Sandy D'Andrea started making jewelry as a form of therapy. Self-taught, she started giving it out as a "thank you" to those making her life slightly easier in a difficult time. And she tried her hand at selling it when people continued to compliment her work.
Now, her jewelry is sported by the likes of Cloris Leachman, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Meredith Vieira.
"My mother was living with us," said D'Andrea, who stayed home with her mom while her husband Frank operated his Stamford business, Sound City Music & Entertainment. "She was in my living room and she was really sick. Hospice came in to do things I could not do and that's when I started giving it away. I was eating like a pig, I was so stressed! I would do this just to relax."
D'Andrea and her daughter, Stevie, are Stamford natives whose small side business Jewels for Hope selling jewelry on the internet through online shops like Etsy has built up steam and found its products included, through inclusion via The Artisan Group, in GBK Productions gift baskets for the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and MTV Viewer's Choice Awards.
It's not just jewelry, either, but a sense of giving back and supporting others. When the elder D'Andrea started crafting the jewelry as a way to keep her hands and, more importantly, her mind busy while her mother was sick, it was just an expression. She gave pieces to the nurses who would come to assist, those who offered Sandy a few precious hours of personal time on occasion.
"Our Etsy shop opened in 2009. My mom had been making jewelry before, but not really selling it," Stevie said. "She was really jut giving it away. We tend to do that. We like having our jewelry make people smile so we do that a lot."
Sandy's mother passed and then her oldest daughter Stevie, who attended Fashion Institute of Technology for Marketing, got very sick for about a year with gallbladder issues. While Stevie was recuperating and unable to work, the two would create pieces together, which take 45-minutes to eight hours per piece, depending on the size and intricacy.
"There's a reason for everything," Sandy said.
After taking on her daughter Stevie to assist with crafting and promoting the newly-founded business, her younger daughter Krista as private financial backer and "CEO" and daughter Layla as promotional model for the company, Sandy wanted to find a way to continue to giving to people. So she began to separate the pieces into color.
Each color represented an organization, and she started with a handful of places that meant something to her personally. The list expanded over time, however, to include 18 different organizations. Pieces can be one solid color throughout or combine colors to represent multiple charitable organizations. The colors for organizations is as follows:
- Hospice: Blue & White
- MJF Parkinson's Foundation & APDA: Orange & White / Red, White & Blue
- Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation: Pink
- Kristen Cusato's Alzheimer's Association: Purple
- American Cancer Society: Grey & Black
- Born This Way Foundation & We Stop Hate : Rainbow & Teal and Black & Red
- SWAN, Support Women Artists Now & Help Touch Heal : Grey & Pink
- Jocelyn Maminta's Caroline's Room: Yellow
- Ann Nyberg's Toy Closet Program: Light Blue
- National MS Society Orange
- Give 2 The Troops: Red, White & Blue
- The Foodbank of Lower Fairfield County: Green
- Maya's Hope: Pink and Black
- DYNA and Labs 4 Rescue : Red and White
"Because of what hospice did, I would get these two hour breaks, even if it was just to go sit in the car and cry," Sand said. "That started it all. I said, 'We have to give back.' You've got to make the world a better place."
Sandy D'Andrea will be filming a fashion segment on the Rachael Ray Show Tuesday to appear in an upcoming episode for the new season, so those interested in learning more about her should keep an eye out beginning in September.