Local tattoo artists lend charity a helping hand

By Megan R. Harrell

STAR STAFF

   The employees at the Art Shack Tattoo Studio are allowing the community to see that there is more to them than meets the eye. For the past two years the tattoo parlor has sponsored a food and gift drive for the children at the East Tennessee Christian Home. The drives ran Oct. 1 through Dec. 21.
   Donna Hopkins works at the studio and helped organize the fund raisers that were responsible for sending over $800 in gifts to needy children. "We might have long hair, piercings, and tattoos, but that does not mean that we are bad people. We are all making a living here and helping the community at the same time," Hopkins said.
   William Roberts has owned the shop on W. Elk Ave. for a little over four years. The idea for the charity food and gift drives came from simple beginnings. During Christmas Roberts would put a jar out on his counter and let customers draw a free tattoo or piercing. Later, Roberts and his artists decided to expand the concept outside the tattoo world. "We all got together and wanted to do a little more," Roberts said. "We started with a harvest drive before Thanksgiving and then expanded it to Christmas."
   The Art Shack gave those who made donations $10-$20 discounts off tattoos and also put up fliers in other local businesses so that individuals that would not normally go to a tattoo parlor could make donations. "We understand that tattoos are not for everybody," Roberts said.
   Workers from the Art Shack called on the help of former and current patrons to help spread the word of the charity drives. They did a lot of the work over the phone and found the public responsive. "We sat down and called a lot of the people that have had work done here and asked them to open their cupboards and bring us some cans," Hopkins said. "We have wonderful people here in Carter County, if I dialed the wrong number I asked for donations from them."
   This year's gift drive concentrated on children ages 12-17, because people generally donate toys for younger children and the older children get left out. Next year, Roberts hopes to be able to donate gifts to children from all age groups.