Hacker Lab co-founder loses nearly everything in house fire

Bad news, Hacker Lab co-founder Gina Lujan and her family lost nearly everything when their Oak Park rental burned down Thursday night.

In addition to their possessions, they also lost their family cat. No one else was hurt but the family doesn’t have insurance to cover the loss.

A relief fund has been set up to help Gina and her family.

Last year I got to know Gina for a story that coincided with Sacramento Tech Week.

To say that she impressed and inspired me is, to say the least, an understatement.

As a journalist you’re required to do your best to remain impartial, neutral and completely unbiased when you do a story–even (or maybe that’s especially) when it’s a profile meant to highlight someone’s accomplishments.

It was really difficult to maintain that impartiality around Gina. For one thing she’s a hugger. 

Long-time friend? You’ll get a hug.

Brand-new aquaintance? Hug.

She’s also a smiler and a talker and a thinker and she’s always brimming with ideas.

Gina ran away from home when she was 14 and dropped out of high school. She was 23 with five kids  when she convinced her family to help her buy her first PC so she could build a website for her holistic herb business. She built the site by copying HTML code from other sites. 

Over the years Gina had a number of jobs that further demonstrated her resourcefulness. Eventually she returned to the computer, taught herself how to code and started participating in hackathons.

In 2012 Gina, by now mother to six kids, co-founded Hacker Lab in a tiny space above Pangea Cafe with Eric Ullrich and Charles Blas. The idea was to create a co-working hub for developers, inventors and people just looking for a place to work. 

By 2013 the Hacker Lab have moved to a 10,500 space in Midtown, a place for programmers, designers and entrepreneurs could rent space. Hacker Lab regularly hosts classes and meet-ups. It  rents out permanent office space to a few larger businesses but it’s also a great place for someone to fly solo, supercharged on the free coffee and cookies that come with a nominal usage fee. In addition to all things tech-y the Hacker Lab also has “maker spaces” for things like welding and woodworking.

Last year the Business Journal named her one of its Women Who Mean Business and earlier this month Valley Vision awarded her its 2014 Legacy Feast Award for her contribution’s to the region’s economy and growth.

I emailed Gina yesterday to see if she was OK, if she needed anything.

She sent me back a one-line reply:

“Please send newspapers : ) “

I’m guessing she wanted them for packing purposes but I had to laugh, just a little. Leave it to Gina to add a smiley face to her message in the midst of such awfulness.

Then again, this is a woman who, last year, summed up her life for me this way:

“I am a hustler. Since I was a kid, literally living on the streets and then having my own kids so young. You just go into fight or flight mode.”

Gina Lujan’s done so much to help the Sacramento community so please return the favor and help her and her family if you can.

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