How Kids Making It Came to Be
By our Founder and Executive Director, Jimmy Pierce
In 1996, I gave up my law practice and moved our family back to North Carolina, to be near and help take care of my mother, and to try, somehow, to start working with kids, teaching them woodworking full-time. I was on the ‘path to success’, as I had learned it. In 1988 my son Ben was born, and it changed my life. All of a sudden, I knew just how wonderful kids were, and how we all have an opportunity to impact their lives in a positive way, and a responsibility to do that. I was 36 years old then, practicing law full time, making more money every year, and ironically was gradually becoming less happy doing that.
In 1989, my wife Phyllis, Ben and I were driving to North Carolina, so that everyone could see our new-born son. Late into the night as they both slept, I kept myself awake pondering whether I would be practicing law for the rest of my life, and, if not, what I might do if I could do anything in this world.
I loved woodworking, as it was a great creative outlet, and I knew that anyone could do it successfully with practice – no innate talent or artistic skills are required. Woodworking instills patience and perseverance, and engenders a tremendous sense of satisfaction, increased self-esteem, and pride.
I was very familiar then with the challenges facing kids and teenagers trying to grow up successfully, especially those from low-income families, and families living in low-income or high crime areas, or without both parents in the home helping to raise the kids. These kids are most at-risk of falling through the cracks, dropping out of school, or getting into trouble. I knew the challenges these kids faced every day, as many of the clients in my law practice lived in this world. And, of course, my eyes had just been opened wide to the joys of childhood, and the joys of being a father, and the opportunity and responsibility that I as a parent had to help Ben to grow up successfully.
So this was the answer that came to me at 2:00 a.m. 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 to learn good character traits and grow up successfully, that I would have the perfect job.
In 1994 I started taking off every Friday afternoon from my practice, to work in my garage as a volunteer with Mike, a foster teenager. I taught him woodworking, let him build whatever he wanted to, and mentored him along. As time passed I began to find ways to devote more and more time to helping kids.
In 1996, I gave up my law practice and move back North Carolina, to be near and help take care of my mother, and try, somehow, to start working with kids, doing woodworking, full-time. I first partnered with the Wilmington Housing Authority, working as a volunteer and in 2000, we were awarded a seed-money grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission, to implement the program on a year-round basis. I’m proud to say that the Kids Making It Woodworking Program has grown steadily since then. Today we’re serving over 500 students each year through our five different youth programs. Instead of a garage, our program is now based out of a 5000 sf building (that we own), and started an addition of 4300 sf in 2018. This has been, and still is, a wonderful adventure, and a move that I’ve never regretted.