Creating Jewelry and Worth: A Volunteer's Story

Sue and team sell jewelry at UMD’s annual Empty Bowls fundraiser

At UMD, we have many unique volunteers that take time every month, or even every week to serve their neighbors in need. We are so incredibly grateful for all of them and want to take the opportunity to highlight their stories and experiences. This post will be the first in a series of posts about how they help at UMD and how their volunteer work impacts them and their community!

Recently, we talked to Sue Beauchamp, who has been a UMD volunteer since 2016.

What do you do?

Sue hosts a jewelry class every Friday morning at UMD, open to clients and members of the community. For an hour and a half, clients can come and go as they please and make bracelets, earrings, or necklaces. All of the materials are donated.

“You don’t always see the same people.” Some people come in every week, while others wander through the door for the first time with no prior knowledge or skills in jewelry making.

Clients can keep the jewelry they make or choose to sell it. “Some of them are really talented. They make some beautiful stuff.” Often, men come in and make jewelry for someone they care about – a significant other or their children that they may not get to see often.

“It’s really sweet.”

How did you start volunteering?

“I used to live in Florida and volunteered at a homeless shelter for pregnant women and single moms.” There, she made quilts, greetings cards, and held bake sales with clients.

It touched her heart to see the effect creating things had on clients’ self-esteem, “It transformed the way they felt about themselves… I’m a crafty person. I’ve always liked using the gifts I have and sharing them with others.”

A few years later, she moved to Durham and her neighborhood had a group that regularly served breakfast at UMD. Once she started volunteering, she noticed that UMD had a jewelry class and thought it was a great way to share her gifts as she’d done before. She asked the volunteer in charge if she wanted help running the class, and she did. For some time, Sue worked with her, until she began struggling with some health problems and would not be able to run the class anymore.

“She needed to step down and I stepped up,” Sue recalls, and she’s been running the class ever since.

Why do you volunteer?

“To show them that they can do more than they think they can.”

Often, clients will come in feeling discouraged and insecure about themselves, Sue told me. Making jewelry offers clients an opportunity to focus their energy on something other than their struggles, socialize with others and build relationships, and make something they’re proud of.

“Some people come in that never come in off the street. I think it must be meaningful to them, it must have some value.”

It offers clients an opportunity to tell themselves “You are worthy.”

This interview was prompted ahead of Sue’s move outside of the Triangle area. If you are interested in helping with the jewelry class, please contact our Community Engagement team.