Girl's jewelry business raises money for Make-A-Wish

Girl's jewelry business raises money for Make-A-Wish

LINCOLN - Armed with bottles of spray paint, 11-year-old Justine Iafrate marches into her back yard to show some love to a dozen keys hanging on wires hung between two fence posts.

One set gets a bit of blue, the next gets a splash of red.

No two keys will ever be the same - and that's exactly how she likes it.

"Each key is different," said Justine, a 6th-grader at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy charter school, "so they're unique like each person."

Justine, a Lincoln resident and daughter of Theresa and Mike Iafrate, has used these discarded keys to start her first business, Keys of Hope.

Inspired by her own house key that she would wear around her neck, she decided to create jewelry out of jazzed up keys that would otherwise be thrown away.

"Functional art," as her mother called it.

As Justine describes the business on her Etsy page, "I've been making these Keys of Hope because I believe in myself and in others. ... I hope that people give these keys to their friends and loved ones to remind them that they are special."

She has already sold more than 150 pieces since this summer, when she came upon a collection of old keys at her grandmother's yard sale.

While that's great for a 'tween looking to subsidize an allowance, key sales mean more to Justine. She has pledged to donate 10 percent of all proceeds to Make-A-Wish, and she has already raised about $80. She is waiting to hit $100 before mailing in a check to the organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.

The keys are not useless without their locks, Justine said. Rather they support her cause of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle."

"You can actually use them for a lot more things," she said.

Keys have been coming from Storage America and Business Surplus Inc., but at the rate she's going, Justine is always looking for more, and she will even pick them up from anyone willing to make a donation.

She then sands the keys and layers spray paint, redoing each one when colors don't end up blending as well as she would have hoped.

"They have to be nothing but perfect," she said.

In addition to raising money for a cause, Justine simply enjoys the artistic side of the project. A third-generation artist behind her mother and grandmother, she said skills and an interest in art "kind of run in the family."

"You can name any medium and I've probably done it," Justine said.

So it comes as no surprise that art is her favorite subject in school, tied with social studies.

"I like doing a lot of research," she said, including a 100-page PowerPoint presentation on dogs she did for fun as a 4th-grader.

As a matter of fact, the budding entrepreneur said, "I'm a really smart kid."

Keys of Hope are available at www.etsy.com/people/keysofhope and they will also soon be available through www.keys-of-hope.com or www.gallery227.com , a hub for artists' works created by Theresa. Both sites should be live by the end of the month.

Contact Justine at keysofhope.justine@gmail.com or 401-636-3219 for more information.

Lafrate uses spray paint to turn discarded keys into jewelry, donating a portion of sales to Make-A-Wish. The Blackstone Valley Prep 6th-grader founded the business, Keys of Hope, this summer and has since sold more than 150 keys.
Keys of Hope founder Justine Lafrate, 11, turns old keys into new jewelry with a touch of spray paint in the backyard of her Lincoln home, where a dozen keys hang on wires between fence posts waiting for their next coat. (Valley Breeze photo by Meghan Kavanaugh)