By Kim Saffran
Gregory Georges, a recreational woodworker in Chapel Hill who has gained considerable expertise building his own furniture and other special projects, wanted to save wood remnants from the fire pit. “Cut offs,” as these small pieces of wood leftover from past jobs are referred to, are too small to be utilized for bigger projects. But assembled together, they had value. He came up with the idea of making them into breadboards.
As he walked his beautiful husky through his Kings Mill/Morgan Creek neighborhood several times a day, he recognized a local resource that could help him make his notion a reality.
Several more dog walks and conversations later, Georges had gathered nine neighborhood children eager to learn the impressive skill of woodworking.
“The kids, ranging from 8 to 14 years of age, displayed a remarkable amount of intensity and care,” Georges said, “to make beautiful breadboards while keeping all their fingers when using many different power tools.”
Young people had given up so much during the pandemic: foregoing in-person school, seeing their friends and cultivating new ones, and learning about themselves as they mature and interact with life. Discovering the joy of giving new life to old scraps of wood might help make up for those losses.
It took nine children (all a part of a “pandemic pod”) 10 weeks to create 35 beautiful breadboards. The young woodworkers detailed each one with KMMC (Kings Mill/Morgan Creek), sketched, measured and burned into the wood, along with each child’s initials signed on the back. Nine sets of initials on each board, finished off with a ribbon, Carolina Blue, of course.
Sophia Rose, 12, said she volunteered to learn how to make breadboards because, “it sounded like fun and a good cause.” The lessons went beyond cutting and gluing wood. “I learned about human decency and good Karma,” she said.
Kate Vernon, 11, added, “I learned how to work together as part of a process.”
Leif Crockett, 13, picked up some life lessons as well. “I learned that if you work together, you can have a much bigger impact than working alone,” he said.
A neighborhood mom, Becca Wright, and her four children delivered the finished breadboards, which came with an unexpected treat — homemade bread, baked by a professional pastry chef.
A KMMC neighbor had been expecting a visit from a friend from Trinidad last spring. What neither the homeowner nor guest anticipated was that this visit would last 14 months. Due to the pandemic, Gerome Kalyan could not return home. As luck would have it, Kalyan is a pastry chef. He had seen one of the children’s templates for the breadboards and volunteered to make bread to go with it. He had a very special recipe for bread that he offered to share — one including coconut and onion — and baked 35 loaves to include with the breadboards.
Lois Annab joined the effort by paying for all 10 pounds of flour, 10 real coconuts and a whole lot of onions to boot.
The breadboard project fit in with other innovative practices others in the neighborhood started during the pandemic, Georges said. One neighbor had put up a blackboard in front of her house with questions like, “What’s your favorite food?” and “What made you smile today?” Neighbors passing by responded, which got people talking. Others shared food. Another neighbor even started a theater company run by kids.
The young woodworkers may consider making more breadboards to distribute outside the neighborhood, but they want the effort to stay charitable. They want to give the breadboards away.
“Each kid enjoyed the work immensely,” Georges said. “They were very proud of their work. It instilled a deep sense of the satisfaction of doing something for their neighborhood.”
There’s a lot to learn from children.
Watch the young woodworkers in action: https://vimeo.com/559762476.