Without fanfare, pomp or circumstance — well, we did serve birthday cake and punch to the 100-plus kids that showed up that day for our various programs — the Boys and Girls Club of Lodi turned 50 early this month.
In retrospect, 50 years of serving the youths of Lodi — day in and day out, month in and month out, year in and year out — has been a significant, demanding and worthwhile achievement. It was an achievement that could only be accomplished by an entire community that embraced the mission of the club: To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.
For those of you who can not recall Lodi 50 years ago, what was it like? Smaller, more homogeneous, family-oriented and surely far less complicated than today. Our beginnings were humble in nature with limited offerings; nevertheless, a few community-driven leaders had the vision and garnered enough local support to formalize an official Boys and Girls Club Charter in 1962. Their mission, like ours today, was to offer a viable alternative for all young people to achieve their full potential as productive members of our community.
Fifty years after receiving our charter, what does the club look like today? Our volunteer board of directors has successfully overseen the design and implementation of collaborative programs with the Lodi Police Department, emphasizing gang intervention; Lodi Unified School District, focusing on basic tutoring and homework assistance; and local businesses that stress career, character and leadership development. All programs are designed to help our local youths receive the greatest opportunity to reach their incredible human potential, so that Lodi will remain a place we can all enthusiastically and with great pride call home.
Our challenges are many but our opportunities for success are even greater. We offer a safe, clean environment to support our five core programs: education and career; character and leadership; health and life skills; the arts; and sports, fitness and recreation.
Although these efforts are driven by volunteers and local financial support, our kids themselves, through our community citizenship component, can be found throughout your neighborhoods performing community service projects such as graffiti removal and trash pickup, and supporting other Lodi-wide community activities on a daily basis.
For example, we just completed our annual Thanksgiving dinner, providing a traditional Thanksgiving meal to approximately 200 families in need. All meals were served by current or former Boys and Girls Club members. One former member peeled enough potatoes so we could serve homemade mashed potatoes to all, including seconds!
If you see our white van with the distinctive blue logo in your neighborhood, you can be sure that close by there are local kids making Lodi just a little bit better of a place to call home.
Probably our greatest contribution to Lodi is the fact that all of our kids showed up ready for school today, so our dedicated teachers and other professionals within the education field can provide them the essential tools they need to continue to reach their full academic and personal potential. I suspect that our visionary founding community leaders would be well-pleased with this fact, and that this essential goal crossed their minds 50 years ago.
If you have never made a contribution to the club and are interested in learning more about volunteering or supporting us financially, call Eddie Cotton, vice president of operation, or me at 209-334-2697.
To celebrate our 50th anniversary, we are currently holding a Maui Jet-Away Raffle. For each $50 donated, you will receive one raffle ticket, or six tickets for $250. It’s our anniversary but your vacation. Funds raised by this event, as well as all other contributions, are used to directly support to our five core programs.
In closing, I would like to give a big shout out (not my choice of language, but I too must adapt) to the many hundreds of dedicated volunteers who have so freely given of their time and talents to our mission. Additionally, I would like to thank the many individuals and local business — too numerous to list separately — that have made contributions, both financially and otherwise, to the Lodi Boys and Girls Club over the past 50 years. The combination of these two selfless acts, time and financial support, allows us to continue to fulfill our mission.
It’s business as usual here at the club, and our business is making Lodi the best community it can be by providing critical services and opportunities to the youths of Lodi, especially those who need us the most.
As we enter our 51st year of service, the Boys and Girls Club of Lodi needs the continued support of the community so we can continue to fulfill our mission to best serve our local youth. Any support, regardless of size, is sincerely appreciated as well as needed. On behalf of the board of directors and the children we serve we would like to wish you a happy and safe holiday season. Thank you, Lodi.