Ernest Perry is a Charlotte native and the owner of Perry’s Estate Jewelry in SouthPark mall. He began his business over 30 years ago because of his love for one-of-a-kind pieces and the craftsmanship that came with them. Beginning during the 2010 holiday season, Perry decided to give away $100 gift certificates and like-new silver estate pieces to soldiers who passed through the Charlotte Douglas airport as a way of giving back to the service men and women. The effort has continued into this spring.
I began the Silver for Solders project after watching the media coverage of soldiers coming through the Charlotte Douglas airport on their way home for the holidays after boot camp. It was an impressive sight to see so many young men and women serve our country and wondered what I could do, for the short time they were in Charlotte, to reach out and say thanks.
I wanted to work with the USO center because I clearly remember being young and in uniform myself. The USO center is solely dependent on donations from our community and provides services to visiting military, both active and retired. We have the rare opportunity here in Charlotte to be able to support the USO Center at the Charlotte Douglas Airport and in doing so, touch the lives of all troops passing through our community.
I experienced so much excitement when I was meeting the troops in the airport. In 2009, I saw the troops on TV and this year, my wife, Priscilla, and I had the opportunity to meet waves of soldiers traveling through the airport and visiting the USO Center. We gave away approximately 4,000 gifts and certificates. The gifts were unique and one of a kind estate pieces made of like-new silver. Soldiers had the opportunity to choose a piece for themselves or a loved one.
The response from the troops has been overwhelmingly positive, especially during the holiday season when gifts were especially appreciated. We have heard stories of gratitude from USO personnel and received several thanks you emails and notes from service men and women as well as their spouses.
I am also a licensed auctioneer and enjoy volunteering my time to several charities for fundraising auctions. I have volunteered with charities such as Allegro Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Laugh for a Cure and Second Harvest Food Bank. I feel that those who can give back, should. I enjoy participating in these auctions as a way to give back to the Charlotte community that has been so good to me.