ENGLEWOOD — Jamika Smith started a free reupholstery program to provide young women with skills and help them heal.
Smith, 37, began the program last summer with only five girls and women ages 16-21. The Chicago Lawn resident and mother of a 3-year-old girl said many of the participants come from challenging backgrounds and rough neighborhoods.
Even though reupholstery isn’t her occupation — she’s a life coach and stay–at-home mother — Smith passes down the skills her grandmother taught her and her mother when working with the young women.
“Teena’s Legacy," a nonprofit, was launched in 2012 to honor her grandmother Alberteen “Teena” Stredrick, who died in 2010. The reupholstery program is one aspect of Teena's Legacy.
“The underlying message is to help women heal their souls,” Smith said. “When you start to break down the chair, sometimes you notice some wood is broken or pieces need to be mended; well this is related to their life. Something needs to be restored in their own life.”
Last year, Smith hosted a 5K walk to raise money for some sewing machines and furniture the group uses for reupholstering. She said about 40 people attended.
A second walk this year is set for May 2 at Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St. The event, which includes the walk, discussion, food and music, will run from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Smith said the walk will be unique in that participants will be encouraged to interact with one another. There will be discussions about the community and the changes that need to be made. She said she wants people to come up with tangible solutions to improving their community.
The goal is to raise $10,000 for the summer apprentice program, which teaches the young women how to reupholster furniture. The funds will allow Smith to pay three instructors for the summer program, which runs from June 22 through the end of August. A portion of it will also go toward buying things like an industrial sewing machine, tools for projects, fabric, startup furniture, transportation and marketing materials.
At the end of August, the young women will sell their furniture pieces at a community event.
“The whole goal is not for them to take this and start their own business, but the ultimate goal is to build skills because with upholstery you have to build patience and critical skills,” she said.
It’s also an “income generator,” she said.
“This is something you can always fall back on, you can have it under your belt just in case," she said. "If you were to go to school in another city, you can easily draw up some fliers.”
Anyone who would like to donate can bring a check on May 2 and make it out to Teena’s Legacy.
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