Harkers Island, NC
Located just east of the town of Beaufort and the Crystal Coast beaches lies the small coastal community of Harkers Island. Known for its small-town charm and rich history, the area serves as a prime destination for locals and tourists alike. However, these aren’t the only characteristics that make the area special. The island is also home to The Bridge Down East, a local youth center that’s made an enormous impact on our area since its commencement back in 2011.
The Bridge Down East Inc. is a non-profit 21st Century Learning Center organization that offers after school programs as well as various camps throughout the summer months to students in our surrounding area. Their motto “a rising tide lifts all boats!” is exemplified through their work, as they aim to help children learn, grow, and reach their full potential in not only school, but also in life. The center provides snacks, homework help, and safe gathering place for kids, while striving to enhance and support their development throughout childhood and adolescence.
Because the relationship with our youth and their families goes hand and hand with the community and its people, The Bridge attempts to integrate the two whenever possible, which is what inspired their most recent venture. Skilled woodworkers alike came together and agreed that while there are multiple events revolving around Down Easts iconic culture of wooden boatbuilding, there was nothing of such for children. This inspired the idea of the Bridge hosting a youth boatbuilding competition.
Tom Russel, a local boatbuilder in our area, donated his time and effort into helping to organize the event with The Bridge. Tom used his own design and wood donated from Impulse Trading Company to create pre-assembled panels and a jig, that would later be assembled by the kids on competition day. Tom reached out to the Bridge and shared his vision, and from there students were offered the opportunity to be a part of the big day.
When students gathered on building day, they were put into 2 teams, both boys and girls ranging in age from 3rd to 6th grade. Students were supervised by team leaders and worked together to see which team could assemble their boat the fastest. During this time, the kids were introduced to various power tools and building concepts which aided their efforts in accomplishing their task at hand. When the teams were finished and a winner was chosen, the kids gathered in for photo ops to document all their hard work.
The boats are then put up for auction and sold to raise money to go back into the Bridge program. The youth center hopes to continue this competition in the future, and we look forward to continuing our support in the community.