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JoLynn DiGrazia: Serving the kids of Turlock's Westside
Westside Ministries founder and executive director JoLynn DiGrazia poses for a picture with a group of kids outside the Columbia Avenue facility. - photo by Photo Contributed

Q:  What got you started in the ministry?

A: I was a first grade teacher at Osborn  in 1984 and I had some students in my classroom that needed help beyond what I can do in the classroom. There was one child in particular named Alma whose family was going through a difficult time. As a result, she didn’t have proper clothing and amenities. This child led me to do more for the kids in our community. So that same year I decided to start a Bible club.


Q: What is the biggest change you've seen in the Westside over the past 20 years?

A: In the '90s Turlock had a severe methamphetamine problem that had a direct impact in the community.  People began to use it, sell it, and cook it. It severely affected the kids who were attending Westside (Ministries) and their families.


Q: What's your biggest challenge?

 A: The big challenge is funding. Because we are a religious nonprofit organization, we walk by faith every day.  We never know if we’ll have enough for our programs. Drugs continue to be a challenge with the kids living on the Westside. Helping our kids avoid gangs is a challenge.  Having our kids get access to higher education is also a challenge.


Q: What is your biggest accomplishment since starting the ministry?

A: Our big accomplishment is the completion of our facility, the youth center, dance school, the farm and the garden. This is very important to us because these programs can reach out to every child and fit their interests.


Q:  What do you look forward to the most each day as you go to work?

A: I look forward to the hug of a child and being able to wipe their tears when they need it. I look forward to sharing God’s love with the kids, but most importantly, being able to sacrifice for them. It’s a very gratifying feeling.


Q:  What change would you like to see happen in Turlock in the next five years?

A: I am looking forward to the opening of the new safety center. I believe that the police presence will help with crime. I like to see more opportunities for young people to attend college, so I hope we can foster better relationships between ourselves and schools and see the economy flourish so our kids can get better jobs.


Q: What do you think Turlock should be most proud of?

A: Besides Colin Kaepernick, I really do think we should be proud of our agricultural heritage. My family came at the turn of the last century. There are so many opportunities available here.


Q: What do you like to do for fun?

A: I am an avid reader. I also like to go to my grandson’s football games. I love to garden and I actually participate in all of the gardening we have in this community. I love the county fair.


Q: What was the last thing you read?

A: The last book I read was from Edward Rutherford titled "Paris."


Q:  What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

A: I hate to travel. I’m a really homebody type of person and I prefer to stay with the kids at Westside and work with them.