During time spent in Africa, Lodi native Natalie Bowman worked with small community-based organizations in the Horn of Africa.
“I was working with doctors, lawyers and teachers in these communities that had started the process of developing a nonprofit but needed help grant writing, or establishing a website. I just came in and helped them through the process,” Bowman said.
After moving back to Lodi three years ago, Bowman knew she wanted to continue helping grassroot organizations establish nonprofit operations, so she founded Partners for International Cooperation.
On Sunday, PIC is hosting a spaghetti dinner to raise money for a new community center located in Lodi’s Heritage District that will benefit nonprofit groups based in Lodi.
“We don’t come in and serve in a director or leadership role, we focus on helping groups run events, we help them develop timelines for projects, and we assist in the nonprofit application status,” Bowman said of PIC. “There are many types of nonprofit status, and sometimes people get confused about what to file as or even how to file.”
Bowman describes PIC as a meeting of the minds. She looks to listen and learn what a nonprofit needs, while giving individuals the tools they need and the guidance to pursue what they are passionate about.
After working with many local groups she found that many of them needed a community space they could use to expand their programs and add new resources and membership.
Bowman said she works with several native groups that need a place to organize their weaving looms, and she is also working with groups looking to host afterschool programs for students and nonprofits looking to conduct English language classes.
“The need for a space that could be rented out at a really low cost or no cost is something that a lot of groups need, and PIC is looking to fill that space,” she said.
The community center will be called The Commons because it serves as a common space for all the groups its looks to serve, Bowman stated.
The Commons is located on East Lodi Avenue and was formerly a smoke shop. A portion of the property had burned down, according to Bowman, which is why the property owner was very selective about the building’s new tenant.
“We were very lucky because the owner wanted to demolish it, and I had talked to him about my plan and he worked with me on the rent, because he saw the value in a community space.”
PIC hosted an improvement party, where volunteers painted and cleaned the building.
The group is looking to raise $8,000 to $12,000 to complete the building.
“We still need to add flooring and update the electrical and plumbing. We are looking for some experienced volunteers that can help us reduce our cost,” she said.
PIC has raised over $500 in ticket costs for the spaghetti dinner. The food for the spaghetti dinner was donated by Lodi nonprofit Grace and Mercy, who will also be cooking the food, Bowman said.
“There will be music and dancing, and other festivities,” Bowman said. “We would love the support of the community and we appreciate and value all of the people that volunteer and support us.”
Bowman is passionate about creating a space that benefits the needs of Lodi’s east side residents. Once The Commons is complete Bowman plans to create a dedicated food pantry, a multi-use recreational space, and a workspace with computers, printers and Wi-Fi for students.
“We have a large backspace that we will be turning into a garden. We wanted to create a more intimate venue that people can come and connect in,” she said.
Bowman hopes to have a soft opening for the main recreation room by the end of August, and open the rest of the building by the end of the year.
Tickets for the spaghetti dinner can be purchased at www.facebook.com/partnersforintlcoop/ or at House of Coffees, 239 N. Ham Lane, Lodi. There will also be tickets available at the door. For more information about the spaghetti dinner contact Natalie Bowman at 209-224-1940.