Time to help: Hacker Lab co-founder loses nearly everything in house fire

Donate now to help at www.youcaring.com

Bad news: Hacker Lab co-founder Gina Lujan and her family lost nearly everything when their Oak Park rental burned down last 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 the Lujan family at www.youcaring.com. As of deadline, more than $10,000 has been donated; the last day to do so is April 1.

Last year, I got to know Lujan 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 Lujan. For one thing, she’s a hugger.

Longtime friend? You’ll get a hug.

Brand-new acquaintance? Hug.

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

She 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, herbal-medicine business. She built the site by copying HTML code from other sites.

Over the years, Lujan 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, Lujan, by now mother to six kids, co-founded Hacker Lab in a tiny Curtis Park space 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 had moved to a 10,500 square-foot space in Midtown, a place for programmers, designers and entrepreneurs. Hacker Lab regularly hosts classes and meetups. 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 complimentary coffee and cookies that come with a nominal usage fee. In addition to all things techie, the Hacker Lab also has “maker spaces” for things like welding and woodworking.

Last year, the Sacramento Business Journal named Lujan 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 her last week 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 Lujan 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.”