Lori Lander Goodman and crew at the Isla Vista Children's Center | Credit: Paul Wellman

“I like to think of it as a community center without walls,” says Lori Goodman about Isla Vista Youth Projects (IVYP), where she is executive director. “It’s about families and children and community.”    

Founded in 1971, IVYP offers a range of support services for the seaside town and nearby areas, including a children’s center, afterschool programs, and a family resource center. The latter offers the broadest reach, explains Lori.

“We provide families with basic needs, such as food distribution, and inform families about immigration changes, which is one of the most pressing issues in our community,” she says. “It’s humbling to think of the fear that families are currently facing in our community.”

I’m impressed by Lori’s passion, enthusiasm, and vision as we meet early in the morning for breakfast to discuss IVYP.  “I love everything about it,” says Lori, who took over 16 months ago from LuAnn Miller, the executive director for 33 years. “It’s challenging, exciting, and overwhelming, all at the same time.”  

Lori is currently considering how to take their leadership role beyond Isla Vista. Today, fewer than 20 percent of their constituents live in I.V.  Many come from Goleta as well as some from Lompoc and Santa Barbara.

“We’re not leaving I.V., but expanding,” she clarifies. “We’re all about family-strengthening and community-building. The role we have in the world is gathering together community partners, with the police, public health, the Goleta Valley community. We build partnerships from different sectors and develop trust, and through that, we create a vision for building resilient community. The thread that goes through all of this is relationship. Relationships build resilience.”

Lori was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Orange County. She graduated from the Chadwick School in 1982 and then got a degree in women’s studies from UC Santa Cruz in 1986.

“I wanted to travel the world and grabbed a backpack and spent five months in South American with a friend,” she says. “While in South America, I thought I wanted to teach. Things that called me were children and family and Judaism, the idea of running a Jewish community center.”  

She went to USC to get a Master’s in social work and another in Jewish nonprofit management from the Hebrew Union College, achieving both degrees simultaneously.  She met her husband, Evan, in 1989, when he was studying to become a rabbi.

Together they went to Cincinnati for two years so he could finish seminary.  From 1993 to 2006, they lived in the Bay Area. She raised the kids while working for the San Francisco Jewish Federation on fundraising and community development.  

In 2006, the family moved to New York City, where Evan became a rabbi at a synagogue in New Rochelle. New York wasn’t a good fit for them, and Evan had a heart attack at 43 years of age in 2008.  That made him rethink his career.

“He didn’t want to be in a congregation anymore, and we wanted to return to California,” Lori explains. Evan soon became executive director of the Santa Barbara Hillel Center.

In 2011, Lori started working for CALM as development director. “That was a great match for me,” she says about working under the leadership of the former executive director Cecilia Rodriguez. “I learned so much from her leadership. I think of her every day. It was a great gift to work with her.”

About IVFP, Lori exclaims, “There’s so much opportunity. It’s a new community, and there’s lots of energy. For me, it’s always been about family and children.”

Lori Goodman answers the Proust questionnaire.

What is your current state of mind?
I think the best word is engaged. I’m engaged in my family, in my work, and in my community. I am interested in everything.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Lately, I’ve been talking about joy, not happiness. I’m generally a happy person. We have just begun a strategic planning process and I’ve been advocating that joy needs to be part of our values. So much of IVYP’s work is providing services to our most vulnerable families. It’s easy to focus on their deficits. It’s important to have joy. For me joy is found in a moving piece of music, being in the wilderness, laughing hysterically with my family.

Who do you most admire?
There are so many people I admire. I admire Cecilia Rodriguez, who I worked with at CALM for several years. Cecilia is someone who is so centered, authentic, and unflappable — and always connected to her why. I loved working with her.

I admire Ken Saxon, president and founder of Leading from Within, for his vision and for his work in the nonprofit community.

I admire Victoria Juarez, the current CEO of Scholarship Foundation for her ambition and her competence. I am so lucky that all of these people are my friends.

Among public figures, I’d pick Sheryl Sandburg. I’m impressed with her ability to lead with vulnerability, values, and intelligence.

What do you like most about your job?
Honestly? I like being the boss. I waited a long time to put myself into a senior leadership position and I like everything about it. I am learning, stretching and growing all the time. I feel incredibly proud of my staff, who are the heart and soul of IVYP.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The fun answer: I was able to appear on Jeopardy! and win. I am and will always be a Jeopardy! champion. But the real answer is that I have a happy marriage and together we have raised two sons to be genuinely good, interesting, and kind adults.

What is your greatest fear?
My mom is only 76 and she’s confined to a wheelchair. She’s in assisted living and her once vibrant life is immeasurably diminished. I am afraid of being diminished in that way, of losing my health.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I’m not a particularly extravagant person, but right now it’s travel. Last December, I traveled to the Galapagos. It was fascinating, beautiful, inspiring. In September, I’m going to Tanzania. Right now, I’m prioritizing travel to natural places to see animals and natural beauty that might not be here in another generation.

What is the quality you most like in people?
I most enjoy people who are intelligent and have a great sense of humor. I value intellectual curiosity.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Dishonesty. Cruelty. Lack of curiosity.

What do you most value in friends?
This question is surprisingly hard, because I value different characteristics in different friends. Sense of humor, commitment to a shared set of values — perhaps what I value most in my friends is simply that they like me.

What is your most marked characteristic?
I think people find me warm, very smart, and down-to-earth.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I was working on a speech a couple of weeks ago for IVYP’s first annual fundraising event, the LEAP awards. In my first draft, I used the words “building community” about 12 times. I think I also overuse the word “awesome.” But, here’s the thing: I’m working on building an awesome community. Is that so wrong?

Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to be visually creative. I’m a pretty creative thinker, but not very attuned to how things look. I’ve come to learn that visuals are important, and I’m a bit blind to that.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
This is quite superficial: I’d be 50 pounds lighter and be able to eat whatever I want and not gain weight. Other than that, I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin.

Where would you most like to live?
I love living in Goleta. I feel so grateful to have landed here. We have everything:  natural beauty, a thriving nonprofit sector, a world-class university, little traffic. I would be fine living here forever.

What is your most treasured possession?
Recently, I went through a box of papers from my mother’s house and found my grandmother’s certificate of naturalization. My grandmother, for whom I’m named, escaped from Nazi Germany in 1938. My own family’s story is just two generations removed from many of the families we serve at IVYP. The certificate of naturalization reminds me where I come from. It reminds me that my relative security in this country is not a given. It reminds me that we can change and grow and create a different and better future. So, perhaps it’s not the possession in and of itself, but what it symbolizes.

Who makes you laugh the most?
My sons, Ilan and Noah. They are both very funny. We have always had a lot of laughter in our home.

What is your motto?
These were the senior quotes I used in my high school yearbook,  and they still apply: “If you want to sing out, sing out. If you want to be free, be free.”  (Cat Stevens) And, “If you will it, it is no dream.” (Theodor Herzl)

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I’ve always admired Eleanor Roosevelt.

On what occasion do you lie?
My son Noah says that I lie when I’m feeling very tired. Get it?

On what occasion do you lie?
My son Noah says that I lie when I’m feeling very tired. Get it?


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