. 

Q: Was it as glamorous and fun a job as the movies make us believe?

A: I just came in at a really good time. For me, it was great. When we started flying, it was more of a military approach to everything. You never walked through the terminal without your hat or your gloves.

Q: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment — or what are you proud of — based on your volunteer work in Lodi?

A: I was always really wanting to start a gallery. We have started a gallery. We’re not necessarily finished with it, so we’ve collected art pieces down there, just outside Thomas Theater. We buy pieces done by local people. 

Q: Through your involvement, you became good friends with co-volunteers Anna Falos and Hugh Metcalf. Can you tell me about that relationship?

A: It’s been the three of us forever. Almost every project I’ve been on, they’ve been on.

We started a concession called Pub and Pantry, which is an important source of bread and butter funding for the Square. Through that, we were able to provide service to Hutchins at theater events. We got to spend a lot of quality time there discussing what we love. You don’t want to start any project unless you have these two people working with you. 

We (have) the 4:30 Club: anyone who’s around at 4:30 can come by and have a beer or glass of wine. Sit around, enjoy the lake, talk to people, enjoy friendship.

Q: What do you think Lodi needs to do in the arts in the next 10 years?

A: Well, we have it pretty thoroughly covered with Arts in Public Places. I was around when that got started and with Rowland Cheney’s place at the train station. That was an important onset. I know they’re doing a pretty good job covering all the bases with all different types of art. 

Q: How have you seen art improve in Lodi?

A: Oh, about 100 percent! There have been a lot of people before me starting the arts. Charlene Lange was always involved in something. Then we had other directors like Teresa Yvonne. Robin Knowlton was on the commission for a while. Tea Silvestre was very involved, too. And Deanie Bridewell, Lodi’s arts and events manager, is just a miracle worker.

Q: Is there anything Lodi is lacking in the arts?

A: I’m always touched by children and (thinking), how on Earth can we involve the children more? When I first came on the commission and the foundation, one of our objects was to draw people into Hutchins Street Square that would never have the opportunity to come there. We have scholarships for kids who need help financially with classes, but if you aren’t taking classes there, that doesn’t necessarily get you there. So, just helping the kids to Hutchins more frequently would be good. 

Q: Do you have a favorite event in Lodi?

A: We just did Artisan Masters. That was just a wonderful platform for future events and brought more attention to Lodi. It just turned out so successful and wonderful. We sold out. We made money instead of losing money.

Q: What will you do now that you’re retired?

A: My focus is my family and my friends and getting my house together. And, I’m working on ancestry. I’ve done ancestry for 15 years, but it’s so much easier. There’s so much information provided on www.ancestry.com. It’s embarrassing how much fun my ancestors are, starting at the Mayflower ... I went, ‘what do you mean Pocahantas is in my ancestry?’ But she married a man named Rolfe and went to Europe. Just very interesting. I want to document (it) for my grandchildren, Adam, 5, and Matthew, 8. I have it traced back to 700, with all the kings and queens and ladies and barons in between.

Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

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