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Volunteer builders across US making homemade desks for students in need

Posted at 10:09 AM, Dec 07, 2020

Over the past month, Eric Janota’s garage has become a workshop.

“Me personally, I've built around 25 desks,” he said.

These desks are for kids who don't have them, kids who have been spending time doing school from home due to the pandemic.

“We found out there was a huge need for them,” said Kim Gonsalves.

Together, Gonsalves and Janota started Desks for Kids, their way of helping kids in need who are learning from home.

“We first heard about it because Eric’s brother lives in Maryland, and we found out about Desks by Dads because his brother started building with Desks by Dads,” Gonsalves said.

The Desks by Dads idea has inspired people across the U.S.

“It’s like a group in Michigan, a group over her in another state that’s building desks, and it started with Desks by Dads and a lot of them reference Desks by Dads,” Gonsalves said.

“I thought, I can build a dozen desks that seems a reasonable amount of time, effort and money. And I got into it and we started looking at the need and more than 200 desks were needed just for our little suburb,” Janota explained.

So, they got to work.

“We started just using our own money, just buying up some plywood and supplies and now it’s sort of grown a little bit,” Gonsalves said.

With the help of monetary donations, wood donations, and others offering to build desks, they are now working with schools to deliver desks to those who need them most.

“They're doing their distance learning all day long on the bed or on the floor,” Gonsalves said.

Back at the beginning of the school year, when it became clear many students who went home in the spring still would not go back to face-to-face learning, economists saw kid desks and other supplies go out of stock. Now, as a second wave of COVID-19 sends students home again, the need is still great.

“What we saw with desks was the same thing we saw with many other things,” said Mac Clouse, an economist and professor at the University of Denver. “The pandemic has created new markets for just more existing products that become more important in a pandemic.”

Clouse said desks are a great example of people finding ways to fill supply needs when there’s a demand.

“When we have a situation where there's a demand for the product and there's not enough being produced, then economic theory says suppliers will convert resources if they can and they'll produce what's necessary,” he said.

And that’s exactly what these volunteer builders from across the U.S. are doing, using the resource available to help fill a need.

“If you’re a family who needs a desk, you could contact your school and say are you in touch with any builders who are building desks and giving them away,” Gonsalves said. “Everyone can make a difference. If you have $22 you can donate to a builder, they can make a desk for a kid.”

As the desks are built, Janota and Gonsalves load them up and drive them off to where they are needed most.

“To know that you're making just a little bit of a difference, because you wish you could help more. That student might need more than just a desk but this might just help this student be a little more successful this year,” Janota said.

“Eric just started with a little idea. Maybe I can make a dozen desks and help some kids, and it’s just blossoming. To see the community pull together, it's really given me a lot of hope in a year that's been pretty terrible,” Gonsalves said.