LODI, NJ - Sometimes it takes a village to help the men and women in blue who take the oath to serve and protect their local community.

That's what happened when two local breweries, the business community, a youth sports league, and the borough teamed up to help fund new bulletproof vests for members of Lodi PBA Local 26.

It all started with an idea from Mayor Scott Luna.

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"We wanted to bring the community together, and to do more community events," said Luna. 

He came up with the idea of a street fair or Fall Festival, with activities and a beer garden, to be held along Memorial Drive to help raise funds for the vests.

According to Lodi PBA Local 26 president Officer Philip Nobile, the average life span of a bulletproof vest is five years.

"Police vests cost so much money," Luna explained. "If we could do an Octoberfest, all of the proceeds would go to buy a few vests."

He began reaching out to different groups in the community.

"We wanted to give back and help the police," he said. "The police have really done wonders in our community. When we grew up, police were our friends, we looked up to them, they helped us out."

"And these guys are starting to do the same thing, to bring back that Lodi pride."

Luna pointed out the new outreach programs started by the Lodi Police Department, including Coffee with a Cop, the Junior Police Academy, and even just shooting hoops with children out on the basketball courts.

Luna then reached out to Tom Rachelski of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of Ghost Hawk Brewing in Clifton.

"The Chamber has been very active in our community," he explained.

"The brewing community is not in competition with each other," said Tom Rachelski. "We look at each other as fellow entrepreneurs, and we're always looking for way to help each other out."

Rachelski then reached out to fellow brewer Mike Jones of Hackensack Brewing, who had a personal reason to get involved.

"We were right on board," said Jones, whose father was a 27-year veteran of the Hasbrouck Heights Police Department. "It's something that hit home. It was something important we wanted to give back. It's a big part of what we do. We try to always give to something, and this was a cause that just jumped out. We're happy to be part of it."

Other groups came on board, including the Lodi DPW, Recreation Department, Cliffhanger Productions, and Lodi Little League. The October 20 event included a petting zoo, trackless train, climbing wall, live entertainment, a cigar bar, wine and the beer garden. The Lodi Little League, who Rachelski is a part of, hosted a pumpkin patch, selling 2000 pumpkins for the cause. 

Even though the event was cut short by rain, it was enough to fund three bulletproof vests. That, along with a state grant, provided enough funding to help outfit the 22 members of the patrol division with up-to-date vests. 

Wednesday night Lodi PBA Local 26 received the donation to cover three vests. Accepting the check from Rachelski and Jones was PBA Local 26 president Officer Philip Nobile, vice president Officer Nicholas Nobre, along with seven members of Local 26, and Mayor Luna.

Luna plans to have the fall fest and other community events this year.


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