Like countless other Americans stuck at home during COVID-19, Steven Clark found himself searching for purpose. The 43-year-old man eventually found it in the basement of his century-old home, making desks for students in need.
Woodworking is not Clark's full-time job, but it is where he finds himself between Zoom calls and on weekends. Months into the pandemic, Clark knew he had the tools to do something, and eventually, phone calls to local charities revealed the answer: families in Massachusetts, where Clark lives, were in desperate need of desks.
"It just seemed like an alignment of stars to say, 'Hey, why don’t we build decks, because it seems like there’s a real need for that,'" he explained.
Virtual learning and the pandemic have revealed that nearly 9.4 million kids don't have access to the internet. Nationwide, 4.4 million kids don't have access to a computer. But there is no telling just how many kids don't have a desk of their own at home, especially in families who have recently come out of homelessness.
"I think we can all think back to when we were kids and had something that was ours," Clark said about the need for desks.
As the executive director of Furnishing Hope of Massachusetts, Suzy Palitz has plenty of furniture ready to be deployed to families in need, but the one item they need the most right now though are desks.
"Your bed is to sleep on. your desk is to work at. There are certain things you do in those places and it’s also a way to keep organized," Palitz said.
This nonprofit helps families who have just transitioned out of homeless shelters. Most kids don't have a bed to sleep on, let alone a desk to do schoolwork on. The need has become even more critical with students across the country learning virtually at home.
"It’s a place that’s steady, that they can focus in," she added.
The idea has taken off. So far, with the help of 14 other families, Clark and his helpers have delivered five desks to kids in need with another 25 on the way and the funding to make 10 more. There's nothing fancy about the desks. Clark cuts the pieces himself and then hands them off to other families who serve as the assembly line.
His hope is that others across the country see how easy it is to help and start their own movement.
"We’re in a moment in history where social responsibility really matters,” Clark said.
If you’d like to help in Clark’s efforts, find out how here.