After teens stole a table saw from Sal Mireles’ Lodi home in March of 2018, he was more interested in reaching out and mentoring the youngsters than pressing charges against them.
The desire to be a positive influence is why Mireles was the recipient of the Lodi Police Department’s Citizen’s Award during Tuesday afternoon’s annual awards ceremony at Carnegie Forum.
“I didn’t want to press charges against them, because I wanted to do something more productive and teach them a skill that would stay with them,” Mireles said.
Although the teens declined Mireles’ offer, his willingness to work with them resonated with officers at the Lodi Police Department, who were surprised by his response to the theft and inspired by his offer to reach out to the teens rather than retaliate against them.
“We appreciate your positivity,” Lodi Police Chief Tod Patterson told Mireles during the awards ceremony.
Mireles believes that serving as a mentor would have been more beneficial because it would have allowed both groups the opportunity to benefit from the exchange rather than just punishing the teens.
“As a barber, I mentor and offer advice to my clients,” said Mireles, who believes that mentorship extends beyond the scope of a mutually beneficial relationship and understands it to mean that people can mentor by being productive role models.
“Sometimes all you have to do is reach out when someone needs the help,” Mireles said. “The youth are the next generation, and we have to be vigilant about providing a productive future for them.”
Mireles regularly donates his time and services to Grace and Mercy — which provides services to the community’s unsheltered homeless — by offering free haircuts at the shelter every other Monday of the month.
“We have an apprenticeship at the barber shop and they help me get the people looking fresh and cleaned up after they have had a meal,” Mireles said.
Patterson also recognized Mireles for his effort to raise money for the Lodi Boys and Girls Club, which was on the brink of closing late last year due to a lack of funding.
“My daughter came home with a flyer that said they were closing and I immediately reached out to see what I could do,” Mireles said. “I grew up going to the Boys and Girls Club so I understood how important it was to have a place like that stay open in the community.”
Within three weeks Mireles, along with other salons and barbershops, organized a fundraiser that raised $6,200 for the club.
“We are looking forward to doing this again in the future, and we are really hoping more members of the community will take a more active role and help preserve the center,” Mireles said.
Mireles believes that there is a chain of responsibility in safeguarding succeeding generations and providing a community approach to giving them something to benefit from.
“We really appreciate you rolling up your sleeves and putting action behind your words, and on behalf of the police department we thank you for your dedication and commitment to the community,” Patterson said.