CDC students selling hand-crafted art at Ashley Mercantile


Front, center: Hunter Cason; front, left to right: Trey Herschehahn, Kayla Harbison and Cameron White; back, left to right: Alex McCracken, Dawson Oden, Sebastian Simpson and Nicholas Ard. Not pictured are teacher Stacey Ziegenbein and Aide Cathy Screws. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Juniors and seniors at the Cullman County Child Development Center (CDC) have been busy with a unique project to help raise money for their prom and graduation funds. The students from the Students Achieving Vocational Excellence (S.A.V.E.) program, who learn ways to help build independence and develop job skills, have put their talent into creating beautiful artwork.

The idea came to S.A.VE. teacher Stacey Ziegenbein during a stop while visiting the beach. She saw artwork blocks for sale in a shop and decided to incorporate something similar into nice keepsake gifts for the parents of her school kids.

Ziegenbein explained, “We took a picture of each kid by the Christmas tree and used decoupage to put it on the painted blocks.” 

Shirley Gardner, who has been a substitute for many years at the CDC, asked the class if it could make a couple of blocks for her to give as Christmas gifts. Gardner then showed the blocks to her grandson Ryne Ashley, who, along with his wife Heather, owns Ashley Mercantile. The Ashleys felt the blocks would be popular with their customers.

For a $10 donation to the CDC S.A.V.E. program, customers receive a block hand-crafted by one of the talented students. The back of each block has the name of the student who created it. 

Ryne Ashley’s mother, Sherrie Ashley, explained, “We have a notebook that you can browse through with all the old photographs available to put on your block. All the money goes back to the kids. We don’t even put the money in our register.”

A couple recently had a block made with an old photo of The Globe Drive-In where they met years ago. 

The money raised for the students’ prom and graduation fund will go toward caps and gowns, engraved diploma covers, prom T-shirts and a prom complete with a fun DJ for the students.

“We try to give them a prom and graduation just as they would have at any other school. We have seven to eight graduating this year. That’s a big class for us. It’s financially difficult for many families, so we make sure everyone gets what they need,” Ziegenbein shared.

The students are excited about their upcoming prom and graduation. Several will likely be looking for a job when school ends. The S.A.V.E. program has successfully helped many of its students obtain paying jobs in a variety of vocations. 

Ashley Mercantile is located in the downtown Cullman Warehouse District at 105A First Ave. NE.

Copyright 2019 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.