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New chapter for WSM
Ministry founder passes torch to new directors, will remain involved
Westside ministries pic1
McKenna Blaire and Kira Franks along with members of the Center for Urban Performance and Service at Westside Ministries perform for guests during the ministry's 30-year celebration on Saturday. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Although Westside Ministries founder JoLynn DiGrazia recently made the announcement that she will step down from her position as director, she assured guests at the organization’s 30th anniversary party this past weekend that she is not going anywhere anytime soon.


Her successors, Lydio Banana and Arturo Murillo, echoed DiGrazia’s sentiments, stating that the atmosphere at WSM is family-oriented and they could never imagine the original founder and director simply abandoning her role.

“We all view WSM as just a big family, so it’s hard to see JoLynn no longer being here,” said Banana. “JoLynn will still be at WSM as an advisory role and will continue to oversee everything that is going on.”


Both Banana and Murillo reported that DiGrazia would remain at WSM as an advisor, while they would expand upon their previous roles. Having been with WSM for 14 years, Banana will continue as youth director, as well as begin to oversee a significant amount of the Bible club. Murillo, who has been with WSM at varying times throughout his life, will assume an administrative role.


“It can be overwhelming,” said Murillo of his role at WSM. “I handle administration and a lot of the small legal aspects can get to be too much. However, you can let it get to you or just let God lead you.”

The two new directors will strive to continue what DiGrazia started, including living up to WSM’s mission statement: teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the families on the Westside.


“Our main goal is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and give everyone an opportunity to hear the message of Christ,” said Banana. “However, we don’t like to just preach the gospel with words, we like to share the love of God by meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the children in the community."


According to Murillo, what WSM offers individuals depends on who they are in the community. WSM has outreach programs through its Community Cultivators 4-H Club, Center for Urban Performance and Service with dance and music opportunities, and after-school offerings. 


Personally, Murillo turned to WSM as a child when he could not get home safely. Over the years, he began to see WSM as a place where he could be a kid and get to know Jesus in the process.


Just like Murillo’s own personal story, the two new directors hope to continue under DiGrazia’s guidance in order to provide both social and education services to everyone that walks through their doors.


“We really want our roof to be their floor. We want them to be successful and live better lives than us,” said Banana. “We believe that the gospel is the answer to all problems on the Westside by providing food, coats, and most importantly a safe environment. Real change comes from the gospel.”