Kim Herring has been a stay-at-home mom for 25 years, raising four daughters: Katie, Celia, Grace, and Mary Blake. When the girls were little, she was looking for an activity to do together outside of the house. She contacted the volunteer coordinator at Raleigh Rescue Mission and asked, “What can girls ages one through 12 do?” Their first project was to spruce up the bulletin board hanging outside the dining hall.
“We got a little carried away,” said Kim, remembering how they wrote Bible verses or inspirational quotes, or asked people to post what they’re thankful for. “They got so elaborate to the point that they weren’t putting fliers up there anymore.”
The project was perfect to do as a family. “At home in the kitchen, it gave us an opportunity to talk about what Bible verse we wanted to use, and how we could give a bit of hope to someone else through that board,” said Kim. “What could we say that would, unknowingly to us, impact someone who is here?”
Kim and her little artists added more bulletin boards to their list, and their grandmother and friends would often join. Over the past 16 years, they each developed an individual love and talent for art. Katie is working toward a Medical Illustration Certificate as a stepping stone to graduate school. Celia lives in Greensboro working as a Safety, Quality, and Compliance Specialist at Chick-Fil-A Supply. Grace is a senior at North Carolina State University, majoring in Graphic Design with a minor in Computer Science. Mary Blake is in high school, and her sister calls her the “modern artist” – drawing on her iPad and letting them know what’s cool – and will attend the NC Governor’s School to study art this summer.
But coming to the Mission and sharing their gifts is still an important part of their lives.
“It’s been a staple activity for me,” said Katie. “I’ve moved out of state several times and whenever I come back, I make an effort to come to the Mission and do the art classes. I think I get just as much out of them as I give. I see a lot of joy, and I get a lot of joy from the experience.”
Grace has been coming to the Mission since she was six years old and would play with the other kids while working on the bulletin boards. It was her idea to start a Thursday evening art class for the children’s center while their mothers were in a program.
“I remember thinking, ‘We should do something more,’” she said.
The class focused on process art, teaching the kids they are made in God’s image and are artists, too. There’s no right or wrong way to do art, and everyone can enjoy the process. The Herrings put a lot of thought into the class, combining science, math, and technology concepts with art. They all remember mixing paint with vinegar and baking soda and watching it bubble, and the kids loving the sensory experience. They saw the kids grow and have moments of emotional development, too.
“Visual art helps you relax and get out your emotions,” said Grace. “You get into a calmer state. For the kids, it’s a safe way to practice emotions in a constructive way.”
The mothers would come back from the evening program and join in with their children. So, the Herrings adjusted the class to include mothers, as well.
“It allowed the mothers to sit with the child and do something affirming,” said Kim, sharing how some mothers would hang their child’s art in their rooms.
As the girls have gotten older, they’ve been able to get more involved with the clients and staff and build relationships, which has made their volunteer experience even more rich.
One of the moms gifted Kim her first painting. “It reminds me of that thread of giving and receiving we’ve had with Raleigh Rescue Mission over the years,” said Kim. “I see that more now that the girls are older and able to come alongside me.”
The pandemic shut down the Thursday evening class, but the Herrings pivoted and dropped by art kits – cupcake baking trays filled with playdough and mixins – so the kids and their moms could keep creating. Since last fall, they’ve been able to offer a combined mom and kid class about every six weeks.
The family has found their niche in serving the Mission and has never lost their enthusiasm over the years, saying no matter what they give, they get just as much or more back.
“We were talking the other day about how we always leave here pumped,” said Katie. “I feel like I can almost say it’s a selfish experience. It’s just kind of a bonus that other people benefit.”