Hattiesburg dentist turns tornado-shattered glass into art to benefit church recovery

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - When the February 10, 2013 tornado ripped through Hattiesburg, the first place local dentist Erik Graham went to check on was his church- Westminster Presbyterian.

Like so many other families, Westminster holds a special place in the Grahams' hearts. This is the church where Erik and his wife Ginny got married; in fact, she picked out her bridesmaids dresses to match the blue in the sanctuary's stained glass windows. But when the 170 mph winds of the EF4 tornado blew out a portion of that stained glass, Erik picked up the pieces. With an eye for creativity, he took to his workshop- which is also his dentist office- to make a special pair of earrings for his wife using the glass shards.

"She put a picture of them on Facebook the next morning and said, 'This is what my sweet husband made for me for Valentines,' and I guess you could say it kind of went viral," said Graham.

What started out as a gift for Ginny turned into a bit of a side business for Erik.

"I spend about eight hours a week on this," said Graham, who began selling the pieces as a fundraiser for the church's restoration fund.

Most of the pieces are sold for 100 dollars each, and he has made everything from earrings to pendants to guitar picks to cross displays.

Thanks to his work as a dentist, almost all of the supplies he needed to make the pieces were already at his office. What he makes retainers with on a daily basis, his office has donated for him to make the molding for the pendants. And what he sharpens the teeth settings with, he uses to shape the crosses.

With Erik's creativity, the church has been able to raise 8,500 dollars so far, but his work is not done.

"My goal is to have all of the glass used by the time we get back in the church," said Graham.

Westminster plans on being out of their home church for at least one more year while recovery efforts are completed. But even then, people will forever have a memory of something so devastating that turned it something so beautiful.

For ordering information for a piece of Erik's work to benefit Westminster's recovery efforts, call 601-268-3333.

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