Matt Davidson woodworking

Matt Davison, Idaho Press publisher, in his wood workshop.

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A few weeks ago, the Idaho Press published a story by Rachel Spacek about hobbies people have picked up during the pandemic. She sent a note to employees asking if anybody at the paper had started a new hobby to add some color to her story. I shared with Rachel that I have been doing some very basic woodworking to keep my stress levels down and shared a photo of a shop table I was building.

Once the story published, I heard from many readers and friends, and one email stood out above the rest. It was a note from Kathy Neufeld, a teacher at the Caldwell Online Academy.

“I am a second-grade teacher in Caldwell School District,” she wrote. “The families of my students have chosen distance learning for the entire school year. I currently have fifty students. Many of my students face a number of challenges, not the least of which is finding a suitable workspace in their home. Sometimes the kitchen table is sufficient, but when there are several students in the family, all participating in online meetings at the same time, the noise and distractions make learning even more difficult. I have seen students sitting on their parents’ beds or their own beds, on the floor, or on the sofa. During a writing lesson, one student said he didn’t have a solid place to put his paper, so he put it on a stool.”

Kathy included a link to a news story about communities pulling together to build desk for kids facing this same challenge while trying to learn at home.

I was immediately inspired to help her solve this issue, but I am not even close to good enough to do it by myself. After a few emails with Kathy, we agreed the Idaho Press would take this on.

To start, we needed to identify the actual need in this region, so we connected with each school district and asked if they saw a need for basic student desks for use at home. Several responded with enthusiastic “yes.” So far, we have identified at least 300 kids who need a desk.

Next, I did some research and found several great examples across the country of folks building desks for kids. My favorite design is also very efficient. It only takes a 1/4 sheet of plywood and one 2x4 to build the desk. This design was developed by The Wood Whisperer and can be found at bit.ly/woodwhispererdesk. I sent him a note, and they agreed to allow the Idaho Press to use these plans for this project.

Lastly, we needed to find a way to get the necessary materials donated. I reached out to CBH Homes and shared this situation with Holly Haener, director of sales and marketing, and she responded back saying, “We are definitely interested in helping make this happen!” After a short call and some coordination with Holly and her team, they provided us with enough materials to build 300 basic student desks.

I’m confident that Idaho Press readers will see this and want to help. All we need to do is organize an effort and make it easy. So here is the plan: If you would like to help build some basic student desks please visit idahopress.com/desks and complete the online registration form.

  • The materials graciously donated by CBH Homes can be picked up at no cost on Monday, Dec. 21, from 3 to 6 p.m. This includes the wood, glue and screws.
  • The plans and instructions to build a basic student desk can be found at

idahopress.com/desks

  • We ask that all volunteers follow the basic plans and avoid any major upgrades to the design or materials.
  • You can finish or paint your desks any way you would like, but please don’t go too crazy.

When you are done please bring your desk to the Idaho Press no later than Jan. 4. You can drop them off any weekday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. There will be signs at the Idaho Press directing you. We are located at 1618 N. Midland Blvd. in Nampa.

Students in need of a desk can pick them up at the Idaho Press office starting at 10 a.m. Jan. 9.

The first 50 desks are earmarked for Mrs. Neufeld’s students, as it was her idea to start this effort. The rest will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis.

There are countless examples of our community coming together to solve a need, and I am thrilled that the Idaho Press is in a position to help make this happen. I’d like to give a special thank you to CBH Homes for their donation of materials. We couldn’t do this without their support.

Please see the full-page ad on the back of today’s Main section for additional details. Let’s get to work!

Matt Davison is the president and publisher of the Idaho Press.

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