Brandi Collins realizes she may not be able to change the world nor grasp the impact events of 2020 will have on the future, but she believes in doing her part to leave a positive mark.
“There’s so much chaos going on in the world, and there’s also kindness, but it’s being shadowed by darkness right now,” she said, referring to everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to protests happening around the nation.
“With everything that’s happening in the world, I just knew I had to do something.”
Brandi co-owns and operates AR Workshop in Evans, a wood sign studio and do-it-yourself workshop. She is married to Senior Airman William Collins, of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing.
Tapping into her creative side and using the resources available to her, Brandi decided the workshop was a good place to start.
Reaching out to the CSRA community via social media, Brandi invited families to stop by the workshop on June 6, between noon and 3 p.m., to pick up a free do-it-yourself project while supplies lasted.
“We have 7,000 people who follow us on Facebook and 2-3,000 that follow us on Instagram … we have this amazing engagement from our guests, and I knew that I had to use my voice in some way,” Brandi said. “I have this platform for a reason and it would be an absolute waste if I just sat here silent.”
Brandi and her staff made 150 kits available – each containing supplies and instructions necessary for creating a wood sign with an inspirational message. Families had five different messages to choose from: We Rise by Lifting Others, Be the Change, Always be Kind, Listen Even When It’s Hard, and Love.
“The idea is to take the craft home, get comfortable, bring it out and talk about the message,” Brandi said. “Why does this say, ‘Love?’ Why is it important to ‘Always be kind?’ Look at the colors being used – this is all related to events that are happening in the world and we can start having this conversation now.”
Rebecca McCann, of Evans, said she planned to do just that with her two sons, 8 and 11 years old.
“It’s a crazy time right now … and having two young children, the best thing I can do is work on [my children],” McCann said. “We talk about everything from ‘love is love’ to ‘color doesn’t matter’ – we just try to do what we can.”
Whitney Smith, of Grovetown, mother of a 12-year-old daughter, said the event was a great gesture to bring families together while increasing awareness of current events. They completed the project shortly after returning home from the workshop.
“We worked on this project as a family, we talked about what the words on our sign meant to us in relation to the current challenges that we face today … [and] we found a place in our home to display it so that it could serve as a reminder of how we should live our lives daily,” Whitney said.
In addition to the DIY kit, Brandi included various types of resources – including specific books and films – for families to consider using as conversation starters about topics that are difficult for some to talk about – namely race.
“It definitely promoted not only positive conversations, but conversations that were necessary,” Whitney said. “I specifically admire how she shared resources to help initiate the understanding of our nation’s current challenges.”
Although Brandi doesn’t have children of her own, she has several nieces and nephews and understands the importance of talking with them. She also realizes that not everybody is ready and that’s OK.
“This is also about spreading kindness,” Brandi said. ““Maybe you’re not ready to talk to your kids yet, but you see this every day, three weeks from now after you’ve made this project with them, and you’re ready to talk to your kids because this little sign is that reminder … even if it’s just introspectively, I hope it eventually starts conversations that need to be had.”