Thirty years ago, a man came home from working as a full-time lawyer, just like any other day. "Sit down on the porch—I gotta tell you something," his wife said to him. "We're having a baby." It was that moment that everything changed for Jimmy Pierce. "All of a sudden, I knew just how wonderful kids were, and how we all have an opportunity to impact their lives positively, and a responsibility to do that," says Jimmy.
Story by Tammy Pope
One late night, Jimmy was in the car with his wife and brand new baby boy, daydreaming and evaluating his life. Just then, he had an epiphany. If he could do anything in this world, he would teach woodworking to kids. "I had no idea how I would do it or when. I just knew that if I could spend my life working with kids, teaching them woodworking as a vehicle to help them learn good character traits and grow up successfully, I would have the perfect job," he explains.
Fast forward five years, Jimmy left work early on Friday afternoons to work with one foster teenager in his woodworking shop. Jimmy would let him be fearlessly creative while mentoring him every step of the way. Over the next few years, Jimmy gave up his law practice, taking a leap of faith to set off to teach woodworking to children full-time. Jimmy's dream has become a reality today, as his organization Kids Making It reaches over 600 kids yearly.
There are various programs for every level of woodworker. The kids start in an introductory woodworking class where they learn how to use hand tools and work on small projects such as birdhouses or shelves. Once children turn 13, they are invited to the organization's afterschool program daily, where they get creative and continue building upon their knowledge and skills. Finally, the students have the opportunity to keep their work or sell it in the Kids Making It gift shop on Castle Street. The young entrepreneurs earn 100% of the profit from selling any items they have made.
Kids Making It is supported by the Community Foundation of NC East, which CEO Melissa Spain is very proud of. "From its moving grassroots story with humble beginnings, it has been amazing to watch the growth and success of their program over the years. We've been moved by the dedication and support of the staff and their hands-on role with every young person involved," says Spain. The biggest positive of Kids Making It is that they are taking in these kids and actually teaching them life skills, work ethic, and the mindset that entrepreneurship is the root of success. These kids take so much pride in their abilities and work. The woodwork they create is beautiful and so full of meaning. We've seen so many businesses support them by buying custom-made, useful items which they can use to promote their own business while paying it forward and supporting Kids Making It, helping make that circle of philanthropy significant."
Poverty is one of the most significant social determinants of delinquency, mental health issues, and victimization. The children of Kids Making It are primarily from low-income households. The marginalized youth Kids Making It serves are often caught up in a generational cycle which can be broken if they finish school and enter the workforce through significant and sustainable employment. "We count success one kid at a time," says Jimmy. The organization may create a fun atmosphere for kids to learn woodworking, but they genuinely empower these young adults to grow into responsible and hardworking members of society.