West Virginia native Jerill Vance retired in 2009. For 32 years he was a technician at the Union Carbide South Charleston Technical Center. Upon retirement, decided to take his life-long hobby of woodworking to the next level.
The center gave Jerill a severance package in the end that provided financial support for training in any field he desired, so he decided to pursue a degree in fine woodworking.
He attended the New River Community and Technical College, studying fine woodworking with a hope to then educate people.
For one year he taught woodworking in the Kentucky prison system, which he said was eye-opening. Then moved on to teach at the Heritage Farm Museum & Village in Huntington, demonstrating woodwork with hand tools. He also taught people one-on-one at his shop.
Fast forward eight years, Jerill finding himself wanting to break into a different business – broadcasting. He wanted to further educate people on Appalachian culture and history, so he developed a concept meant for the small screen.
After two years of development, he then contacted the Small Business Administration, working with them for the last few months to help bring the concept to life.
Once complete, he brought it before West Virginia Public Broadcasting (PBS), to which they loved the idea. Now, “Appalachian Heritage Woodshow,” the newest television program to WV PBS, which first aired on the first Saturday in December. Season One consists of six episodes where Jerill showcases Appalachia through furniture.
“One of the things about this show is it is multi-demographic. It appeals to the individual that’s interested in the Appalachian culture. Anyone that’s interested in the Appalachian history. The education of the Appalachian area, as well as woodworking,” said Jerill.
But Jerill can’t do it alone. With the help of his partner in crime, his wife Belinda, they make the broadcasts possible, straight from their garage. They said PBS has little to do with it. Together, they shoot, write, edit and make music to generate and render each show.
Belinda is a retired music teacher who says the job of director and editor is stressful, but the concept is unique and worth the hassle.
“I think it’s kind of special. This isn’t a project that everybody takes on. But I let him do his thing, then I do mine and there’s been a few disagreements about things, but in the end it’s all working out,” said Belinda.
The two remaining episodes of “Appalachian Heritage Woodshop” are set for Saturday, December 29th and January 5th at 1 p.m. on West Virginia PBS. If you’d like to know more about the show and Jerill’s shop, visit their website.
Both Jerill and Belinda have their fingers crossed for positive ratings and the chance for a season two.