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Good Neighbors: Allegany Co. artist carves Memorial Day sand sculpture for charity

Through visitors coming to see his carvings, Eric Jones has been able to donate more than $20,000 to local charities.

CUBA, N.Y. — An artist from Cuba in Allegany County is using his talent to raise money for charity. Eric Jones' newest sand sculpture is a breathtaking Memorial Day tribute piece he's calling "Some Gave All," and he's giving all donations made by visitors to the WNY Heroes organization.

Jones started his career as a caricature artist 25 years ago, and in that time he said he's drawn more than 250,000 people. Fifteen years ago he started an online digital caricature site. He admits though it's not drawing, but carving, that's his true passion. He chooses to make carvings that are only temporary like pumpkins, ice, snow and sand. 

"I choose organic mediums that rot and melt and wash away. I kind of like that temporary carving experience. It's something that's only here for a short time," said Jones. "I think of it almost like a flower. You enjoy a flower while it's here because it's temporary. If the flower was here forever you wouldn't be in a hurry to enjoy it's beauty. So that's the way I look at the carvings. They come and they go and I'll create a new one and it'll create the same buzz."

Buzzworthy is the best way to describe his works of art. Jones was a finalist last fall on Food Network's Halloween Wars. He then shifted from pumpkin carving to snow and ice carving this past winter. His huge sculpture of Buffalo Bills players Josh Allen and Stephon Diggs went viral.

"It kind of kicked it off and started the stream of people from Buffalo coming down to our small area down here and visiting the sculptures," said Jones. "And we used it to raise a lot of money for Oishei Children's Hospital and a few other charities as well."

When the snow melted he turned to sand, and his bear cub sand sculpture at the Empire City Farms in Cuba raised money for the Ronald McDonald House.

"I have a daughter that was born with a heart defect and we lived there for a couple of weeks while she had surgery as a baby, so it's near and dear to my heart," he said.

In all, Jones estimates he's raised more than $20,000 for charity.

His newest sand sculpture- the infamous image of the kneeling soldier- is commemorating Memorial Day, with all donations going to WNY Heroes, Inc.

During all those hours he spends carving with this hands, his head and heart are focused on his son and other family members and others, past and present, who have bravely served our nation.

"It hits close to home. Western New York has that small town feel. Everyone knows someone you've lost in the military. It'll be moving for everybody I believe," said Jones.

With cooperation from Mother Nature, it should hold up a couple of weeks for visitors to stop by the Empire City Farms and see it in person. 

There are donation boxes on site. You can also donate online through the Cuba Chamber of Commerce.

The sand sculpture, just like his pumpkin and snow sculptures- might only be temporary, but the donations have a long-lasting impact.

To nominate a person or group who should be featured as a "Good Neighbor" on Channel 2, email Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com .

See past "Good Neighbors" in the video links below: