By Brandon Sneed
Published: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 9:17 a.m.
Plaques crafted from the USS North Carolina’s original deck were presented to top finishers in all categories at the Carolina Sports Medicine Battleship Half-Marathon and Bay Six 5K recently.
The teak was aged and worn in its original form, but its transformation into gleaming awards came not from master craftsmen, but from at-risk youths with the nonprofit woodworking program Kids Making It. It was an unconventional choice of craftsmen by race founder and director Ed Fore, but it was a choice in keeping with the spirit of the event, which donated all $20,000 it brought in to local charities.
KMI, founded by Jimmy Pierce, mentors at-risk youth referred by the Juvenile Day Treatment Center, teaching them work and life skills via woodworking. Approximately 60 come out every week to the KMI workshop in the historic Jacobi Warehouse at 15 S. Water St. in Wilmington.
“Their kids did a great job,” said Fore.
Pierce was thrilled for his kids to have such an opportunity. He’d recently bought a new laser engraver for the kids to learn to use, and what better opportunity to learn than engraving 100 plaques?
It was a huge task that became gargantuan when Dick Jones, the CEO of the local YMCA, contacted Pierce wanting the same thing for the Beach2Battleship Iron Distance triathlons. Both calls came toward the beginning of October.
But the project also became vastly educational and profitable for the kids. Every penny spent on items the kids make goes directly into the kids’ pockets.
Here’s how the opportunity came about: two years ago, the battleship’s original deck, laid in 1941, was replaced. A friend of a KMI volunteer bought 200 linear feet of the old Battleship teak and donated it to KMI.
“We’ve mainly used it to make just custom-crafted objects for people,” said Pierce. “Pens, wine bottle stoppers, things like that.”
Pierce bought the engraver three months ago because he knew that if his kids wanted to work in woodworking factories eventually, they’d probably need to know about technology-beyond handheld tools.
“They might laser-engrave their names on [the teak], some customer might come in wanting a little ‘Thank you Granddaddy for all you’ve done for us’ plaque,” said Pierce. “So they’d make little stuff.” Fore had been looking for some of the old teak and heard KMI had some. Then he learned about the engraver and what the kids were capable of doing.
Fore embraced the idea of helping participants while letting them contribute to the event.
Jones from the YMCA caught wind soon after and hired the kids for the same kind of project.
“It’s been great,” said Pierce. “We’ve been able to teach these kids some skills and they’ve been able to make some good money.”
“It’s been cool showing the kids how to make the trophies and plaques,” said Tyrell “Pop” Brockington, a 23-year-old nine-year veteran of the program and currently working as Pierce’s custom works supervisor.
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