How One Lodi Woman is Helping Change Lives, One Woman at a Time
Jenna is the therapist at Lodi House. Maybe you’ve heard her story at Lodi House’s popular Be Amazing event. It’s an event they hold every April where they share the amazing transformation stories of women who have gone through their program. Jenna hasn’t been through their program, but she’s been involved with Lodi House since her teens. During the Be Amazing event she shares her story because she has such a unique relationship to the organization and is an integral part of these women’s success. Lodi House is a shelter, founded by Lodians in 2000, to help women and children transition from homelessness to becoming independent members of the community. Jenna started volunteering there when she was 16 years old by helping watch the kids while their mothers were taking classes. 15 or so years later, she’s back, using her education and passion to help women through one-on-one therapy sessions. Her story is special because it shows how much heart we have in our community that someone would dedicate the better part of their life to helping others. It’s also is an example of how this shelter has become a way to transform the lives of the women going through the program as well as volunteers, who find their passion and calling to bring good to others through this unique setting.
When Jenna was younger and started volunteering at Lodi House, she was surprised to find something like this in Lodi. “I think, honestly, I didn’t even realize a place like that was needed in our community,” shared Jenna. “I’ve always kind of had the heart of a helper, I guess, and I was just kind of drawn to interacting with the children and engaging with the. The more I knew and saw what the need was I think it just drew me in.” She continued to volunteer throughout high school and even used her Senior Project as an opportunity to get a block grant and build a new playground at the house. After high school, Jenna went off to college with the mindset that she would become a teacher and work with kids. She completed her degree and passed all of the special testing to become a teacher before she realized there was a better way for her to help children. She went back to school and completed her masters in social work. She is now a licensed clinical social worker, which is a therapist. She came back home to Lodi and was shopping one day in Costco when she ran into Shereen, a woman who has worked at Lodi House since day one. “I re-introduced myself and she asked what I was up to. I told her I was a therapist,” said Jenna. “She told me they had been looking for a therapist and so I got in contact with the Director, who was the same Director from when I was in high school. Now I’ve been doing therapy there for about four years.” According to Shereen, that job had literally just opened up. For her to run into Jenna right after their former therapist had given her notice was like a little divine intervention right at Costco.
Jenna now works mostly with the women at Lodi House and loves it. If she would have to say she specializes in anything, it’s trauma work and every adult and child she’s worked with at Lodi House has experienced some trauma. Jenna plays a really important role in helping these women be at peace with their trauma so they can heal, move forward, and enjoy a good life for themselves and their children. Her work doesn’t just improve that woman’s life, it can also break the generational cycles of trauma so those women’s children don’t have to go through the same thing. “At Lodi House what we’re doing is supporting these women,” said Jenna. “who are great women by the way, because despite everything they’ve been through they still landed there.They are strong and courageous women. Our hope is that we’re standing with these women on the other side as successful members of the community. They’re adding to the community, and just the community being able to embrace all those different pieces is really important because it’s having a positive impact on both ends. The women, they all have it within them. They just need the right tools and the right encouragement and the right push to open their eyes and see.” Many of the women come from traumatic situations. They come from homes without structure and often haven been mentally, physically, or sexually abused, and surrounded by drug use. Despite the odds being stacked against them, they have the strength come to Lodi House ready to take control of their lives.
That’s something that inspires Jenna. These women overcome adversity with very little tools, and by the time they get to Lodi House, they want change. Jenna and the women at Lodi House, are waiting with open arms. “It’s humbling working there. The residents are human and going through their trials, and it’s meaningful to see their success,” continued Jenna. “I think just as a person and a therapist it just gives me a lot of hope in people. To see the staff do what they do, and the residents do what they do, it gives me the spark to keep doing what I’m doing when I see those changes. Every now and then I see something and then I get that reminder why this is what I do what I do.”
In her time working at Lodi House Jenna has seen a lot. She works with women in this really unique setting where she, along with others at Lodi House, have had the blessing of being side-by-side with these strong women as they take back control of their lives. Jenna has seen moms who go from being barely present parents to wonderful mothers who now have the emotional capacity to give back and be present for their children. She’s helped women break cycles of years of abusive relationships and watched as they learn that they are enough. She’s helped women maintain years of sobriety so they can live their lives without the blurred lenses of drugs and alcohol. She has the satisfaction of knowing she’s changing lives and breaking generational cycles. She’s not only helping these individuals and their families, she’s helping our community. She doesn’t have to do this, but she does it because it’s where her heart is. And from all she’s given to these women and children, it feels like they’ve given her a lot, too. They’ve impacted how she raises her family and how she interacts with others. If you ask her something she’s taken away from this experience, and wishes she could share with others, it’s this: “One person’s experience isn’t everybody else’s experience in life. We all are dealt a different hand in life and have different experiences. It’s humbling to work at Lodi House and see people who are dealt very different cards in life just because of where they’re born or who they’re born to. It makes you realize a lot of us hold a lot of privilege. I feel we should be able to use that privilege for good and use our voices for good. We should use our energy for good and support our community.” If you can take one thing from Jenna, let it be to use what you have to help others.