Cartersville nonprofit transforms lives through upholstery

Restore and Renew

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Providing an “unorthodox [way] to reflect, express and transform,” Jamika Smith continues to renew lives and furniture. As the founder of Teena’s Legacy, the Cartersville resident is delighted to lead the nonprofit’s 2018 Summer Apprentice Tour, which features four stops in Bartow County.

“The idea for Teena's Legacy started when my mother and I rescued a chaise lounge sitting in the alley near our home in Chicago, Illinois,” Smith said. “We then went to a hotel warehouse and found a bundle of some old hotel draperies for just $10 and used them to reupholster the chaise lounge. My mother still has that chaise lounge in her living room today, seven years later. 

“I thought to myself, upholstery is one of those trades with a lot of worth and meaning behind it. That is when I was blessed with the idea to use upholstery as a conduit for self-reflection, self-expression and transformation. So today at Teena's Legacy, we use upholstery as a way to tell your story in a more innovative, creative and therapeutic way.” 

Establishing Teena’s Legacy four years ago, Smith’s labor of love became a nonprofit in 2017. With the organization’s name, she paid tribute to her late grandmother, Alberteen “Teena” Stredrick, who emphasized the importance of self-sufficiency and also shared Smith’s interest of restoring furniture.

“Teena's Legacy Summer Apprentice Program started back in the summer of 2014 with four young women [with ages ranging] from 15 [to] 18 years in my living room in Chicago,” Smith said. “The second summer, we expanded into my basement and in 2016 my garage. In 2017, I ventured outside my home and rented out a space … [in] Chicago, and today, Teena's Legacy has its own home in 2018 in Cartersville, Georgia.

“The idea was to create a space where young women could come and be safe enough to reflect and express themselves freely while reupholstering their chairs. Reupholstery has the potential to boost your self-esteem, sharpen your imagination and enhance your creative mind. It can also try the patience of your soul, test the skills of your hands and leave you with the rewards of a job well done as a long-lasting experience — along with teaching you patience, to pay attention to detail and think critically about who they are as … individuals. I continue to offer this program because the world needs innovation, someone who's open to step outside the box and provide a different way people can express themselves.”

Kicking off at Eckerd Connects Paxen June 4, the Teena's Legacy Summer Apprentice Tour also featured multi-day workshops at Bartow Family Resources and Allatoona Resource Center. At the ARC, six youth ranging in age from 8 to 16 took part in the Summer Apprentice Tour July 16 to 18. After disassembling chairs provided by the center, students sanded the furniture then created designs on blank canvases that covered the items’ cushions.

“I had never seen anything like her organization — upholstery with a purpose,” said Nichole Varnell, site coordinator of ARC, which is an extension of Bartow County Social Services. “… I wanted us to collaborate. It was just a matter of working out the logistics and seeing what that partnership would look like. I was really excited when she decided to go on tour. … We do our best to provide summer offerings for the kids to give them something constructive to do.

“… The kids were very creative,” she said, referring to the Teena’s Legacy class. “I thought it was just wonderful. … It was a very unique way of them expressing themselves with creative art.”

For 16-year-old Katherine Ross, participating in the upholstery workshop was an opportunity to grow artistically and create a one-of-a-kind piece for her young niece. Along with sponge painting the piece with pastel colors, the Acworth resident decorated the chair with her handprints and 3-year-old Nevaeh’s name.

“When it came out, everybody liked it,” Katherine said. “My niece especially liked it. … She gasped [when she saw it]. She [said], ‘Is that for me?’ I said, ‘Oh look, it has your name on it.’ … She sat on it and brought her toys around it.

“… [Before this], I’ve only done sketches. So, say if I’d sketched a picture for her, it’d be lost throughout time. She wouldn’t have it when she’s older. … [The chair] will stay longer, and she [will] know that I made it for her.”

On Monday, Smith will begin her Summer Apprentice Tour stop at The Hope Center, where two women will share their cancer journey through their upholstery of a wingback chair.

“I feel led to share this skill because everyone is different, everyone [retains] information and [processes] information differently, so what I provide is [an] unorthodox [way] to reflect, express and transform,” Smith said. “… It is very gratifying to see the finished pieces individuals create; for me it always confirms that I'm doing exactly what I'm [supposed] to be doing at this moment in my life.

“One of my favorite moments was when I was at Eckerd Connects Paxen, and I interviewed one young lady. And she said, ‘I love this process because now I know what I really want to do with my life.’ I asked, ‘What is that?’ She said, ‘Help kids with whatever they need help with.’ Or the young male at Paxen who designed a chair for his father for Father’s Day. He was so proud of himself, and his father was speechless.”

Now based at 320 Tennessee St. in Cartersville, Teena’s Legacy has helped transformed the lives of children and adults since its inception.

“Teena's [Legacy’s] targeted population is young women with children … [ages] 18 [to] 25, but in the five years I've worked with individuals and groups starting at the age of 5 up to 65 — girls, boys, women and men with different background and race,” Smith said. “I hope that anybody that crosses my path in person or through Teena's Legacy leave with a better understanding of who they are, where they are and where they're going in life. In addition to a newfound appreciation for this upholstery trade and leave with a piece that tells their story and [represents] who they are as an individual.”

For more information about Teena’s Legacy and how to support its efforts, visit www.teenaslegacy.com or call 773-678-3638.