2015 Winners: BEST OF Parents

Best of San Joaquin


By Lindsey Rodrian

It is no secret children are our future, and nurturing the youth of San Joaquin is one of the best ways to ensure future community success. As Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Center Youth and Family Services, and mother of two, Joelle Gomez works daily to strengthen our county and support our families.

Joelle, a Lodi native, grew up in what she describes as a “classic Mexican-American family, filled with love and fun.” Her parents, Paul and Jovita Gomez, led by example, instilling in her and her siblings the gift of self-acceptance, and the importance of kindness and charity. “My mother remains my greatest hero, and through my father’s generosity I learned to reach out and give back,” she says.

Joelle studied communications and philosophy at the University of San Francisco, and spent a year abroad at University of Oxford; an experience that sparked a love affair with England, ultimately leading her to sell her belongings upon graduation and return to London for nearly four years. Upon her return to the states, she found an ad for a position at the center, while perusing the classifieds. She applied and was offered a job as the development director, writing grants and heading special events. “I was given so much opportunity to learn, to fail and to get my bearings,” she says, in regards to her nearly 25-year and counting relationship with the center. “The people here saw something in me, and being witness to the struggles of our clients made me fall in love with this work.”

Holding the title of Chief Executive Officer was never part of Joelle’s plans, but after five years at the center and the resignation of her predecessor, she was approached by the board of directors and encouraged to apply. “I remember asking myself, ‘Will I do this position justice? Can I make this organization stronger?’” Her questions were answered, as she dove in to the title and successfully expanded the capacity of the organization, increasing the center’s staff, budget and reach.

Today, the Women’s Center Youth and Family Services is the first non-profit to merge with another in the county, offering a larger platform to San Joaquin. With a focus on domestic violence, sexual assault, and homeless and runaway youth, Joelle and the center work to reach children who may fall victim to statistics she shared, reported by the Department of Justice, “Children exposed to violence, or abuse are 10 times more likely to be perpetrators or continuously abused.”

“We essentially become their family,” she says, “These children, as young as 12 years old, are working to pick up the pieces, to get their lives on track; and we are here to show them that they matter.”

In addition to the center’s children and parenting programs, and education throughout our schools and community, Joelle has extended focus to the first human trafficking task force with help from federal and state law enforcement agencies.

As for future plans, “I am looking forward to staying in love with my job and remaining very present in this work,” she answers with effortless humility, “It’s such an honor to be in this position and work with the women and men that I do.”

What local activity or location do you consider a family tradition?

Ours is always related to food, we love the Waterloo Inn, it’s our go-to get together spot.

What about date night?

Rosa’s at Tower Park – great Italian on the water!

Where do you love to shop in SJ?

Marshalls! When I’m bored, sad or stressed…. a good quality deal can’t be beat.


Childshutterstock_272347412ren’s Dance Studio

Dance Connection
9951 Lower Sacramento Rd., Stockton
(209) 956-2522

Whether your future dancing queen – or king – wants to perfect their rhythm with hip-hop moves or pirouette into a prima ballerina, The Dance Connection offers classes to fit their dancing dreams. In business for 30 years, the company’s philosophy remains the same — to help children develop proper technique while exploring dance in a fun environment. Aspiring dancers are invited to attend an introductory level class or join the company’s award-winning competition team – whatever their jete-ing heart desires.

Children’s Photographer

Heather Jean Photography
(209) 406-3682

Capturing life’s precious moments is a hard task with children that never sit still. A simple photo op can turn from cute to disastrous in a matter of seconds. That’s when it’s time to call in the professionals. From weddings to birthdays, Heather Jean Photography offers on-location photo shoots for babies and families. Whether your little one is turning one, welcoming a new baby brother or sister or hasn’t even arrived yet, Heather Jean Photography is there to capture your life’s precious moments.

shutterstock_276575978Children’s Dentist

Kids Care Dental
Multiple Locations in SJ
(844) 616-5437

The dentist’s office can be a scary place for just about anyone, including a child. Take your child to Kids Care Dental to quell their concerns and create a tradition that takes the fear out of teeth cleanings. A waiting room complete with video games and television sets start visits off on the right foot. From there, experienced staff take over and offer an oral care learning experience for children and their parents. From orthodontics to pediatric dental care, Kids Care Dental’s ten offices make quality dental care accessible for San Joaquin residents.

Children’s Boutique

Sassy Pants Children’s Boutique
354 Lincoln Center, Stockton
(209) 451-9775

If your mini-me is serious about fashion, Sassy Pants Children’s Boutique offers the perfect venue for their every clothing need. From accessories to full outfits, the mother-owned shop boasts edgy clothes for kids; many items even hail from funky European brands. But the tot shop isn’t only aimed at little girls who want to stand out; there are plenty of boy’s offerings, too. Joe’s Jeans, True Religion and Hudson are just a few of the high-end brands carried at the store.

MuseumIndoor Activity for Children 

Children’s Museum of Stockton
402 W. Weber Ave., Stockton
(209) 465-4386

Kids can explore a pint-sized town, pretend to drive full-size emergency vehicles and practice science and math through play at the Children’s Museum of Stockton. Whether you’re hiding from the rain, or just want to pass the day inside with your tiny brood, the museum offers a place where you don’t have to bark “don’t touch” every five minutes. From building blocks to arts and crafts, the museum encourages hands-on exploration, including a toddler area made specifically for the smallest explorers.

Flashlight Friends

Micke Grove Zoo
11793 N. Micke Grove Rd., Lodi
(209) 953-8840

For 77 years, the park has been home to a variety of creatures and critters. It boasts a museum, amusement park and Japanese garden, but the real treasures are the amphibians, mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates that call the five-acre zoo home. Micke Grove Zoo offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for families to explore the zoo at night with their Zoo After Dark program. Complete with campfire stories and a flashlight tour, attendees get an inside look at how the zoo’s inhabitants behave after dark. Whether for an out-of-the-box date night or a family-friendly excursion, suitable for those ages 5 and up, the adventure combines the best parts of camping. Shining stars, nocturnal noises and gooey s’mores create a summer night made special for the whole family. Don’t waste time monkeying around – Zoo After Dark sells out fast!

shutterstock_3106860Get Lost on the Farm

Dell’Osso Family Farm
26 Stewart Rd., Lathrop
(209) 982-0833

Dell’Osso Farms is your one-stop-shop for fall festivities. Complete with pumpkin picking, train-riding and drive-through haunted houses, the farm is alive with adventure. While the holiday-themed excursions no doubt bring crowds, the real draw is the one-of-a-kind corn mazes. Since 1997, the corn mazes have been a staple of Dell’Osso, a long-cry from the produce farm it used to be. The Dell’Osso family designs the mazes themselves, but invites the community to get involved by submitting original designs that could be used in the upcoming season. Winning designs even receive a prize! With humble beginnings as an asparagus farm in the 1920s, Dell’Osso has come a long way with a reported 125,000 people from across the nation visiting their site each October.

Baby Bathing Beauty

Sassy Pants Children’s Boutique
354 Lincoln Center, Stockton
(209) 451-9775

Sassy Pants Children’s Boutique has everything you need for your little fashionista, even an array of adorable two-piece bathing suits, AKA babi-kinis, ranging in size and style. The boutique begins to stock these must-have pieces in January, so snag one while you can! Designers include Isabella Collection, Splendid and Ella Moss. Your kids will be swimming in style!


Children’s Dance Studio
Dance Connection
Dance Xtreme
Unique Visions Dance Company

Children’s Photographer
Heather Jean Photography
Little Love Story Photography & Design
Sweet Sisters Photography

Children’s Boutique
Sassy Pants Children’s Boutique
The Willow Tree

Family Fun
Micke Grove Zoo
World of Wonders Science Museum
Zap Zone

Indoor Activity for Children
Children’s Museum of Stockton
World of Wonders Science Museum
Go Bananas

Outdoor Activity for Children
Micke Grove Zoo
Pixie Woods
Lodi Lake