In the fall of 2016, I was considering the question: “What innovative solution has Graffiti 2 applied to a persistent challenge?” The source of the question was a grant application from the National Literacy Directory.
The persistent challenges of our Mott Haven neighborhood are well documented. Children and youth in our community encounter many risks to their well-being; these challenges include health, finances, family, environment, education, and violence. Research has demonstrated that compounding risk factors increase the chances of damaging outcomes. Statistics in our community legitimize that research.
The National Literacy Directory was posing an important question, “What is the solution?” More specifically they asked, “Is there something new being done?”
We certainly live in a world that hungers for new solutions—via new ideas, new technology, new leaders. However, there’s a phrase often used around Graffiti. It’s one of our Upside Down mantras.
Here it is: It’s not new; it’s just new to you.
As I considered the question in the grant application, I realized we didn’t have the latest technology, nor the most thoroughly researched curriculum to address the academic needs of our students. Nevertheless, perhaps our Graffiti 2 method would seem novel to some.
What’s our innovative solution? People.
Programs don’t change people; people change people.
Graffiti 2 believes people are our greatest resource. Our organization’s vision statement sets our focus on developing “revolutionized revolutionaries”—changed people that work to change others.
At Graffiti 2 this happens on a number of fronts. Graffiti 2 Works is employing women who make sewn goods. Currently, four women are making handbags, key fobs, wallets, bookmarks, and potholders, just to name a few items. Kerri Johnson, Graffiti 2 Works’ Director, meets with these women weekly for a time of devotion and prayer. Graffiti 2’s investment in these women, not only impacts them, but their family, neighbors, and community.
The G.S.A.L.T. program provides academic help for 6th-12th grade students. Additionally these students mentor and tutor our 1st-5th grade students. The influence of a G.S.A.L.T. doesn’t begin and end at our doors. Josh Johnson, Graffiti 2’s Youth Director, observes: “I see our students interact with their community not just the community within the walls of G2. When looking at the world that is moving towards a postmodern ideology I truly struggle. However this struggle brings joy in the fact that Graffiti 2 is a place that is equipping students to build relationships and in doing so share their life.”
The G2Kids program, led by JoAnn Lira, recognizes that every kid is one meaningful adult away from being a success. JoAnn’s daily investment in her students is certainly making a difference as she helps with homework, provides targeted tutoring, teaches Bible study, promotes a culture of respect, and creates a fun and loving atmosphere. However, she isn’t alone! The Parent’s Rock program requests parental investment through volunteering one day a week to help the children and teens in the program. This year, Graffiti 2 has more parental investment than ever before!
A new program at Graffiti 2 is our Graffiti 2 Internship program. This program utilizes young adults in the community who are either in college or making positive, forward movement in their life. Graffiti 2 Interns have a high-level of leadership within both the G2Kids and G.S.A.L.T. programs. They help teach behavior to students, assist with homework, lead Bible study, and provide targeted tutoring. In a neighborhood where students lacks meaningful interactions with mentors, the interns’ investment in themselves and in our Graffiti 2 students is subversive—I believe they are changing the way our students think without them even being aware!
We at Graffiti 2 know that all of the problems faced by our community are merely outward manifestations of a deeper problem. Billy Graham spoke of this problem in 1998 at a TED Talk (click here for the TED Talk Video). TED Talks focus on Technology, Entertainment, and Design—all areas driven by innovation. Billy Graham pointed out, “There are many problems that technology hasn’t solved.” He described the following:
1. Human evil—Why do we have wars in every generation and in every part of the world? Why can’t we get along with other people, even in our own families? Why do we find ourselves in the paralyzing grip of self-destructive habits we can’t break? Why does racism, injustice, and violence sweep our world bringing a tragic harvest of heartache and death?
2. Human suffering—In the most advanced society in the world, we have poverty. We have families that self-destruct, friends that betray us, and unbearable psychological pressures bear down on us.
3. Death—Death is inevitable. There’s one thing we have in common . . .all of us . . .We are all going to die.
Graffiti 2 knows there is only one solution to these deeper problems. God didn’t send a program to help us; He sent a person. This person lived a life that was truly innovative—like none before and none since. Ultimately, the most impacting innovation wasn’t His life, nor his death. It was His resurrection. He, Jesus, is alive, and His promise to be with us always through His life-giving Spirit is the only solution to these, the most persistent challenges we all face.
Therefore, Graffiti 2 continues our mission in the Mott Haven community. This mission will continue to focus on people. We thank God for the many people who pray for, financially support, and work alongside us.
It makes more of a difference than you (or we) even realize!
A Note from Matthew:
I would like to thank you for your donations this year to Graffiti 2. Your donation has helped our ministry and our church in many different ways. We are blessed to be able to have afterschool programs for kids and youth as well as other activities in the Mott Haven community. It is your contributions and prayers that help us continue our work in our neighborhood. Not only are we making our community a better place but we are showing people God’s presence in our lives and in our community. As an intern at Graffiti 2 I try to make God visible in my life and be an example for the kids and youth. Lots of these kids need a role model in their life and a second family; that is what Graffiti is because of everyone that is involved. Thank You, Matthew Monroig
Staff Network Revenue: $114,194.40 (Funds raised by individual staff members from their personal networks of individuals and churches. The goal is for each staff member to find support to meet 100% of the cost of his or her employment.)
Designated Program Gifts Revenue: $49,534.62 (Grants, fundraisers, designated donations, parental investment, special events)
Service and Sales Revenue: $19,732.53 (Books, Graffiti 2 Works, shirts, hats, Upside Down training fees)
Church Partner Giving Revenue: $38,526.8 (Churches committed to partnering with Graffiti 2 by praying, giving, and going)
One-Time Church Donations: $7,052.83 (Churches that give a one-time gift)
Undesignated Individual Donors: $28,174.56 (Individual donors who give one-time or monthly gifts)
Miscellaneous Revenue: $10,030.42 (Federal healthcare reimbursement)
2016 Operation Budget Total Revenue: $267,246.17
Vision Fund 2016 Revenue: $2,890.00
Vision Fund Balance as of 12/31/16: $71,267.77
Facility Expenses: $44,839.24 (Includes rent of facility, maintenance, materials, insurance, and utilities)
Ministry-Wide Objectives Expenses: $50,254.69 (Includes applicable personnel costs, administrative, office, Upside Down, special events, G2 Store, and fundraising)
G2Kids Expenses: $63,882.01 (Includes applicable personnel costs, school year programs, summer programs, food, and travel)
GSALT Expenses: $59,106.71 (Includes applicable personnel costs, school year programs, summer programs, food, and travel)
Graffiti 2 Works Expenses: $74,127.92 (Includes applicable personnel costs, materials, and training materials)
2016 Total Expenses: $292,210.57