Livable, Lovable Lodi is Loving the One-Eighty
Most of you probably know of Lodi’s One-Eighty Center. I remember it opened in 2002 (while I was in high school) as a teen center because if you ask any kid in Lodi, “There’s nothing to do here!” Since then it’s expanded into a whole lot more. In addition to the teen center, the One-Eighty has broadened its reach to provide programming from family consoling to an initiative for healthier communities and more. I was shocked when I learned how much the One-Eighty does now. Last year I was part of Leadership Lodi, and we did a project for the One-Eighty which is when I learned about all of their great programming. Each year, the Leadership Lodi classes choose to do a project for local nonprofit, and we chose to help the One-Eighty with some building upgrades, mostly safety upgrades. After we learned about all the preventative programming the One-Eighty provides to invest in youth and keep Lodi safe, helping with this project felt like the least we could do to show our appreciation. The One-Eighty project was huge, so our class was only covering a portion, about a third, of the upgrades, and the rest was going to be covered through a federal CGBD grant. Recently, I ran into Alison McGregor, the Director of the One-Eighty, and was so, so excited when she shared some big news with me… thanks to the support of our community, the One-Eighty no longer had a need for the federal grant monies. Through the many donations from the Lodi community, the One-Eighty actually completed the project and at a fraction of the cost! Go team Lodi!
Before we go any further, let me backtrack and share with you why this project stands out. The One-Eighty supports generally “at-risk” youth, providing them with amazing, specialized programming. The appeal made to our Leadership class was to improve the One-Eighty’s safety features, and also to improve the general look and feel of the outside of the building. Safety was the biggest concern. The One-Eighty isn’t located in a great part of town, it’s on Turner and Sacramento Street right by the railroad tracks. This makes sense because this puts them closest to the kids they serve, but it was also a problem because the building didn’t have adequate safety features. So for example, the building had video cameras, which is great, but barely any outside lighting. The One-Eighty holds Friday night programs for teens that keep kids occupied in positive activities, and off of the streets, and those programs run pretty late into the night. On one occasion, after a Friday night program, a group of teens were waiting out front to be picked up by parents and started getting hassled by some gang members. Luckily everyone was okay, but when the police showed up and looked at the security footage, it was so dark they couldn’t see a thing. There was no light to capture what had happened. The lack of lighting was also an issue with transients sleeping around the building and leaving unsafe paraphernalia. There were also issues with doors, sidewalks, pavement, etc. In addition to the much needed safety upgrades, the building itself was really, well... Blah. It definitely did not reflect the vibrant youth it was serving, and all of the happy memories and excitement going on inside. The One-Eighty does so much, and the inside is such a cool place with so many things to offer, but you would never have guessed it from its street view. Our Leadership Lodi class chose to take on this project because the safety of the youth and staff was important to us and because we agreed that the building’s facade didn’t do it justice. Even though the project seemed pretty clear cut, with all of the work already professionally outlined, we ran into a lot of road blocks. There were a lot of times we were concerned we wouldn’t be able to finish by our deadline. But somehow, in the end, our Leadership Lodi class completed our portion of the project (mostly painting and lighting) only slightly past our deadline, leaving the One-Eighty ready to move into the next phase of upgrades. Thank God!
What has been even more exciting though, was that through the publicity that came from the project, people started stepping up left and right with a lot of in-kind donations. For example the painting and electrical work that we were in charge of, both huge costs, were donated by caring family businesses for next to nothing (a great example of why we need to support local businesses). From a project standpoint, this didn’t just mean we saved on the cost of these two big jobs, it also meant we saved on the time, the bidding, and the really high labor costs so we could move forward and get more done. And that didn’t stop when our portion of the project ended. When I ran into Alison at Love Lodi, she said that thanks to all of the community support for these upgrades, with people stepping up to help with all the little projects, they didn’t need that government funding after all. Folks from all over the community stepped up to share their skills and trades to support this cause they believed in. Alison estimates the entire scope of the project was $96,000. When I asked her what she thought they saved money wise through in-kind donations, she wasn’t sure because it’s hard to estimate the actual cost of any project with labor, equipment, and the time spent doing the processes. From our experience, I bet they at least sliced that budget in half. It saves a ton of money and it’s difficult to put an exact price tag on, but the point is, it saved a lot.
“I think that our community really has a vested interest in youth. They want to see our community continue to thrive and I think they really know that to focus energy on teenagers is a big deal."
“I think that our community really has a vested interest in youth. They want to see our community continue to thrive and I think they really know that to focus energy on teenagers is a big deal. It’s a huge gift to the longevity of our community. The 180 has a lot of donors and partnerships built in, so when we say we want to step in and help provide mentorship, or advocacy or pathways for teenagers who don’t always have those pathways or support systems then we really have an opportunity to help guide, or parent, or mentor students and statistically that’s what students need to be successful. I think every person who has been successful can think of somebody in their life that helped them become successful. So with 180 they get to partner with people that are doing that.” I should mention Alison also has a great way with words and connecting you to whatever story she’s sharing. This is a perfect example. We all have someone who has guided us and to be able to pay that forward and provide that experience for someone else is a true, priceless gift. By supporting the One-Eighty, you’re helping to provide that opportunity and that’s one of the reasons Alison believes people feel it’s so important to continue to support their mission.
It was important to me to share this because I think it’s something our community should be really proud of. One of the things that’s stood out to me since moving back to Lodi is that Lodians like to take care of our one another. It’s important for us to take care of our neighbors and we approach it with a sense of pride. I don’t think you find a kinship that strong in a lot of other communities. Supporting the One-Eighty to allow it to better serve Lodi’s youth is a really great example of that. According to Alison, since the updates have happened, “People will drive by and tell me they never knew there was a teen center here. We’ve had a lot more interest from the community, and student attendance has increased. I think the students have noticed because we haven’t had a lot of traffic while they’re here, but they feel the excitement. They know something's going on. Plus with this done we’re able to provide more resources so the feel that. We went to a talent show recently at Lodi Middle School and I saw these two acts that were very cute and so I went up to them afterwards and I was like, ‘I will pay you to perform at the One-Eighty.’ It’s going to be a small amount because they’re only in middle school, but being able to do that at all is great. And because the community is excited we’re able to raise funds and those funds are able to go towards encouraging and supporting students’ talents.” Thanks to everyone’s help, more people of Lodi are recognizing the center, and this allows the One-Eighty to focus more of their energy towards their mission of supporting youth. I asked Alison what she wanted readers to take away from this, and she responded, “The generosity of our community. We are dependent on monthly donations and one time gifts, but this time it was the generosity of people feeling like we believe in this, we want this to happen, and we don’t want to wait a year and a half. People just stepped and it was amazing. It was really beautiful.”
Thanks to the community's generous support of the One-Eighty Center, CGBD funds were able to benefit other parts of our community. According to the Lodi News Sentinel, thanks to the One-Eighty returning the funds along with several other groups not using all their CGBD funding, the Lodi House will be able to take care of some much needed upgrades, and upgrades will also be made at Blakely Park Swim Complex. So not only did everyone's generosity benefit the One-Eighty, but the ripple effect is that they also indirectly helped the women and children seeking to better their lives through the Lodi House, and the pool improvements at Blakely Park which encourages kids to stay healthy and active.