By Janene Scully
Noozhawk North County Editor
Recognizing that children need their own space for distance learning at home, members of The Los Alamos Foundation carved out a solution aimed at boosting student success.
The result: desks designed to give young students doing distance learning their own place at home for studying and storing school supplies.
“People just want to do something tangible and feel like you can help in some way,” foundation Executive Director Monna Dingman said. “At the end of the day, you built a chair, you built a desk, and a child comes and gets it and is all smiles.”
Dingman, who does woodworking as a hobby, said parents began asking the community outreach coordinator to help find desks for students trying to work at home but lacking a suitable space.
“We came across a really easy design for a desk and decided we should start making them, and a chair, so that they would be able to sit comfortably and have their own space to work at,” said Dingman, who has her own woodworking shop at her home.
Two rounds have produced more than 20 desks.
“I think probably in two weeks we’ll be doing another round,” she said.
Those involved include people with prior woodworking experience and others with none, she said.
“It’s just a group of people from the community,” she added. “Word gets around, and pretty soon you’ve got a whole crew.”
She estimated that 14 residents, many retirees, have been involved in the effort.
Younger students at Olga Reed Elementary School have received most of the desks, according to Dingman.
“Everybody who has been involved, both on the making end and the receiving end, has really felt a lot of joy from the process,” Dingman said.
Desks and chairs are made at different heights.
“When a kid comes to try it out, if they can’t find a chair where their feet are flat on the ground, we just cut the legs off,” Dingman said.
The volunteers use plywood and 2-by-4 boards. Each desk and chair costs about $35 in supplies.
“It’s pretty cost efficient,” she said.
The furniture is sanded and has rounded corners, but the final look is left to the new owners.
“We tell the kids you can do whatever you want with it,” Dingman said. “One girl was like, ‘Can we put rainbows on it?’”
When Joe Dana, director of charter programs for the Orcutt Union School District and principal at Olga Reed Elementary School, heard about the effort, he said, “It touched my heart.”
“I just admire Monna and the volunteers in Los Alamos for not just talking about making their world better, but actually doing something about it,” Dana said.
One boy who received his desk Sunday was delighted, Dana said.
“I think there’s something to be said for having your own workspace,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you live … when you have your own desk and your own chair, you just feel some ownership, and I think you’re more inclined to feel serious about whatever you’re doing. I think the kids love this.”
The 13-year-old foundation, which planned Summer in the Park until COVID-19 shut down in-person events, now operates a weekly emergency food distribution for residents in need on Saturdays.
The organization is accepting donations for the supplies needed for the next round of desks. Contributions can be made by PayPal via the foundation website, available by clicking here.
“We definitely welcome donations,” Dingman said, “because we don’t know when this will stop.”
Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com.