While many Los Altos High School students spend their lunch period eating or socializing, junior Morgan Taylor-Cohen and a dozen others crowd around a pile of scattered nails, screwdrivers and wooden parts and begin to assemble a table.
Taylor-Cohen established Desks For Students, a school club that partners with the Bay Area Furniture Bank to provide desks to students in need, at the beginning of the school year.
“I saw the need for a lot of students who didn’t have desks at their own houses,” she said. “I thought that it would be a great club idea, and the idea of building (the desks) in meetings could be really fun because I always loved building IKEA furniture at home.”
Taylor-Cohen said she was originally introduced to the problem of students in the area lacking desks when the leader of her youth philanthropy group E3 introduced her to the founder of the Bay Area Furniture Bank. According to Paula Himel, the director of partnerships and corporate relations at the nonprofit, its goals align seamlessly with Desks For Students’.
“Our mission is to help promote dignity and stability in our community by redirecting donated furniture to families in need,” Himel said. “So basically, we’re hoping to rebuild a lot of Bay Area families who have suffered personal tragedy or disaster by increasing awareness, and we utilize the generous support of donated furniture and funds and volunteer time to basically help make their house a home.”
To raise funds to purchase materials, Desks For Students has hosted a boba tea fundraiser on campus, as well as a fundraiser with Chipotle at its Mountain View location. Every two weeks, the students meet during the 45-minute lunch period to then assemble the desks. In addition, the club has hosted used-desk drives, which the members publicize through the online neighborhood networking site Nextdoor.
“A normal meeting consists of building,” club transportation officer Emmatisse Sayar said. “Morgan and I go to pick up supplies. If we’ve had a fundraiser … then we have enough money to (get a desk) from IKEA, and we bring it to our meeting and build it.”
Sayar and Taylor-Cohen deliver the assembled desks to the Bay Area Furniture Bank by truck.
“It takes some muscle to try to lift the desks into the truck with just the two of us,” Sayar said, “but we make it fun.”
According to the students, the club has already delivered 10 desks to the Furniture Bank and has supplies to assemble three more.
“Our goal this year is to have 20 desks donated, so we’re on track,” Taylor-Cohen said.
Once the students deliver their assembled desks, the Furniture Bank works to match them with families in need.
“We work with close to 100 social service agencies in the area,” Himel said. “They screen people and … after determining their needs and their eligibility for furniture, they’ll put them directly in contact with us. We arrange delivery times and dates, and we fill our truck up with furniture and make deliveries throughout the week.”
Taylor-Cohen said she hopes Desks For Students can continue to work with the Bay Area Furniture Bank to help students in need, as well as to expand the initiative to a larger scale.
“In the future, what I’d love to do is to expand the club to multiple schools,” she said.
Himel said she believes the club is doing “amazing work,” and that despite the club’s relatively simple framework, it is making a significant and lasting impact in the lives of the families it serves.
“On a broader scale, we think it’s really important for every child to have an education, and we know it transforms their lives and can break the cycle of poverty that traps so many children around here,” Himel said. “Something as simple as a desk can make all the difference in the world. Our vision for the Bay Area Furniture Bank is to create a place where no one will ever have to live, sleep, eat or learn on the floor. So working with these students helps us get closer to achieving that.”