BELLINGHAM - In a bright yellow storefront on North State Street, youth worked diligently, hunched over sewing machines and screen-pressing printers, to create merchandise and art during the grand opening of We Creations on Tuesday, July 29.
We Creations, a project of Northwest Youth Services, is a job-training program for at-risk or homeless youth. The half-store, half-workshop gives young people a space to be creative while also receiving training from NYS staff and community members.
"I have a problem with people judging my work, but not here." Shania Neet said as she stitched together her latest work, a stuffed black cat with baby blue buttons for eyes. "People are actually encouraging me to be creative."
We Creations at 929 N. State St. is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Participants can either keep their work or consign it to the store.
Merchandise in the shop includes T-shirts, bead bracelets and aprons. Most of the goods are made from recycled material.
During the Downtown Bellingham Art Walk Friday, Aug. 1, We Creations will be open and serving snacks and light refreshments from 6 to 10 p.m.
Jason Dallman, NYS vocational readiness program manager, said the project came together through community collaboration. Iron Street Printing owner John Bunn donated equipment and continues to train program participants.
Eli Munroe, 18, has been working on the project since the early stages. He began training on the screening press and was a natural. Since then he has been hired as a part-time employee and has done a lot of prep work for We Creations.
It's a long way from where he was a year ago, when he and his girlfriend were homeless. Now, Munroe says the experience he gained at We Creations has given him the knowledge and income to be more independent.
"Its crazy, we practically lived downtown," Munroe explained. "(NYS) pretty much saved us."
For more information about NYS vocational opportunities, go to nwys.org/vocational-opportunities.