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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

Five Ways to Help a Local Nonprofit Help Others in Your Community

Apr 06, 2016 12:12AM ● By Kevin

Photo courtesy of Opalcutters23 via Wikimedia Commons.

The William Holland School of Lapidary Arts was founded in 1983 by Harold and Mary Lou Sparks as a nonprofit organization devoted to providing quality Lapidary, Earth Science, and Jewelry Making classes to the widest range of students possible, according to its website.

The school, located in Young Harris, grew to its current state of teaching local hobbyists each year by recruiting many rock and gem club members to donate their time, talents and funding with Harold using his charismatic manner to pull in an ever growing number of supporters and volunteers.

The annual season runs from the third week of April through the first week of November. For those looking to learn and take classes at the school, there's a registration process on the website. Meanwhile, for those looking to give back to their community, there are multiple ways to help this nonprofit fulfill its mission. The five ways, as told through the school's website:


Even though we charge a small amount to cover lodging, food, and registration services provided to students, we continue to rely on your monetary donations to continue improving and expanding the facilities and services we provide. At this time, we are undertaking renovations on our original facility, Sparks Lodge, and are also paying down a mortgage used to build Otto's Lodge, our newest facility. So far, you have helped us to renovate eight of the twenty-nine rooms in Sparks at a cost of $3,000 per room and pay down $178,000 of the $600,000 mortgage on Otto's Lodge.

Looking toward the future, we are hoping to add more classrooms and parking so that we can better serve the Lapidary community with more classes that interest our students and better accessibility, especially for those with mobility and other concerns. Adding new commons areas and dining facilities will also allow us to reach out to a younger generation, sharing the joy of Jewelry Making and ensuring the legacy we seek to uphold. Additionally, expanding the services we offer online will help us to reach a world-wide audience and make it easier than ever before for the casual rockhound to immerse themselves in the joys of Lapidary and Jewelry Making.

Any contribution goes a long way toward completing our current projects and meeting our future goals. If you are able to make a contribution of $1,000 or more, you or a designated organization, will receive one free week of lodging and class here at William Holland per $1000 donated. Those who contribute $100 toward the renovation of Sparks Lodge will be honored with a special place on our Honorary Contributor's plaques. Contributions may be made in honor of a special person. Clubs or individuals who wish to donate $3,000 toward Sparks Lodge renovations are eligible to become a sponsor for a room and be honored with a plaque placed at their chosen room commemorating their generosity. Very special recognition will be given to those who are able to give in amounts exceeding $10,000.


The cornerstone of the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts has always been our long tradition of volunteerism. Our entire teaching faculty is made up of volunteers and, in fact, our original lodge (Sparks) was built entirely by the efforts or those willing to donate their time and talents to make this school a reality. As we expand, it becomes even more important that our supporters stay involved in helping us to provide the best services we can to the Lapidary community.

Every year, we encourage our students, faculty, and supporters to join us for one week before the start of our season for our Work Week. Those who donate their time help us to perform routine maintenance for our grounds and facilities, inventory classrooms, and other necessary tasks to get the School ready for the upcoming season. All those willing to donate their time are welcome and we can certainly find a job that will suit any level of ability. We provide on-campus housing to those that need it and all volunteers are welcome to join us for free meals. All volunteers for Work Week receive a certificate honoring their commitment to keeping William Holland excellent. We post the dates for Work Week on the front page of our website about two months in advance. If you are interested in helping us to keep William Holland in tip-top condition, contact us at least a week in advance so that we can make any housing arrangements you may need and also plan to have a place set for you at the table.

William Holland would be nothing without our volunteer faculty. If you are interested in donating your time as an instructor or know of someone who has a special talent that they would be willing to share with our students, please contact us. We are always looking for new and exciting class offerings to fit the needs of the Lapidary community. Instructors must complete an application process to our Board of Directors as we hold our instructors to a high standard for quality of work as well as ability to create an effective, creative and fun learning environment. William Holland works with all instructors to provide free room and board here on campus during their classes as well as tools and equipment for most classes. Instructors may bring one immediate relative during their teaching weeks who will receive free room, board, and tuition to a class as well. Those who are able to teach two or more classes during a season are eligible for one free week of class including room and board for every two classes they teach, with a maximum of two free classes per season.

Support the Classrooms

An excellent opportunity for you to support William Holland is by donating to our Tuesday Night Auction. For this event, we accept items of all kinds. They do not have to be lapidary or jewelry related. In the past, we have sold everything from bags of candy and handmade quilts to certificates for free massages and cooked to order breakfasts from our kitchen. All proceeds from the Auction go toward supplies and upkeep for our classroom facilities. Everyone, not just our students and instructors, are invited to donate to the Auction and to come and bid on items. Students are welcome to add their Auction purchases to their weekly tab. Visitors should be prepared to pay by check or exact change at the end of the Auction.

Also, if you have lapidary equipment that you no longer use or need, we are always happy to accept slab saws, grinders, polishers, and various other machines and tools. These donations are assessed by our staff and, where possible, placed directly into the classrooms for use by our students. Some surplus items are also placed into the Auction for the benefit of students and visitors.

We are happy to accept delivery of large and small shipments and can arrange to pick up items as needed. If you are interested in donating to our Auction or classrooms contact us to make arrangements and to receive your donation receipt for tax purposes. Those interested in attending the Auction as visitors should call ahead and let our staff know you will be attending.

Teaching Exhibits

For us, the Lapidary Arts encompass much more than just the cutting and shaping of stone. As part of our courses in Mineral and Gem Identification, we curate several different collections of specimens, slabs, and equipment. By keeping these collections on display, we hope to provide students with an ever growing knowledge base from which to identify the specimens and slabs they may have found and with a reference to plan their next creative endeavors from. As we are able, we are looking to digitize these collections and make them available through our website so that students and passersby will be able to enjoy them and draw from them as a reference even in the comfort of their own homes or favorite rockhounding site. The Gene Baxter Slab Collection can already be viewed online.

In large part, these collections are made up of donated specimens and we do have several pet projects that we still need rocks, stone or crystals to finish. Below is a list of some of the specimens we are seeking at the moment. If you have or know someone who has a rock, stone or crystal, even if it is not on the list, that they would like to donate for display, contact us. Specimens are placed on display here at William Holland for the use of our students and visitors and may be photographed for digital display. All specimens or collections are affixed with tags to honor the donor.

Add to the Library

In addition to our collections of specimens and example equipment, William Holland is proud to offer our students access to the George Kasper Memorial Library here on our campus. This library houses a sizable collection of books, magazines, videos and other educational materials regarding Geology, Jewelry Making, and the Lapidary Arts. Currently our collection includes everything from faceting manuals to decades of back issues of Rock & Gem magazine.

We are always seeking to add new, or old, items to this collection so that we can continue to expand the collection and offer a comprehensive research and reference collection to our students. The George Kasper Memorial Library is open on Wednesday afternoon and Friday mornings and is open to all students and visitors. Visitors may not check out books but are welcome to use materials while on campus.

All information courtesy of the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts.

Do you know of a local nonprofit in need of help? We'd love to hear from you for a future feature on our website. Contact us today to let us know about your favorite nonprofit!

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