In 2009, Kelsi Sheren, founder of Brass and Unity, served in Afghanistan as an artillery gunner. She was injured and was sent home, dealing with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result. Sheren’s treatment team suggested she try her hand at art therapy as a way to get out of her own head.
“I taught myself how to make jewellery on the kitchen table… it ended up working really well,” she said.
People started taking notice of the jewellery she was making and started really liking her handmade pieces. Sheren said she needed a way to help and give back to the military community.
“I just really wanted to be someone that was making a change again. Since I couldn’t so that in the military any longer, I needed to find a way and it just happened to be jewellery,” she added.
The company started in 2014, but under a different name called ‘Her Wearables.’ Sheren said they started gaining celebrity attention, but mostly males, like Kevin Hart and Michael Buble. In order to give the company a more unisex feel, the name was changed to Brass and Unity.
“We decided to change our name to something that is more inclusive of what we’re trying to do, how we’re trying to describe our company and how we’re trying to unify the public,” said Sheren. “BRASS actually stands for Bravery Retired Assistant Soldier Support and unifying the public with the military and the veterans.”
For every piece she sells, she donates 20 per cent of each unit to charities such as Honour House Canada, Light On PTSD, Wounded Warriors Canada, Wounded Warriors USA and Hopes for Heroes in Europe.
“We donate all over the world, so what we’ve been able to do is help other foundations by giving them a fundraising tool besides just a rubber band bracelet to give out to people, so they feel like they’re actually doing some good,” Sheren added.
Sheren said, unlike a rubber band bracelet, her bracelets and necklaces are nice enough to be worn anywhere, whether you’re just hanging out or if you’re going somewhere a little fancier.
In the last year alone, Brass and Unity have donated over $10,000 to Honour House alone, and Sheren was recently asked to join their board of directors as the only veteran to help advise.
Each piece is handmade and affixed with a shell casing shot by the Canadian military. Sheren said to ensure you’re able to travel with the piece; each shell casing is melted down, forged into their own brand of shell casing and affixed with their logo.
“We’re upcycling while recycling and then donating,” she added. “. There’re a lot of companies that sell brass from the military, to reload and use again as a civilian, so we just take that and modify it.”
Their goal is to raise awareness for the veteran community and the ongoing challenges they face on a daily basis, and they refuse to stop until there’s no more suicides and veterans falling through the cracks upon their release.
“We’re trying to no longer be those people who say our thoughts and prayers are with you, we’re trying to make real change, we’re trying to take real action,” Sheren added. “All we want to do is help everybody who put their lives on the line, have a proper home, have a way to come back and feel that there are people who are going to support them. We’re just giving people the tool to help get the funds that are so desperately needed right now.”
To see more of the collection, please visit www.brassandunity.com.