Why the Boys & Girls Club Matters to This Lodi Barber
On Sunday, October 21st, the Lodi Boys and Girls Club opened their doors for a special event. By now everyone in Lodi has heard that the Boys and Girls Club has hit some hard times. With the loss of General Mills, who was donating anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 a year, along with a few other large donors, the Lodi Boys and Girls Club has had to consider possibly closing their doors. In an interview with the Lodi News Sentinel, Edward Cotton, the club’s CEO stated “Typically, an organization of this size runs on a half-million dollar budget, but for the past three or four years, we’ve been working with an annual budget of between $350,000 and $400,000.” So even though Lodi has been very generous, it hasn’t been enough to make up for that gap left by the former huge donors. The club is now facing an ultimatum: they need to raise $100,000 to $150,000 by the end of 2018 (so they can make it to the next grant cycle) or close their doors. That sounds grim, but there’s a silver lining: 1) Lodi has a history of being incredibly prideful and supportive of their community, and 2) the Boys and Girls Club has helped raise a lot of kids who are now engaged members of our community. One of those Boys and Girls Club graduates is Sal Mireles. Sal Mireles went to the boys and girls club when he was younger and he knows first hand what a great organization they are. He’s now a barber and owner of Legendary Barbershop in Lodi. When he heard the news about the Boys and Girls Club he jumped into action and set up a fundraiser where anyone could come down to the club and get their hair cut with 100% of the proceeds going to benefit the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. If that’s not a proof to the good work the Boys and Girls Club does in making an impact in a kid’s life, then I don’t know what is.
“I plan on doing this to help them out. I reached out to them because this is the one of the only spots for kids in Lodi,” explained Sal. During the interview he was cutting one kid’s hair, while a line of was forming of people waiting for him to cut their hair next. “I went here from like 8 years old to 13. When I was here I was always playing dodgeball, basketball… just being a kid, honestly. People need to bring their kids. Let them be a kid.” Sal set up this fundraiser fast, but you would never guess that looking around. There was a line of barber chairs set up with booster seats for the kids. There was professional lighting and stations set up for each of the barbers and hair stylists, you could smell BBQ, and there was even a raffle. I was honestly really impressed with how much he set up in such a short amount of time. While he was talking to me he was cutting hair, managing volunteers, coordinating the event, and talking to just about every single person who came through. And he was so focused, he did it all in stride. It was really clear how passionate he was about making this event a success. To see a community member jump into action like this to fight for something they believe in was super inspiring, and the clearest indicator of how important this club is to the families it serves.
When I got to the club, I ran into my neighbor Candy. Her little guy, Joey, was having his hair cut by Sal. Joey goes to the Boys and Girls Club during school breaks. He hasn’t been at the Boys and Girls Club long, but he and his mom already love it there. “The staff is amazing,” Candy said. “Joey loves the people here. The kids are great here, the staff is amazing. They interact so well with the kids. They treat the kids like family. Mr. Rose, Ms. Jen… Joey loves them. They do great projects like art projects, baking - Joey loves to bake. They did some baking during fall break and Joey loved it.” Everyone I spoke to had great things to say about the club. Families who are part of the Lodi Boys and Girls club seem to really passionately love the program. No one could seem to pinpoint one big thing they loved about the club, but after talking to a bunch of people I think Sal hit the nail on the head. They let kids be kids. They have a staff who is trained and caring and knows that the most important thing they can do is let kids be kids in a safe and nurturing environment.
Edward Cotton is the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club and he was out that Sunday talking with people and helping with the event. “We want to make sure kids become successful, independent citizens in their community. So, I mean, when our former club members step up because they know we’re having financial difficulties and give back to the club that gave them so much…” Edward paused. “We really, really appreciate that. It says a lot about what we do.” Edward himself is also a former club kid and has been working at the club in Lodi for the last 27 years. He shared some more important information about the club. They serve over 500 kids a year, and those kids are able to come by paying an annual membership fee of $35 a year. “We want this to be affordable and available to all families. And we’re not just serving kids on the East side we’re serving kids across the entire city. Anybody who wants to belong can belong.” If the club were to close, there would be nowhere for all of those kids to go. At least nowhere safe. Kids find a way to entertain themselves, they always do, so to have this positive influence, where kids can just be kids, is why people like Sal are out fighting to make sure this club stays open.
I wanted to focus on this fundraiser partly because of the Boys and Girls Club, but especially because I was inspired by how quickly Sal stepped up to the plate to pull this event together. Seeing him do that demonstrated to me there is something really special about this club. When I found out Sal was so passionate because he had gone there as a kid, I was even more impressed. I had a lot of teachers I really liked as a kid, but I’ve never felt so passionately about any of my schools or daycares as Sal does about the Boys and Girls Club. That tells me the club has a huge impact on the families they serve. They’re doing something most families can’t quite put into words. Sal said it best though, they let kids be kids. It sounds so simple, but sometimes just letting a kid be a kid is really rare. Kids are under a lot of pressure today to perform in school and sometimes kids’ home lives make them grow up faster than they should. Letting a kid by a kid, is a really special thing, and that’s why Sal, and others, have so much love for the Lodi Boys and Girls Club.
Shout out to Sal and Legendary Barbershop for pulling the community together so quickly for a cause that’s near and dear to their hearts. If you would like to find out more about the Lodi Boys and Girls Club or make a donation, click here.