09 Feb Meet Mackenzie Harkins, Our Development & Fundraising Supervisor
Trial by fire is one thing. Trial by Fireside Sale (plus Forge After Dark, plus the first in-person auction since 2019, plus the Olde Folks Party, plus the Kids’ Christmas Party) is another. That’s exactly what Mackenzie Harkins experienced in her first six weeks as our new Development & Fundraising Supervisor. It’s been a busy time in Brasstown, not only as we wrap up another year of classes and celebrate the holidays, but also as we look ahead to the future of the Folk School.
Meet Mackenzie and learn about some of the conversations floating around campus.
JCCFS: Tell us about you. What is your Folk School story?
MH: I grew up in Oklahoma, with family stretching from Missouri to western Arkansas. The Ozark folk culture was always around – wood whittling, music, basketry. I’ve known folk arts, just not the Appalachian kind. When my husband and I relocated from Atlanta to Blairsville, GA with our daughters, we wanted to find community for our whole family. Little Middle was our introduction to the Folk School and our three girls have all enjoyed the experience of making with their hands. My oldest daughter made her first quilt here. We have corn shuck dolls and a basket from the younger two. I have loved watching them learn and grow through making.
I’ve also spent a lot of time working in fundraising, starting with the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. What I’ve loved most over the last twenty years of my career, from raising money for theological education to raising money for unhoused populations, and now raising money for the Folk School, is that you get to tell the story. The why. I love narratives. I’ve worked on appeals and grants and events for different organizations, and the common thread is always the story.
JCCFS: How have your first weeks been going?
MH: Busy! Week one included Forge after Dark and the auction, and I quickly learned how much the whole Folk School team pulled together to make those events successful. We had an amazing turnout for both. I think people were excited to be back in the Blacksmith Shop, watching iron work come to life in front of their eyes. I certainly was! On auction day, the Community Room was filled with happy bidders. And the Fireside Sale was so well supported and attended, we’re thinking about expanding next year!
Lillian & Mackenzie from one of our cooking classes
Mackenzie with the Registration team
JCCFS: What’s happening in Development & Fundraising these days?
MH: We’re thrilled to have events under our umbrella now. Morgan Budzinski (Event & Volunteer Manager) has done an incredible job of planning and organizing big events like the auction and having her join our team is such a benefit for our fundraising efforts. Barbie White (Development Manager) is excited to continue building relationships with our donors and develop her own fundraising skills. She knows and loves the Folk School and has done a lot of work to manage the scholarships that help us bring students to campus. I’m very excited about our team.
JCCFS: And what’s on the horizon?
MH: Right now, we’re all thinking about the 100th year anniversary in 2025. It’s a joy to be here on the cusp of that celebration. We’re also thinking about how we currently connect with our donors and how we might bring them more into the life of the school. With so many different media forms at our fingertips – videos, social, etc. – we can get creative. We also want to make sure we are available to the local community, including north Georgia. Olive’s Porch is continuing to do just that, and there’s always room to grow.
When it comes to direct support on campus, we know that student housing is near the top of the list. The needs of our demographic are constantly changing, and we want to focus on meeting those needs to the best of our ability. Studios are another place where we’re thinking and rethinking the best way to support what happens inside. We have very talented Studio Coordinators and Creative Program Advisors who want to be more involved in those conversations. They know the studios best, so their input is important
JCCFS: Speaking of staff, tell us about the Folk School folks.
MH: It’s such a community. Loving. Caring. Family. Family that can have hard conversations and happy conversations. Family that wants to support each other. The people inside and outside the campus, the people who support the school as students, community members, and staff have all been so welcoming. There’s a genuine kindness all around, from the office to the Craft Shop to Thursday night carving. I’m hoping to join Richard (Carter) and his carving crew in the new year. I’m so happy to be here.
JCCFS: Are you looking forward to some time in the studio?
MH: Yes! My daughter and I are thinking about Intergenerational Week, especially cooking. She loves it. She even managed to get a tour of the Folk School kitchen from Chef Terra! That’s such a good example of what it means to be part of this community. Terra was excited to show her some of what happens behind the scenes where three meals a day are regularly prepared for over 100 people.
I know that being on the other side of the work, meaning time in class, will give me deeper insight into why we do what we do. There’s a lot to be said for all of the people who turn this place around week after week.
More Photos from one of our Cooking Classes
JCCFS: On that note, why is it important to support the Folk School?
MH: What happens here is more than the final product or work-in-progress. Spending time at the Folk School means taking a break from the demands that are constantly popping up on our phones and engaging in the work of hands and minds. Here, you can get into a flow, develop friendships, learn something new, center yourself, and carry on traditions that have lived in these mountains for a long time. Keeping all of that alive for future generations matters.
Support the Folk School with Fund-A-Need!
By donating to our Fund-A-Need program, you help the Folk School fulfill its mission of bringing people together for experiences in learning and community life that spark self-discovery. Donation options include our annual fund, our program areas, scholarships, or specific items. We have a variety of specific needs, from painting easels and woodcarving workbenches to cooking studio shelves and golf carts.
You can browse your favorite studio/program area or check out projects and upgrades around campus at the right gift level for you. By donating, you become an enduring part of the Folk School and ensure a better experience for yourself and other learners