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When Stamy Paul started traveling for work over a decade ago, she fell in love with urban art in all its forms — including graffiti.

"It was really fascinating to me because it was evident in every culture and country I visited," Paul says.

That's why she was determined to figure out how to bring it into her own home. Unfortunately that was easier said than done.


Paul scoured her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, for a local graffiti artist to paint a mural in her house, but even though the city's covered in graffiti, she couldn't find anyone. It seemed that graffiti simply wasn't an art form that people often commissioned in Cleveland.

Sure the artists were out there, but they weren't profiting from their work.

After all, it's rare for graffiti artists to be counted in the more mainstream art world.  But Paul decided to help change that.

In 2013, she started Graffiti HeArt — a nonprofit dedicated to promoting graffiti and street art through urban community revitalization via volunteer artists.

A portion of project commissions as well as donations go toward funding education opportunities for underserved kids who're interested in pursuing art as a profession.

Eileen and Ish at work 🎨 with @Graffiti Heart ❤️ #wallsforscholarships Gordon Square Arts District community partner 👍🏽

Posted by Graffiti HeArt on Sunday, September 10, 2017

The idea is to show these kids that art, including graffiti art, can not only improve public spaces, but also lead to legitimate careers.

Graffiti HeArt has a partnership with the Cleveland Institute of Art Pre-college Program — a two-week intensive course designed to help kids with sights on a career in the arts hone their skills and build up their portfolio.

Paul says a huge percentage of the kids who attend the program go on to pursue art in college. In order to help them continue on that trajectory after they graduate, Graffiti HeArt is developing an internship program where young artists will be able to shadow more established artists as they create commissioned work.

Graffiti HeArt is showing these aspiring artists there can be a future in graffiti — it just starts with exposure.

Even though the artists mainly create murals on a volunteer basis, they're work is being elevated not only through the nonprofit's mission, but because it's improving the local community.

[rebelmouse-image 19346716 dam="1" original_size="700x350" caption=""Greetings from Cleveland" mural by Victor Ving. Photo via Stamy Paul." expand=1]"Greetings from Cleveland" mural by Victor Ving. Photo via Stamy Paul.

Take the "Welcome to Cleveland" mural created by Brooklyn artist Victor Ving. Because it's part of the "Welcome to" murals that Ving's painted in major cities across the country, it's become one of the most iconic images associated with the city.  It's a prime example of how graffiti art can bolster a neighborhood rather than mark it as derelict or unsafe.

These artists are gaining notoriety, higher commissions, and cool project offers because of art they've made for Graffiti HeArt.

As a result, whenever Paul puts out a call for artists, she's often met with a deluge of responses.

[rebelmouse-image 19346717 dam="1" original_size="1420x1064" caption="Artist Garrett Weider finishing a Graffiti HeArt mural at Cleveland-based company Avalution. Photo via Graffiti HeArt/Facebook. Used with permission." expand=1]Artist Garrett Weider finishing a Graffiti HeArt mural at Cleveland-based company Avalution. Photo via Graffiti HeArt/Facebook. Used with permission.

Paul credits the organization's glowing reputation with the fact that they always upheld their mission from the get-go.

"I think [the artists] saw that what we said we were going to do, not only did we do it, but we were truly in it for the artists, the art, and the youth."

What's more, the community loves the art these artists make. That's why they're getting to work on bigger and cooler projects.

[rebelmouse-image 19346718 dam="1" original_size="960x778" caption="Graffiti HeArt mural done during Gay Games 9 in 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Artist Jim Gair "The Rev" (left), Stamy Paul (center), and Randy Crider, artist (right). Photo via Stamy Paul." expand=1]Graffiti HeArt mural done during Gay Games 9 in 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Artist Jim Gair "The Rev" (left), Stamy Paul (center), and Randy Crider, artist (right). Photo via Stamy Paul.

Their first gig was creating the sole art installation at the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. A few of their artists made a number of interactive graffiti and giant murals for the occasion.

Today, they're about to embark on a huge mural project in Cayey, Puerto Rico, as part of the revitalization movement after Hurricane Maria.

Participating artists will not only create street art, they'll work with students from the nearby arts college, bolstering community involvement and inspiring the next generation of creators.

The collaboration all started through a reach out on social media. Now Paul's in talks with the mayor of Cayey to make sure this project goes off without a hitch.

"We’re working with a lot of strangers who are now friends," she says.

Having her mission welcomed by a community in dire need of inspiration is a huge deal for Paul. She's seeing the stigma surrounding graffiti be stripped away firsthand.

Shout out to Shani Shih and her DC artists crew, bringing their #waterislife tour to Cleveland on their way to Standing Rock! #graffitiheart @GraffitiHeArt ❤️

Posted by Graffiti HeArt on Thursday, December 1, 2016

However, she hopes the art form retains some of its rebelliousness. After all, that's what captured her heart in first place.

"The fact that graffiti is gritty, it is contentious. There’s a lot of friction with it — that’s what makes it exciting."

The more prevalent it is above ground, though, the more the stigmas surrounding it fall by the wayside, which is Paul's ultimate goal. The more art Graffiti HeArt puts out there, the clearer the path from street artist to professional artist will become for future generations.

That said, they need your help in order for them to continue doing what they do. Please consider donating to the Puerto Rico project or the organization as a whole, so they can keep inspiring communities and aspiring artists.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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