Set up in 1994, Kids Making It (KMI) is known nationally as a youth entrepreneurship and vocational program. They provide woodworking and art skills outside of school hours to at-risk youths between the ages of 8 and 18, and focus on strengthening empowerment and life skills through a craft. The unique non-profit organization has won many awards over the years for their community service, from a Human Services Award by the Carolina Council HRCO (2003) to UNCW’s Albert Schweitzer (2010). More so, they have served 2,000 youths since their inception.
Predominantly funded by private donations, grants and fund-raisers, their volunteer group will host the 4th annual Breakfast at the Beach on November 14th at Shell Island Resort. A free public event with a breakfast buffet, guests will convene between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. to enjoy a raffle, speakers and video footage showing the work KMI does within the community.
“This event is a power breakfast,” Bonnie Gaynor, social worker for KMI, states. “This way, participants can support KMI and get on with their day by 9 a.m.”
According to Gaynor, while Shell Island’s breakfast buffet will be filling, so will the education learned from the event. “My favorite part is watching the audience reaction to the video of our kids sharing why KMI is important to them,” Gaynor states.
The number of guests attending this event has increased significantly compared to when it first started four years ago. Gaynor points out that tables and chairs are added every year due to the growing interest. It is estimated that their first event had a little over 100 attendees. Since last year, although exact numbers are unknown, the hall has been filled with so many tables the buffet had to be set up in a different room. This year they anticipate between 175 and 200 guests.
Likewise, the feedback has been positive. “Our goal is to raise $20,000, which we’ve never made before but that has always been our goal,” Jimmy Pierce, program director of KMI states. “In previous years, [it] has always been somewhere in the teens.”
“[The breakfast] appeals to a different donor base than [our annual] Hippie Ball,” Gaynor adds.
KMI strives to find the perfect guest speaker annually for the breakfast. For 2013, they chose Bob McCall, general manager of Fleet Services at Duke Energy Corporation. McCall will base his speech on community—something he understands first hand from having been a long-time supporter of KMI. “Anytime he’s had to buy awards, he would purchase items here,” Gaynor tells.
McCall studied at Wharton School of Business, Duke Fuqua School of Business, Tuskegee University and LNC class XII. He was the Vice President of the Eastern region at Progress Energy, Planner/HP management at Alliant Energy a.b.a IES Industries before becoming the GM of Fleet Services at Duke Energy Corporation.
In 2013 alone, KMI has worked with 300 kids, who design and create products in the work shop, such as go-carts, bird houses, plant boxes and shelves. The students sell their wares to the public and earn 100 percent of the income from them. Selling their products gives them the chance to hone in on their social skills through working in the retail shop. Throughout the designing and building process, students at KMI learn perseverance, patience, teamwork and self-esteem. The workshops teach them about actions and consequences, too, so that KMI instills the value of doing “good” for others.
They also work within their own city to help other area nonprofits and organizations. The students have helped build trellises for the Ability Garden at New Hanover County Arboretum and bench seating for the New Hanover County Juvenile Day Treatment Center. It all centers on the most important of KMI goals: Keep kids in schools and out of trouble.
“We track our data, and we are proud to say that, although over one-third of all local 9th graders do not go on to graduate with their class (and over half of minority 9th graders do not), we have had no dropouts among our active KMI youth in over two years!” Gaynor details. “Although juvenile crime continues to be a problem in our community (a 340 percent increase in the past three years in gang activity among those 12 and under in the system), our ‘getting in trouble’ rate at KMI is less than 4 percent!”
For KMI participants who go on to college, the organization has special one-on-one admissions and financial aid assistance from special programs within Cape Fear Community College and UNCW. In addition, they offer vocational assistance for older youths through their relationships with local businesses for entry level jobs for KMI graduates.
Breakfast at the Beach
Shell Island Resort
2700 N. Lumina Ave
Thurs., Nov. 14, 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Free, but donations requested
Raffle, breakfast, keynote speaker