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Making a difference LOEL Center director Tracy Williams says group effort keeps things moving

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Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:39 am, Sat Dec 31, 2011.

Tracy Williams is not one to brag about personal accomplishments, no matter how significant they are.

Williams, in her 10th year at the LOEL Center and Gardens, has helped bring smiles and comfort to more Lodi seniors than she would ever let on. Instead, she firmly states that it was and always will be a group effort when it comes to improving and enhancing the center.

In the past year alone, Williams, the director of the LOEL Center, has helped wrap up a $500,000 renovation project that included adding a new kitchen to the facility, a remodeled activity room, and new floors, doors and windows.

The project, which took two years to complete, was funded by community development block grants as well as donations made by the county and Lodi residents. It not only allows the center to provide a more comfortable setting for seniors to come and spend their day, but the kitchen also allows the center to provide hot and healthy meals for each senior during their daytime visits.

But how could any of this have been done without Williams?

"I don't really know where to start," said Liz Souza, an employee at the center. "(Williams) has everyone's best interest at heart ... She loves what she does and puts that out there."

For the past 10 years, Williams has been carrying the torch set by William Holz, who founded the center in 1976.

And while the center could easily expand to accommodate the growing number of seniors who attend Bingo games and come to chat with friends every day, Williams said for anyone working at the center it is not just a job, but a passion.

For the roughly 250 people Williams and her staff service every day — be it sitting down to talk or providing a shoulder to cry on — Williams said she could not imagine working anywhere else.

In fact, she said, even though she probably spends more time at the LOEL Center than she does at home, she plans on working at the center as long as she can because, as she puts it, there is still "so much more to do."

And with the new kitchen in place, Williams already has goals both big and small set for 2012.

A big priority for Williams? Getting the Meals on Wheels program back into place, a program that provides hot, home-delivered meals to those in need. In this case, Williams said the program would help seniors who need nutritional dinners who perhaps cannot get to the store that day or who cannot cook for themselves.

"When I first took the job, I was told it might be tough because there was this notion that seniors are just old and crotchety," she said. "I quickly realized that was not the case. These men and women are like my grandparents, and anything we can do to be there for them is a pleasure."

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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