Paducah native Laura Rudolph Wilson and her family have become INSTRUMENTS of hope for the hungry.
When Laura Rudolph Wilson’s daughter came home from spending the night with a friend, they learned an uncomfortable truth. The friend’s family only ate twice a day. That was all they could afford. So, Laura and her husband, Rick, decided they needed to do something to help.
“Our life is so blessed,” said Laura, who develops online training programs for computer applications as her “day job.”
“We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to help people who live on our street, who are struggling to feed their kids?’” Laura, who had been making jewelry for years, thought that she could make a contribution that way.
Strings for Hope was born in 2011 and is thriving – on track to give $20,000 to food banks this year. “We have absolutely had a blast working with this project,” Laura said. “We’re a little like a bumble bee. It shouldn’t be able to fly. It just does. Who knew something so simple would be such a great solution?”
The jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, rings and other pieces – is all made from up-cycled instrument strings. Rick, a guitar builder who owns Moonshine Custom Guitars, had to throw used strings away because they were mixed metals and couldn’t be recycled. Laura couldn’t stand the waste and started making jewelry from the unusable strings. She enjoyed some success at art shows and people were always urging her to expand her business. All the strings are donated from shops like String Works of Paducah. She uses cello, violin, guitar and even piano strings and combines them with beads or pieces of jewelry she finds at estate sales. She now has a crew of volunteers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio who help her make the jewelry and man the shows.
“People love buying a unique piece of jewelry and knowing that what they are buying is going to something that actually gives back. They are able to have something cool for themselves, but it also helps their neighbors. Everywhere we go the people are so great about supporting what we do. I think a lot of folks don’t understand the extent of the problem of food and security. What we don’t realize is that there are people who live on our own streets who are struggling. One in 7 children in this country is insecure (about how they will eat). We had a method to serve that population and we felt obligated to put it to use.”
Strings for Hope will attend 20 shows this year, including the Cincinnati Blues Festival, Hot August Blues at the lakes area, and other shows in Arkansas and Alabama. They partner with local food banks wherever they go so that a piece of their proceeds stays in that community.
“I never in my life thought I whould run a non-profit and feed the hungry,” Laura, who grew up in Paducah, said. “But, I had an obligation to make this thing fly. Rick and I both lost our previous spouses to cancer. People came out of the woodwork to help us. We started this great life together. We knew what it meant to have people give to us when we were in need. We know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of people’s good hearts.”
The non-profit has an Etsy shop and next year they hope to go to shows in Florida and Las Vegas in addition to the mid-south. “What we’ve been able to prove in our first two years is that this is a concept that has legs,” she said. “We can serve not just the people in our neighborhood, but people all across America and eventually around the world. We have been very deliberate about our growth. The first year we were able to donate over $10,000 and this year we’re on track to do about $20,000. We are being blessed by being able to run our business in this way. Our goal is to double what we’re able to provide to our receiving organizations every year that we’re in business.”