About Kids Making It

We're building success one kid at a time.

Our Impact

All of our youth need good role models, encouragement, support and a chance. We try to provide this for them at Kids Making It. Although we have worked with over 3000 kids over the years, we still, and always will, measure success one kid at a time. Here are just a handful of our hundreds of success stories:

We see success in T., a twelve-year old who, after coming to KMI, quit the gang he was in, set a sales record at KMI and used his earnings from his product sales to buy his own equipment and set up his own small shop and woodworking business. T. learned that our Secret to Life really does work – just be a nice person, follow the golden rule, look to help others, and the world will make a way for you.

We see success in Joseph, one of our youth who is challenged by Asperger’s Syndrome. Joseph is now enrolled in college and will soon have his degrees: one in Business Administration, and another in Finance & Banking, together with a certification in Customer Service. As a member of our Apprenticeship Program, Joseph spends his free time at Kids Making It, working as a team member to complete custom woodworking orders for the public, helping to teach younger youth and continuing to develop his woodworking, vocational and social skills.

J., another student, spent a hundred hours making a beautiful cypress and birch armoire from his own design, to house his TV and stereo, and to store his clothes. When he took it home, it barely fit in his bedroom. His mother liked it so much, she asked him to make one for her. Instead, he gave it to her.

In truth, we see success every day in all of our kids who come together each afternoon in our shop, from different backgrounds, to share tools and materials and work together to produce quality merchandise to sell to the public. We see them grow into mature, respected citizens in the process.

Our Space

Woodworking Shop

Although woodworking is both a vocational skill and an art, no innate talent is necessary to become a skilled and successful woodworker – just patience and perseverance!  On their first day at KMI, our youth learn general shop safety (goggles, dust mask, ear protection, proper clothing, etc.).  For each tool, we review purpose, safety and proper operation.  It is very important that each student understand why they should respect the environment in which we work before the real learning can begin.  Our full-fledged shop includes all of the hand tools, machines and dust collection/filtration systems that one might find in a professional shop. With our dedicated staff and volunteers on hand to mentor each student, these tools allow KMI youth to design and build the projects they can imagine.

Finishing Room

Traditional finishing and related art skills are taught by staff and volunteers.

Retail Shop

Through our youth entrepreneurship model, our students have the opportunity to sell the items they make in our retail shop and at area festivals. Typical items include handcrafted pens, bottle stoppers, salt and pepper grinders, storage boxes, stools, laser-engraved items, custom signs, and funky one-of-a-kind items.  On every sale our kids make, they earn 100% of the profits!

Our Team

Barbara Sullivan

Barbara Sullivan

Grant Coordinator

Tori Pace

Tori Pace

Bookkeeper

Janis Driesse

Janis Driesse

KMI Gift Shop (through The United Way)

Doug Spicer

Doug Spicer

KMI Gift Shop (through The United Way)

Lucy Wilkins

Lucy Wilkins

Afterschool & Outreach Instructor

Ashley Butler

Ashley Butler

Lead Apprentice

Billy Phillips

Billy Phillips

Apprentice Program Manager

Joseph Williams

Joseph Williams

Student & Family Advocate

Andy Crowther

Andy Crowther

Program Director

Jimmy Pierce

Jimmy Pierce

Executive Director

Awards and Recognition

  • 2018 – Kids Making It featured in the March-April issue of News at a Glance, the national newsletter of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (get url)
  • 2018 – Winner of the UNCW Cameron School of Business & Wilmington Business Journal Coastal Entrepreneur Award, Top Entrepreneur of the Decade, Non-Profit Category
  • 2017 – Long-time KMI student Austin Wilson chosen as one of three Generation Next apprentices nationwide to appear on the PBS show This Old House for the 2017 season (get url)
  • 2013 – Recommended in Forbes Online as 1 of 12 nonprofits nationwide to support for year-end giving (get url)
  • 2013 – Wilmington Children’s Museum Imagination Award
  • 2011 – Nominated by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention staff for the OJJDP Organization of the Year Award
  • 2010 – Recommended by OJJDP staff to become a National Model Program
  • 2010 – Clorox Power a Bright Future National Competition (national search to determine the best youth programs in the country – placed 10th out of 5000+ programs nationwide)
  • 2010 – UNCW Albert Schweitzer Award
  • 2010 – UNCW Cameron School of Business & Wilmington Business Journal Coastal Entrepreneur Award, Non-Profit Category
  • 2010 – UNCW Watson School of Education Razor Walker Award
  • 2010 – Designated as an Outstanding Afterschool Program, North Carolina Center for Afterschool Programs
  • 2010 – WECT/Reeds Jewelers Cape Fear Heroes Award
  • 2006 – Making A Difference Award, New Hanover County Juvenile Day Treatment Center
  • 2004 – North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission Award of Excellence
  • 2004 – National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Award of Merit
  • 2004 – Adult Youth Leader of the Year Award, Cape Fear Youth Development Vision
  • 2003 – Human Services Award, Carolinas Council HRCO
  • 2002 – Minwax National Community Craftsman of the Year Award

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), with plans to add another 4300 sf in 2018. This has been, and still is, a wonderful adventure, and a move that I’ve never regretted.