'It's bigger than me': Fayetteville widower provides therapeutic woodworking sessions for military community

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Fayetteville veteran is using woodworking as a therapeutic avenue for other veterans and active military members.

Kurt Ballash is the creator and owner of Ballash Woodworking in Fayetteville. The Army veteran, who served multiple tours overseas, returned home to woodworking to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

"Woodworking is just naturally beneficial for my mind. I like to be active and working with my hands," Ballash said.

Both Ballash and his wife, Jamie, started up the woodworking and luxury furniture business, along Cedar Creek Road, to turn that calming hobby into his career post-military.

In 2018, they realized this therapeutic hobby could help others in the military community.



"My wife had a dream. Um, in that dream, she felt like we were being led to become a hope for the community," Ballash said.

Jamie's vision became the couple's mission to start "The Artisans Outreach" in 2018. Through donations, sponsorships, and even a local grant, given to them by the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, the couple was able to offer free or discounted woodworking sessions.

"For the first half of the year (2020), it was a great success. We brought 50 people in, military spouses with their husbands or wives, kids in with their parents. We gave them an opportunity to connect and bond around the creative process," Ballash added.

But, the mission was struck with tragedy in March. Jamie died after having a heart attack, leaving Ballash without his wife and woodworking partner.

"She just, she didn't make it. About a day and a half later, she passed away at 4:05 in the morning, on March 31, about six weeks before her 41st birthday," Ballash said.

Months later, Ballash is building his life back up and working to see Jamie's vision come to fruition. Right now, he's on a path to certify The Artisans Outreach as a nonprofit, giving the Fort Bragg community a place to create, learn, and find some hope through this craft. "It's bigger than me, it's bigger than Ballash Woodworks, it's about making a true difference."

If you want to learn more about the outreach or how you can help, you can go to the Ballash Woodworks website for more details.
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