With a mission of educating, encouraging and empowering people while promoting artistic expression, Willing Hearts Inc., of Cumberland, hopes to help Harlan County residents, especially the unemployed, low-income and disabled learn a skill and improve their lives.
A non-profit, charitable 501(c)3 organization, Director Julie Pitts, of Lynch, said she has three major components of her organization.
“I have a working studio, which was established to teach hands-on, skill-based techniques for creating stained glass art and other forms of glass art,” said Pitts. “New classes will begin on Nov. 3-19, every Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 3 p.m., which will last for four consecutive weeks. This is approximately 16 hours of instruction. Another class will also be held on the same dates every Tuesday and Thursday from 6-9 p.m. for three consecutive weeks.”
Along with learning a skill, Willing Hearts will also offer an empowerment program — working primarily with the unemployed, low-income and disabled individuals. In addition to learning new skills, the training will include introducing, exposing, discussing and teaching participants the important information necessary to “put the pieces of their life together,” and become “more spiritually, emotionally and financially harmonious,” Pitts said.
“All individuals wishing to participate must complete an application process and comply with all requirements of the program, including but not limited to, established income level, their participation/non-participation in other government assistance programs and safety guidelines,” said Pitts. “As a non-profit, all classes will be offered at zero cost for participants of the empowerment program.”
As an added bonus, Pitts said the completed art glass projects created by participants of the empowerment program will be offered for sale to the general public. She said all types of stained glass and art glass supplies used by artisans and hobbyists will be available for purchase as well.
“As a non-profit, all proceeds from these sales will be utilized to establish a benevolence fund to help provide for needy people in our community,” said Pitts. “It will also be used to pay for tools, supplies, training materials and operating costs.The purpose of Willing Hearts is to share the beauty of stained glass and art glass in our community, our county and our state. We want to provide an opportunity for individuals of all economic status to learn the skills necessary to create glass artwork.
“We want to empower people so they can learn the skills of this disappearing and expensive art form. We want them to learn that there is beauty all around them and by creating beautiful artwork they can change their environment, change their outlook on life and change the negativity where so many in this community seem to place their primary focus.”
Pitts is originally from South Carolina. She retired from the South Carolina Department of Corrections after being employed with them for over 26 years.
“After I retired, I came to Harlan three years ago with a Sunday School group for a short-term missionary trip,” said Pitts. “While I was here I felt the urging of the Holy Spirit to ‘make this my home.’ So, within six months I made arrangements with my house in South Carolina and moved to Harlan County. After being in the county for a while and volunteering with Loaves and Fishes Ministry, in Cumberland, I felt a need to share my talent, which is creating art through stained glass.”
Pitts said during her life she has worked with stained glass as a hobby. She did, however, work with two studios in South Carolina and taught classes in her spare time. She added creating stained glass art is a “spiritual thing” for her.
“What I like to share with my students, when they are taking class with me, is the process of creating a stained glass piece. It is very much and correlates directly with what God does in our life. We plan the piece, have a pattern, cut it out, then we pick our glass, cut it, use grinders to shape it to the exact shape we need, then we put all those pieces of glass together and we solder them together. When we are done we polish it up and hold the glass up to the light and the light that comes through is this beautiful piece of artwork, which is what God does in our lives. He takes all those pieces in our life, some pretty broken up, and he grinds them and makes them fit together. Then when we are held in his light we become that beautiful piece of artwork he created us to be.”
Pitts said she feels this area needs this “type of beauty and something to do with their time.” She said people need a “creative outlet.”
“This is why I am doing this,” said Pitts. “It’s only through generous donations that I have been able to accomplish this. Since April, I have already had 40-50 people take this training. I’m excited about where this training will lead and how it will help the people in our community, our county and our state.”
For more information or to register for a class, you may call 606-733-5808 or email at [email protected] You may also visit them on Facebook at Willing Hearts.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde