Leadership Lodi Class of 2018 Supports The Village

Leadership Lodi is program run through the Lodi Chamber of Commerce. The program is designed to equip citizens of Lodi with the skills and knowledge they need to be leaders in our community. Every year the class of Leadership Lodi leaves their mark by donating something special to Lodi. This year, the class of 2018 decided to make their contribution to one of Lodi’s newest organizations, The Village. Early in the program year, the students in Leadership Lodi have “Nonprofit Day” and during that day they learn about many of the different Lodi nonprofit groups. A handful of those nonprofits make a request for help with different projects they're working on. After that day, the Leadership Lodi class takes some time to think and discuss the different projects, before choosing one to contribute to. This year, the class decided to do their project for The Village, a new nonprofit for young adults who are intellectually and developmentally disabled. “Kathy Piazza (the founder of The Village) was a last minute addition to our nonprofit presentation rotation and she was the very last presentation of the day.” says Eliza Downs. Eliza is one of the Leadership Lodi class of 2018 graduates and wanted to share why this project was so special to her.  “We were all exhausted and our hearts were already torn in so many directions. But when she began to speak about her family and why she decided to start her own nonprofit, all of us were immediately captured and listened at full attention to her pitch. It was unique and special because this is a very underserved population in our community. There isn't any other place where adults with developmental disabilities can go to have programming locally during the day, or for their caregivers to go for support and to build a community. Kathy is so passionate about her new nonprofit, The Village, that she swayed our group towards helping this particular population. We felt that helping to build a sensory room would be something that is utilized daily and could really make a big difference to her facility and clients. We also felt drawn to her because she is a new nonprofit in town and we wanted to help a nonprofit that wasn't necessarily established quite yet.”

The class worked for several months to plan a fundraiser. Kathy’s request was a sensory room for The Village, and the fundraiser would provide the money to purchase the special equipment needed. The fundraiser Leadership Lodi came up with was a dinner called “Shine a Light Night.” At that dinner they had a silent auction, a raffle and the biggest hit of the evening- a live dessert auction. The class raised an impressive $25,000 to create the sensory room. Kathy Piazza described what the sensory room would mean to young men and women who are part of The Village. “The idea of a sensory room is that people of all sorts, particularly people with developmental disabilities, often have a sensory processing disorder, which means all the senses that you take in: sight, smell, touch, taste, even the movement of their bodies,  they have trouble with. So a place like a sensory room can create calm and be a place to organize your thinking and take in all the senses in a calm, safe environment. That’s why we’re painting the walls lavender, for example, because it’s a very calming color.” The sensory room will include a projector that will project images onto the wall, like an underwater scene or a stars and celestial theme. There will be tactile panels on the walls, a colorful bubble tube and optic lights. Every item was thoughtfully chosen for users to have the most optimal experience. “So if you had someone like Hannah (Kathy’s daughter who is developmentally disabled) in there,” Kathy explained, “You could put the lights over here and she could be touching them so she’s taking in multiple senses. She’s looking at it and, touching it. We might also have special audio going depending on the needs of each person. I think someone like Hannah is going to be really intrigued. For someone like her it’s going to focus her thoughts. It’ll give her something to really tune into and stimulate all of her senses.”  A room like this doesn’t exist here and that’s one of the reasons Leadership Lodi wanted to help. “This will be a special place that can be used by lots of people.” shared Kathy. “The day program might be small, but with the community center hours it can serve a vast number of people.”

Congratulations to the Leadership Lodi class of 2018 on completing such an impactful project!

Find out what inspired this mom, Kathy Piazza, to start The Village, about her daughter, Hannah, and why the community has embraced this new nonprofit by reading their story here.