At SmileDirectClub, we feel strongly about the power of transformation. This is why, each year, we partner with the Nashville Predators Foundation to provide SuperGrants to non-profits that are empowering people through times of transition right here in our home region of Middle Tennessee. There is no better way for us to support these organizations than by providing a game-changing grant for them to continue helping others.
This year, Maple Built, a nonprofit apprenticeship program that uses woodworking to help shape the future for young men in North Nashville, was chosen to receive a grant.
“Maple Built is located in north Nashville in a zip code that a couple of years ago was known as having the highest rate of incarceration in the country. There’s a school-to-prison pipeline that is hard to disrupt, but that’s what Maple Built is doing,” says Julia Wicoff, Director of the Purpose Platform at SmileDirectClub.
“They’re identifying young men in their community who have the talent and desire to start meaningful careers, but not necessarily the opportunity.”
Co-founders Schuyler and Will Anderson—who also happen to be brothers—created the program out of their desire to be good neighbors. Their mission is to employ, train, and mentor young men from the north Nashville neighborhood, using woodworking and the process of creation as the vector to do it.
The Anderson brothers run the entire organization. While this can have its challenges, it’s also a big part of what makes Maple Built so special.
“Because it’s just the two of them, they have the opportunity to create really meaningful relationships with young men in their program and give the young men guidance to set them up for success so that they go from school to job, not school to prison,” says Julia.
That one-on-one time with apprentices is something that the co-founders love most about their roles, along with seeing the young men gain the confidence and ability to walk into a situation and figure out how to solve a problem, says Will.
That one-on-one time also gives the brothers the opportunity to see the transition that happens within the minds of their apprentices.
“Something that inevitably happens with our apprentices is there will be some day where he gets to the end of the day and we’ll say ‘alright, it’s time to pack up and leave’ and they say, ‘No, I can’t leave yet I’m not done’. And when that moment inevitably happens it always makes us smile because we realize that a shift occurred and that is that the young person has gone from basically punching the clock to having that feeling that says I can’t walk away from something that’s not yet up to my standard of excellence,” says Will.
“While they may not clarify it that way, we understand that they have attached a healthy sense of pride to a project they’re working on.”
That’s the moment when Will and Schuyler know that what’s happening is bigger than woodworking and apprenticeship. It’s the opportunity to see that work and creation is not just something that you have to do to survive.
“We want the young people that we work with here to be excited about not just contributing to society, but making beautiful things and putting their stamp of approval on it.”
Speaking of making beautiful things, the SuperGrant from SmileDirectClub and the Predator’s Foundation has allowed the brothers to purchase more tools, in turn bringing in more work and different types of projects. It also covered the cost of a year’s rent.
But for Schuyler and Will, the impact of the SuperGrant has been about much more than just the money. By lifting some of the financial burden they’ve been able to spend more time mentoring and sitting down with their apprentices and working through the challenges of just being a teenager.
“It has really shaped and changed our efficiency, but also given us space to be less efficient where we need to be in order to make the relational investment.”
For SmileDirectClub, this grant, as well as the others it will give this year means that they can continue their goal of helping small non-profits get the resources they need to help their constituents through tough transitions.
To learn more about Maple Built’s apprenticeship program or how you can help, or to check out their recent projects and online shop, visit their website here.