Students participating in Project Search were hard at work on August 20 putting together rustic wood angel art cards featuring prints by local artist Thomas Andrew. The angel art cards will be sold by Project Search to help raise funding for the program, which helps older high school students with developmental disabilities obtain job skills that will help them find competitive employment within the community.
Andrew first became aware of Project Search from a friend who also knew Kimberly Kielbasa, who serves as a job coach in the program. Andrew and his wife had been producing the smaller angel cards and selling them wholesale to local gift shops and through his website: www.betheangel.com.
“It had just gotten to be too much for me and wife to do,” said Andrew. “I needed to have more time to paint, so I decided to turn this entire operation over to these students.”
As a result, the students now help put the cards together and adult Project Search leaders are helping to coordinate selling them at the wholesale price of $12 to local gift shops like English Ivy in Greystone and Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort and Spa in Hoover. A portion of the sales benefits the Project Search program.
Faye Rivers and Taylor Fields with Ross Bridge Resort were on hand to see the students producing the final product that will be sold from their gift shop.
“We hope to be able to eventually get them into all our hotels that are owned and managed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama,” Mrs. Rivers said.
Andrew knows all too well how difficult it can be for students with disabilities to obtain employment once they reach adulthood.
“I have a younger brother with a disability,” Andrew said. “We were raised by a single mom, so this is really a special interest and passion of mine. I do a lot of fundraisers with my artwork to support causes involving individuals with disabilities because it hits home for me.”
It was his single mother, whom Andrew credits as being a strong woman who was forced to make tough decisions for herself and for her children, who inspires his angel art work.
“It was her unwavering faith and steadfast determination that got us through the hard times,” Andrews writes on a sticker that is placed on the back of the art cards. “The angels I paint depict women feeling deep emotions as the contemplate many of life’s challenges. Some of the figures are facing the light. This represents the guidance they seek for strength and clarity. The angels facing away from the light are pondering a difficult decision.”
Students participating in the project are learning several skills that will help them be productive members of the workforce one day, said instruction Lacy Wilson.
“What did we learn about with this project?” Wilson asked the group.
“Business skills,” replied Joshua Fleagle.
“Teamwork,” added Jordan Stokes.
“We also learned about communication and the pace and quality of our work,” Wilson reminded the students. “All of these are very important.”
To learn more about Project Search of Shelby County visit their Facebook page or call 664-9313.