Lodians Love to Love Lodi
Love Lodi has to be one of the most successful volunteering events in Lodi. I don’t know if anyone is keeping track of this, so I’m going to go ahead and guess it is (feel free to send in corrections). This year over a thousand people showed up to do work in our community and every person I bumped into was smiling and happy. If you were out there, you know a lot of great work was done (68 projects), and you should be patting yourself on the back! You were part of something awesome, go you! People came out with their churches, work, exercise groups, schools, and more ready to get down to business. I asked people why they decided to come out to Love Lodi, and their answer almost always started with the obvious, “Because I love Lodi!” but it never ended there. It was like using the word love made them consider what really did inspire them to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning to go do some really tough manual labor. What did they really love that was motivating them to do good? Of course we all love our community, but people’s motivations went a lot deeper than that. Our friends and family are part of our community. All the things we hold closest. And I think that’s what inspired a lot of people to show on a Saturday morning.
This was Love Lodi’s 5th year, and it was the biggest one yet for volunteers. Most people who participated know that Pastor Glen Barnes of the First Baptist Church was the chairperson, and it’s a role he’s had for the four years. “For me, it’s an outflow of my Christian life,” shared Pastor Glen. “I feel that Christians should be the most loving, you know? For years I think a lot of people associated Christians with all the things they stand against, like we’re opposed to this and we’re opposed to that and I think Christians should be known for what they’re for, including loving people and loving our community.” Makes sense. Love Your City was started ten years ago by a church in Modesto, and Lodi has been holding this event for five years. The inspiration was that churches would be able to show their love, so It makes sense Pastor Glen would feel moved to continue this in Lodi.
And while the main goals is for churches to show their love, it’s grown to be more than that. One of the things that Pastor Glen said to me that really stood out is that this day (Love Lodi), these projects, are really just tools to connect us to something bigger. That’s why so many other groups outside of churches have been attracted to the event. “One of the goals for me is not so much that all the projects get done because I always say the weeds grow back, the paint needs to be repainted, the bark needs to be re-shoveled, but love for a community and pride for you community will really last. The projects are really kind of a tool. They’re something to get everybody together. It’s great when the park looks better and the school gets its trash picked up but it’s not the end project. People want to give back. They really do want to be a part of something positive. I think they recognize there’s a lot of negative stuff and they want to be a part of something positive. I think we’re also pretty realistic and so we try to provide a good project leader who has all of the project materials there, and set the end time at that morning, so we make it easy for people to serve. If they just had to go find a place on their own they probably never would. But because we say ‘hey, this school needs this’ and ‘this park needs that’ they sign up for it.” People want to give back, and by making it more easily accessible people show up! Build it and they will come! “There’s a lot of people that want to serve but they just don’t know how. They want to be a part of the solution, they don’t want to be a part of the negative. People don’t want to complain. They want to be part of the solution but don’t have a real outlet for doing it, so we provide that.”
Pastor Glen also pointed out another added benefit to Love Lodi, and that’s the relationships built through service. For any of you who participated in Love Lodi, when you drive by the park that you helped clean, or the nonprofit you helped paint, don’t you feel more invested in what’s going on there? Love Lodi has never actually measured this, but Love Modesto has, and some 40-50% of people who volunteered that day at a nonprofit, continued to be involved with that nonprofit over the course the next year. So for example if you helped with the One-Eighty Center on Love Lodi, then there’s a 40-50% chance you also played in their annual golf tournament or came back and volunteered. “So it was not the volunteers’ only contact, their contact with the nonprofit. Love Lodi started a relationship,” explained Pastor Glen. “You’re more interested in them (the nonprofit). It’s like oh I planted the trees there and so I care about those kids who go to that place.” It’s so simple, but it’s true and it makes sense. And Pastor Glen wants people to “have a sense of community pride and that they make a difference and are part of a positive change.”
This was Pastor Glen Barnes last year as chairman, but he’s looking forward to what’s to come with the event. As I like to do, I asked him my favorite question, and I think it’s a good note to end on. If he could change one thing in the world, what would it be? “I think love would be at the center of what I want to see. And for me personally that’s what drives me. Love for one another, people to love themselves, people to love their community and their world, and people to love God. To be in a right relationship with what God created us for, you know God created us to be right with him and right with other people and right with ourselves and that’s what it is for me. Love is at the center of that.”
Takeaways from Pastor Glen Barnes
People want to give back and be part of something good.
If we want people to be involved and volunteer, we have to make it easy and inviting.
Weeds will grow back and the paint will chip. Love Lodi isn’t just about the finished projects because those will fade, Love Lodi’s projects are tools for people to demonstrate their love and connect them to the community.