Love Lodi Back & Better Than Ever!

Image compliments of Love Lodi

Image compliments of Love Lodi

What would happen if our entire community came together to love Lodi? That’s the question being asked by the Love Lodi committee. Every year in April community members band together to find out just what would happen and each year Love Lodi has grown. In 2018, 1,300 friends and neighbors registered online and 2019 is expected to be even bigger. Maybe you’re reading this because you’ve been part of Love Lodi and you love this day. Or maybe you’re reading this because you’re wondering why you keep seeing this Love Lodi stuff all over town. Either way, this article has something for you.

Kelly Benov is the head honcho for this year’s Love Lodi. This movement started out of First Baptist Church as an initiative for churches in Lodi, and it has grown to include people from all over. “Love Lodi is faith based and our idea is that we want to show our community that Christ’s love extends to everybody,” shared Kelly. “It doesn’t matter what your background is, what you’ve done, what you’ve been through, it’s for everybody. It isn’t about whether we all agree or if we’re all the same, that’s not what it’s about. So we just want to show the community that we’re here and that we’re a community and we’re going to work side-by-side, we all have the same value. We really want everyone to be included. It doesn’t where you’re from or what you believe or if you go to church or not, this is a day for Lodi.” At last year’s Love Lodi, churches were involved, clubs were involved, businesses were involved, schools were involved, it seems like everyone from every walk of life has gotten in on the goodness. Love Lodi has become a tool, given to us by these churches, to show our pride in our community and connect with others.

“For me, it’s hard sometimes when you’re like, I’d like to help but I don’t know what to do,” said Kelly’s husband Jared. Jared takes their boys to go volunteer so the whole family gets to be involved on that day “So you just sign up and we’ve had everything from the elderly who like to work in the garden to contractors who want to do a large scale project, there’s something kind of for everybody to do. Even if you don’t want to do a project, you can serve people who are out serving, giving them food, water, logistics and resources, there’s kind of something for everybody. And as much as you see the community benefits, after picking up the trash and everything, I think the benefit to the people doing the work may be even more. We all go to work to try and make money and sometimes you don’t want to do that, but when you go out and do this and work for free, at the end of the day, even though you’re tired there’s a feeling of… I don’t know. It’s a different kind of compensation. You’re rewarded differently and it feels good.”

This year they’re expecting between 1,500 and 2,000 volunteers and 60 to 70 projects. By going to the website, people can propose different projects, then volunteers sign up to take on those projects. It’s a great opportunity for schools, parks and nonprofits to get the extra attention they need throughout the year. Last year I saw people touching up paint at the Salvation Army, recarpeting the One-Eighty Center, people deep cleaning the tables at LOEL, and one church even repainted the entire outside of the Animal Friends Humane Society!  

This year, Love Lodi has three things they’re going to be expanding: more parties in a box, more helping individuals, and doing more to help homelessness.  Kelly explains, “We’re working with code enforcement for the first time this year to try to help individual home owners who need help on the outside of their home or in their yard to get them up to code. Last year we were able to help a disabled veteran who was having problems with his deck and his backyard collapsing and a contractor went in and fixed that for him. So we’re working with the chaplain at American Legion to give us referrals for veterans who need help. It’s such a testimony to the whole neighborhood that somebody was here and did something.” Another program that was popular last year and will be expanded this year is the party in a box. This idea was aimed at senior centers. Volunteers pick up a box that has all of the supplies for a party inside, and then they bring this party box to the senior centers.  This year they’re also adding a new way to reach out to the homeless population. To make their efforts more sustainable, the Love Lodi committee decided the best way to help would be to support groups who are already doing good work. “So this year Gravity Church is putting together a resource fair and it’s going to have a mobile shower, a mobile laundry, a barber, and they’re going to have all the information about which facilities are available, what they offer, where they can go for healthcare, and stuff like that to get the help that they need.”

So how much can one day of volunteering help? Well for that day, it makes a big difference. Lodi looks extra beautiful the afternoon after Love Lodi. But what’s really special about Love Lodi is the goodness doesn’t stop when the day is over. Yeah, all the nonprofits and different organization’s enjoy the huge amount of help that day, but it also makes a big impact on the people who were out volunteering. “The individuals doing the jobs feel a huge impact,” said Kelly. “I think that as far as their perspectives and their hearts and their feelings towards the community and their neighbors and the churches within their communities, I think we’ve probably impacted the people working just as much as the people that are receiving the service. It seems like we get more and more people every year because people that volunteered  go out and say what a great day it was and tell about all these cool things that happened. So definitely the biggest heart and mind change has been the people who are doing the work… One day makes a difference.” If you’ve never been part of Love Lodi, grab a group of friends and sign up. You’ll be happy you did. If you’ve done it before, we’ll look forward to seeing you out there. Find out what happens when our entire community comes together to Love Lodi. Take advantage of this great tool that helps you take pride in your community and connect with others while keeping our town the livable, lovable place we’re know and love.

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2nd PrintJamie Vilinskas