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Lamon Luther - The Man

Born in 1930 in the foot hills of Randolph County, Alabama, Lamon Luther Wilson is a farmer, a mechanic and a carpenter. With his hands he provides for his family. During those days, working with your hands was a part of survival and economic stability. If the sun is up during the summer months, he is found in his garden. He shares his excess crops with his community, making sure everyone has the freshest produce. His hands are callused but you wouldn't know it on Sunday behind his perfectly pressed suit. Lamon Luther is a rugged gentleman.

 

 

Lamon Luther - The company, was born as a tribute to a dying generation of craftsmen.  

Story Written By: Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) -- Sometimes, it pays to eavesdrop on the next table over at lunch. That's how Brian Preston learned about the homeless people living in the woods around his suburban Georgia community.

Today, some of those men have jobs and homes thanks to Preston, in a business collaboration that's not only producing expertly crafted furniture but restoring hope.

Maybe it's because feel-good stories are hard to come by that the tale of Preston's carpentry outfit, Lamon Luther, has struck a nerve, earning a standing ovation last week from the audience at TEDxAtlanta, a series of independently organized talks modeled after the original TED conference.

Turns out that what they needed were some tools and a chance, Preston, 31, told the audience. In return, they're helping keep alive a tradition of American craftsmanship that seems to be disappearing with each generation through Lamon Luther, which is named for Preston's grandfather, a farmer, and carpenter from Georgia.

It might not have happened if Preston hadn't overheard a conversation in 2009 in a restaurant in his hometown of Douglasville, Georgia, about "the village in the woods." Intrigued, he went to see for himself and discovered a makeshift camp where people lived in tents and shared firewood, propane, and food that was stored in a hole in the ground. Some had recently left jail; others were builders and craftsmen who had fallen on hard times after the housing crisis of 2007 gutted the construction industry.

Brian Preston, in plaid, and Lamon Luther employees Jeffery Hanson, Scott Miller and Roger Anthony Curtis.
Brian Preston, in plaid, and Lamon Luther employees Jeffery Hanson, Scott Miller, and Roger Anthony Curtis.

Preston, a married father of two, wanted to help. It hadn't been that long since his family had experienced rough financial times after losing their residential development business in the housing crisis. He and his wife sold most of their belongings so they could downsize to an apartment and start over. The more he got to know the men in the woods and learned about how they'd landed there, the more he felt he had narrowly avoided a similar fate, he says.

"I remembered calling and begging mortgage companies to help us out and wondering how we were going to put gas in the car," he said. "I knew how easy it was to fall into that.

Potentially, we're all just a few steps away from it."

He began making regular visits to the camp with loads of firewood, propane and other supplies to be divvied up among the residents. But his donations didn't seem to do much to improve the long-term prospects of the men who lived there, Preston said.

Frustrated that he was enabling their destitution, he asked how he could help.

The answer was simple, one man said: They needed jobs. They had no addresses, no cell phones and no licenses.

"'No one will hire us,'" Preston's friend, Mitch, told him.

It didn't take long for Preston to figure out how he could help in a way that would change his fortune as well. By this time, Preston had a "safe" job as creative director of a New Age church designing graphics and doing photography, he said. But he was a craftsman at heart and felt a piece of himself was missing. If a story was ever written about Preston's life at that point, "no one would want to read it," he said.

With the help of his wife and her addiction to Pinterest, the online pinboard for sharing decor and design inspiration, he'd returned to carpentry on the weekends, he told the audience. He began selling his work on Craigslist and demand grew steadily to the point where Preston wondered how he could transform his weekend hobby into a full-time job. Then, it hit him.

On January 1, he picked up Roger Anthony Curtis, who goes by "TC," from the camp and brought him to a workshop to see whether his carpentry chops were up to snuff after years of wandering around Florida and Georgia homeless. Preston was pleasantly surprised by what he saw and eventually hired two more men from the camp and another who was living in a trailer.

Finally, Preston was seeing the change he'd hoped for. Soon, Curtis had saved up enough money to move out of the woods and into a group home, where he doesn't have to worry about the weather, leaky tents or where his next meal will come from, the 52-year-old carpenter said.

"I'm grateful for being able to meet new people and associate with people instead of hiding from them," said Curtis, who lived in the woods for eight months before moving out in the spring. "It's great being able to buy the things that I need, go places I wanna go to and I just enjoy working with my hands again."

Scott Miller, who was the de facto leader of the camp, had earned enough money to move into a group home after just one month working for Preston."

Lamon Luther is about keeping this art alive, building hope and creating an opportunity for homeless carpenters. We achieve this by putting tools in their hands and building the finest handcrafted furniture in the world. Each piece carries the blood, sweat, and tears of our carpenters and a story of hope and opportunity. 

 

 

 

Our Team

Sammy Mickey

Tell us a little about yourself.

After being a drug addict for 20 years and spending half my life behind bars, I finally made the choice to change my life. I stopped doing things that kept sending me to prison, and started trying to live a normal life. I'm not a bad person, I just made bad choices. Now I'm happy with my life and myself. Being an addict and committing crimes is a choice. I chose to live that life and now I choose to live the life I have now. So for all the addicts out there . . . When you are ready to choose, go for it!!! You can do it if you are truly tired of losing! Happiness is there in you, you just have to find it. Nobody can do it for you, and no-one can make you do it.

Tell us how working at LL has impacted your life?

I've always been good working my hands. I love building things and learning how to do something new. At LL I've found a piece of myself that I thought I had lost. Everyday is a joy doing things I love building something that gets to bring happiness to someone else.

How did you get connected to LL?

I had a good job but was hoping for something closer to home. When I put in my application, something just told me it was right. After my first week I knew this was where I wanted to be. It's not about the money but the investment and the great guys I work with.

What has been your favorite moment at LL? Funny, or serious?

My favorite memory was building my first set of cabinets. They turned out great, we installed them, the customer messed them up, and we had to fix them. It was a high to build them, a low that they got messed up, and another high to fix them. Kind of like a Happy - Sad - Happy, LOL

Ehsan

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am Ehsan. I came to the USA 4 years ago and I'm a refugee Immigrant. I accepted Jesus 7 years ago so I can't go back to my country. I love this job. We pray in this company everyday before works starts in the name of Jesus.

Tell us how working at LL has impacted your life?

This company helps people who are homeless so when I work here it's like I work for the Kingdom. (Clarify this last line) That is important for who work for God or for money!

How did you get connected to LL?

My friend Luke connected me to LL.

What has been your favorite moment at LL? Funny, or serious?

I enjoy working with metal and creating furniture, tables, and many things. So I'm happy to work for this company because LL gave me and other people a job.

Grady Craven

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm 44 years old. I recently married the women that I've been looking for all these years. We have a beautiful daughter together, being a father for the 1st time has brought more joy to my life then I've ever known. God has truly blessed me. Didn't know this was possible after struggling with addiction in the past. I've been sober for 5 years now.

Tell us how working at LL has impacted your life?

I grew up working with wood so I get to do something I enjoy everyday. I guess the biggest impact is being able to help others that have had trouble pasts also.

How did you get connected to LL?

I met Brian 4 years ago, while I was going through a program at the Potters House.

What has been your favorite moment at LL? Funny, or serious?

Getting to meet Mike Rowe, while he was here filming.

Michael Finley

Tell us a little about yourself.

I enjoy working with my hands and building furniture. In my free-time I like going to the gym and keeping my body in shape. I recently married my beautiful, amazing wife and we have a little baby girl on the way. My family is very important to me and I spend as much time as I can with them when I'm not working.

Tell us how working at LL has impacted your life?

Lamon Luther has given me new working skills. LL has helped with providing plenty of work and given me the ability to get a house and purchase a new car. I have met a lot of amazing people and created many great relationships.

How did you get connected to LL?

After losing hope and going through a 2 year drug and alcohol rehab facility I didn't think anyone would hire me. Then I met Brian Preston and he gave me the opportunity to work with him. This is the best and most rewarding job I've ever had. I love my job and can't imagine doing anything else.

What has been your favorite moment at LL? Funny, or serious?

Getting to meet Mike Rowe and Scott's Moustache???

Scott Porter

Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm 41 years old and just got married to a wonderful Godly woman a little over a year ago. Together we just bought a new home and with her two boys. I now have a family. I never thought this would be possible because of my addiction and rough past but God brought me through it all and blessed me more than I thought I deserved.

Tell us how working at LL has impacted your life?

Working at Lamon Luther has given me a steady income and given me a sense of self worth. God has blessed me with talents that I get to use to build ???? pieces of furniture. Thank you Lamon Luther and Brian for this awesome opportunity.

How did you get connected to LL?

I met Brian through No Longer Bound a drug and alcohol program that I was in. I was in the wood shop then and when I graduated Brian gave me a job. I have been here ever since.

What has been your favorite moment at LL? Funny, or serious?

There have been many but the two stand out. I got to meet Mike Rowe when he came to the shop to film a new show and I got to be on tv installing some cabinets on the show Tiny House Big Living.