'Somebody had to provide it and I thought, 'Why not me?'' said the 7th-grade literacy teacher from Ankeny, Iowa.
When the pandemic forced schools to switch to virtual learning in 2020, Nate Evans—a 7th-grade literacy teacher from Ankeny, Iowa—noticed that some of his students were logged into virtual classes while sitting at kitchen tables or on their beds. Speaking to CBN News, Evans explained that teachers were instructed to emphasize to students the importance of having their own space at home to learn and do their assignments in. "As a public school teacher, we were told if they had an online class, they should have their own space," he shared. "I thought that was really unfair."
Evans, who works at Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale, understood that it could be too uncomfortable and distracting for his kids to work at a kitchen table or on the floor, ultimately affecting their desire to study. "Having their own desk space would give them some sort of normalcy," he said. It was this thought that inspired Evans to launch "Woodworking With a Purpose," a nonprofit dedicated to "serve God and others by building community one piece of furniture at a time." He started off by working out of his garage and built 13 desks within his first week. Over the next few weeks, 200 more were constructed.
While Evans initially paid for the supplies to build desks using money from his own pocket, community donations started flooding in after he shared his idea on Facebook. "The very first day I made up my mind to do this, I went to the store with about $300 to spend," Evans said. "I spent about $300 and when I checked my Venmo that day, that's almost exactly what I had collected that day. It was just meant to be that we were here to help these families." The community support didn't stop there. Someone donated a table saw and others stepped in to supply sanders. One individual generously gave a $500 gift card to Home Depot and a number of local businesses, lumberyards and area residents contributed tools to help make the mission possible.
Since launching Woodworking With a Purpose in September 2020, Evans and his team of 50-plus volunteers have built more than 2146 desks for kids. Each desk costs about $20 to $25 to build and is crafted in a storage unit or inside Evans' garage. Once the desks are ready, local educators pick them up to distribute to students in the area who might need their own designated workspaces at home. "It's for kids who have absolutely nothing to kids who have everything they've wanted but don't have this space because it wasn't available," Evans told Good Morning America. "Somebody had to provide it and I thought, 'Why not me?'"
"I became a teacher to help kids. That was it. It wasn't for the summer breaks," he said. "I volunteer wherever I can. I want to see them learn and grow... learn and grow in my classroom... I want to see them learn and grow at home too." Last year, Woodworking With a Purpose expanded its cause by making hope chests for local foster children and also bought and donated 100 bookshelves and more than 400 books to families in the Des Moines area. Evans revealed that the response from families that received the gifts has been truly rewarding. "So many people say the desks have changed their lives," he shared.