Tucked inside a short strip of stores along Gay Street is a small jewelry shop. There, ceramic bowls filled with an assortment of beads cover every table inside of the quaint store. Those beads are used to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry.
Near the center of the store sits a rustic, wooden table with 12 matching chairs tucked neatly underneath. Those chairs are used for community members to collaborate while they create their jewelry.
Twice a month on Monday afternoons those 12 chairs
These young children inspire each other as they collaborate to create their jewelry.
Birdsong has hosted members of the community for 12 years, and now she hosts the youngest community members twice a month at her Perch After School program where children create jewelry.
The pieces they make aren’t for them to keep. They’re for a fundraiser for the BigHouse Foundation.
“They give a lot of resources to families that foster children,” Birdsong said. “They’re kind of like a safe place for kids that get pulled out of rough family situations. It’s kind of like a homey situation instead of going to sit at a police precinct.”
Birdsong started the program a year ago because she wanted to give back to a community that gave her a place to build a business that means so much to her.
Birdsong is a military wife. During her husband’s career in the Air Force she lived in many different places.
Over the course of three moves, Birdsong began to collaborate with another military wife to create an online jewelry store similar to the store she has in Auburn now.
“It’s been well received in Auburn,” Birdsong said. “I feel just really lucky in that sense. Auburn has just been really supportive of small businesses.”
After her husband retired from the Air Force, they decided they wanted to retire to Auburn where they had spent a few years during his military career.
Once they were settled in, Birdsong knew she was meant to do more than just her online store. She wanted to meet her customers, get to create with them, collaborate with them, be inspired by them.
So it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time for her to open Perch Jewelry Design Studio, located at 416 S. Gay St.
“I walked past and saw this place for rent,” Birdsong said. “So we just called and asked about it and decided ‘Okay this is it, we’ll open it.’”
Fast-forward 11 years and her business
While those 11 years were extremely rewarding for Birdsong as she worked alongside her daughter in the store for most of those years, she knew there was more she could do.
She wanted to give back to the community that had given her a place to not only grow her online business into a spectacular
“Just a way to give back,” Birdsong said. “I think it’s just important for all of us to think of ways to give back. We all want to make a difference and sometimes we think one person can’t do it or it has to be something really huge, but it doesn’t have to be.”
It’s pretty simple, Birdsong jokes. It’s just making jewelry to later sell to teach children to create for someone other than themselves.
The program is not just for girls, Birdsong emphasizes.
All children age 8 and up are welcome. She wants to inspire all children that want to come to the after-school program.
Birdsong offers this program free of charge to all children.
“I think it’s fun for them to be empowered, to learn something,” Birdsong said. “Just to know what they’re doing, they’re giving back.”
She wanted everyone to see that her business has so much to offer the community, more than just shopping.
“The whole intent was, even though we’re a small business we can try to make an impact in some way,” Birdsong said.
After the first four to six months of program sessions, Birdsong had enough jewelry to create an entire collection.
She arranged a holiday shop and invited the community to come to Perch one evening for family fun and some jewelry shopping.
“We don’t do it, continually selling it,” Birdsong said. “It’s more like continually making it, and then we have a big sale.”
All of the proceeds from the holiday shop went to the BigHouse Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides services and resources to foster families in Lee, Chambers, Tallapoosa and Macon counties.
“I have known about that organization for a while,” Birdsong said. “I’ve just known a lot of people who have fostered children. I just know how challenging that can be and I know they need a lot of resources.”
Birdsong has been running this program since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year and is now taking a break for summer.
Just because the program sessions are on break for the summer does not mean that the program stops entirely.
Birdsong plans to host another shop later this summer where she will sell the second collection of jewelry pieces the children at the after-school program made from January to May.
Once again, Birdsong plants to donate all of the proceeds to the BigHouse Foundation.
Birdsong plans to start up the program again once the 2018-2019 school year begins. Once she has enough pieces for a collection again, she will host another sale to benefit the BigHouse Foundation.
Birdsong’s main goal has always been to give back to the community by teaching others to give back.
“I get so many kids through here,” Birdsong said. “The whole intent was to teach a skill and also talk about ways that we can give back to the community.”