EASTMAN, Ga. — A self-proclaimed 'Average Joe' from a small town in Georgia is now forever connected to the community of Uvalde through a labor a love, which was inspired by the loss of his sister.
Sean Peacock lives in Eastman, which is a tightly knit community of under 5,000 in rural Georgia. He told us he when he first learned about the shooting in Uvalde on May 24, he turned off the media and purposely didn't try to read anything about it, because of the truly awful nature of what had occurred. That would change in a matter of days for Sean. You see, Sean is a craftsman who builds wooden benches as tributes to loved ones lost.
The first bench he crafted was in memory of his sister Donna, an RN who loved to do yardwork and had died unexpectedly at an early age. He made the bench as a gift for his momma, a pure labor of love for him.
On May 31, Sean received a message through the Etsy store to his business, Jass Graphix, Inc., inquiring if he could make a custom butterfly bench for the loss of a 10-year-old child named Makenna, and could they get a discount if two were ordered? Sean said his gut told him that this child had to be connected to the tragedy in Uvalde, so he searched the name Makenna and Uvalde. The list of victims that popped up had her name at the very top of the list. For Sean, that was a sign that he needed to make the bench. He said the news had him "discombobulated." He immediately reached out to the mom and replied that he would make the bench and give a discount as well.
But then he didn't hear back from the mom for a few days, and when he did, the response was equally heartbreaking. "Hello, I'm sorry for just now getting back to you, I've been attending funerals. My daughter's is this Saturday," said the mom.
Sean, a father of children ranging in age from two to 29, said he had a tough time wrapping his brain around that information. How could he make a bench for just this one mom, when there were 20 more who were also grieving the loss of their child or loved one at way too young of an age?
The answer was simple. Sean decided to handcraft benches for all of them. He knew he needed help with the costs, so he created a gofundme to raise the money needed for supplies and delivery expenses.
"Hello, my name is Sean Peacock located in Eastman Georgia and also the owner of JassGraphix Inc," said the gofundme listing. "The recent tragedy of the Robb Elementary School shooting has resulted in one of the parents that lost a child in that horrific event reaching out to us via our Etsy shop wanting to purchase two Butterfly memorial benches that we produce here at JassGraphix. She was asking for a discount if she ordered two but I think every child there deserves to be remembered and we as a community can shine a light on a dark time in the lives of many, not only there, but across our country. We have to let the good flow so the evil can go."
The response was overwhelming. He had set a goal of $20,000 and within the first two days, the goal had been reached... and then some.
Sean said he wasn't surprised by the response, because he knew that his community would rally, but he was astonished by how quickly the money poured in. He said that what happened in Uvalde "was an act of pure evil" and what happened in his tiny town of Eastman was the exact opposite, "an act of pure love."
"I hope and pray that Eastman and Dodge County can be a light to this community half way across the country," said Sean. "They surely need it."
Sean has been posting the completed benches daily on his Facebook page and sharing their stories.
View all of the benches here:
The community of Eastman is holding Eastman Day of Prayer for Uvalde / Bench Mission on Saturday, July 30 at 6 p.m., so members of the community can bless the benches before they depart to Uvalde.
After the benches arrived in Uvalde, residents met for a community-wide prayer service. Peacock will deliver the benches privately in the coming days.
"There's so much more to this story than just the benches," said Sean. "Hand-made prayer pillows donated by Sailor Kate Ministries will also be given to each family, as well as the bench crafted with a photo and inscription."
Sean said this whole experience has been nothing short of divine intervention.
"God works in mysterious ways, and I have been blessed to be able to connect to each of the families impacted by this horrible tragedy," said Sean. "We will forever be connected."