For over 30 years, Santa has had a satellite office in Lodi. Created by Joan Gehrke over 30 years ago1Joan is fuzzy on the exact year, because she never bothered to keep track., the Lodi Santa Project has been quietly providing essential need to Lodi families in need, and holiday gifts for their children.
Looking Out for Lodi’s Children
The Lodi Santa Project was created with a simple purpose in mind: helping to make the holidays happy for all of Lodi’s children–especially those in families that aren’t able to afford the extra costs that Christmas can bring.
Over the decades, the project has grown beyond just holiday support. They operate throughout the year providing Lodi Valley families with assistance in paying rent and utility bills, purchasing basic and winter clothing, and even providing children’s beds.
Those behind the Lodi Santa Project understand that some families may rely on long-term support, but there are also many who just need a helping hand to get through rough times.
This is a very giving community. As soon as you say it’s for our kids–or families of our kids–people give generously.
Understanding and Trust
Both the project creator, Joan Gehrke, and the current head, Pam Cunningham, work (or worked) in Lodi’s schools. In any community, the schools are a nexus where all groups interact. The faculty and staff at our schools interact with every child in our community. They know who’s doing well, and they know who may be dealing with difficulties. And they understand the need for confidentiality and trust.
Those two concepts–confidentiality and trust–are at the heart of the Lodi Santa Project. The names of those donating and those receiving are never shared–nor are they stored online where the information could be hacked. When families in need are contacted, they’re only told “someone who cares about you told us you might need some assistance”.
The Project is also not online (except for a gmail e-mail address: LodiSantaProject). Pam, and those that assist her, talk directly to the families seeking assistance, and the community members looking to help.
How to Get Involved
The most direct way to contact Pam is through the project’s GMail address: LodiSantaProject. You can let her know of a Lodi family that may need assistance, or you can offer to sponsor a family who needs assistance.
If you’re not comfortable approaching Pam directly, you can speak to any of the faculty or staff at any of the Lodi schools about the project. Anonymous donations can be made at Associated Bank; just tell the clerk you’d like to donate to the Lodi Santa Project.
A Lodi native, Blaze attended the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay where he graduated with a degree in theatre technology & design. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world–including a 6-year stint in China. He has been a teacher, a writer, a designer, and is the founder of the Redleaf Consulting Group.
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