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Kids Making It with First Bank

When a team of First Bank Business Development Officers in Wilmington first heard about Kids Making It, a local nonprofit that teaches children woodworking, design, and other skills, they immediately jumped at the chance to support the organization.

We spoke with Jimmy Pierce, founder of Kids Making It, about the business and the ways in which First Bank is helping it grow by leaps and bounds.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Jimmy. So, woodworking is a very particular skill. How did you get started? Were you always interested in woodworking?

My grandfather and parents built houses, so I grew up around carpentry and woodworking. I built furniture as a hobby, but I was spending most of my time teaching and practicing law in Louisiana.

When my wife and I had our first child, it made me rethink my priorities. I thought, “What would I do if I wasn’t a lawyer?” I wanted to find more meaningful work, to make the world a better place for my son.

Tell us a little bit about the different programs at Kids Making It.

We work with about 350 kids a year, and our after-school program is a core part of what we do. We also offer summer camps and internship and apprenticeship programs for older children.

Our kids range in age from as young as 7 to those in their early twenties. The kids can make products and they can keep the money they make from selling their work in our retail shop. There are so many children out there that are willing to do the heavy lifting and put in the work; we just give them the opportunity.

What kind of an impact does Kids Making It have on the community?

Crime is the worst we’ve seen in 35 years, and younger and younger kids are joining gangs. One third of ninth graders don’t graduate with their class on time, including over half of minorities.

In our years at Kids Making It, we’ve only had one child drop out of school. If our kids are in trouble, we want them to get out of it and stay out of it. We support these kids for life. They can use Kids Making It as a stepping stone for finding meaningful employment.

Tell us about this new building you’re moving into.

We learned about a building downtown that was in foreclosure. We decided to put in an offer contingent on financing.

When First Bank heard about it, they gave us a call and said they’d love to give us a hand. They donated $25,000 to help us afford the down payment, and worked with us to get financing.

They’ve been so flexible, and really helped us with everything. First Bank told us they wanted to stand behind Kids Making It, and they absolutely have. Things we didn’t even ask for, they have helped with!

So what will this building be used for?

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am! Our current space is a labyrinthine rabbit warren. This new building gives us an additional 1500 square feet, so we can completely reorganize.

We’ll have a small break room for volunteers, and the older apprentices will have their own space. We also can fit in more machinery, so kids can expand their skills to things like design and CAD.

We’re right near the Arts and Antiques District, and it’s much more open to the public. Being downtown is changing things for us completely.

This is transformational. To be able to own our own building is a paradigm shift. We can control our destiny in this new building, and if it weren’t for First Bank, we’d never have been able to do this.

At First Bank, we love the success you’re seeing with Kids Making It, and want to continue to stand behind the organization for years to come.

First Bank has changed the game for us. Our goal is long-term sustainability, and this building that First Bank has so generously assisted with is a big step in that direction.

We were scrambling, and First Bank helped us make it happen.

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