With many students learning remotely during the pandemic, finding an adequate learning space at home has been a challenge. Some kids are setting up on kitchen tables or countertops, while others are sitting on their beds, logging into virtual classrooms, and trying to make the best of a lessthan-ideal situation.

The Agawam Lions Club recognized the issues Agawam student were experiencing, and in response started a no-cost student desk program. Since late last year, club members have built desks in their garage, and delivered them to the homes of kids who needed them. Producer Dave Fraser brings us the story.  

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Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: With many students learning remotely, finding an adequate learning space at home has been a challenge. Some kids are setting up on kitchen tables or countertops, while others are sitting on their beds, logging into virtual classrooms and trying to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.

The Agawam Lions Club recognized the issues that many kids were having and started the No-Cost Student Desk Program to benefit Agawam students. Club members have been making desks in their garages since late last year and getting them into the homes of kids who need them. And producer Dave Fraser brings us the story.

Agawam Lions Club Member: Ok, you’re all set. You’re welcome. Have a nice day.

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: On a cold, blustery January weekend, Dick Lanier and his fellow Agawam Lions Club members distributed free desks to town residents.

Agawam Lions Club Member: Have a good day.

Dave Fraser: What started as a simple campaign took off like wildfire once the volunteer service organization put the word out that they were building desks for any Agawam student who needed one.

Cheryl Terramagra, Agawam Lions Club: We had set out to build maybe 20. You know, we’d go so far as to make 40. Put a form out there, some emails to principals and teachers just saying, “hey, we’re doing this.”

Twelve hours later, we had one hundred and fifty requests for desks.

Dave Fraser: Realizing there was a real need for a flat work surface in people’s homes, the club members got to work cutting, gluing, and nailing small wooden desks.

Dick Lanier, Agawam Lions Club: This is very much a community activity. Many members of our Lions Club are involved, as well as members of the community making and then distributing. And those folks who can’t lay hands on the project, they’re donating money.

Dave Fraser: The Lions Club received help from the Home Depot in the form of two by fours and sheets of plywood, as well as funds to help build 150 more desks.

Sean Akerley, Home Depot Westfield: I have a daughter who’s right now homeschooling, and I know what it’s like to either sit down on a couch or in their rooms, and sometimes they don’t have a desk and they don’t have a place to put their supplies.

And I think for all of those who have to learn from home, and a lot of the schools having to do that, I think this kind of gives the kids a place to put their their belongings and the kind of attaches them to a school purpose.

Dave Fraser: The club, which has been around since 1944, settled on a simple design of a top two sides and a back.

Dick Lanier: There you have a desk.

Dave Fraser: There is a storage area underneath and each desk is sanded and receives two coats of polyurethane. Lions Club secretary Dick Lanier has made over 80 desks in his garage in Feeding Hills. He says the tough part is hearing the stories from those in need.

Dick Lanier: The absolute biggest impact is the feedback we’re getting from school staff and parents. They’re gut wrenching. When you feel like knocking off for the night, you just keep going because you know somebody needs it.

Dave Fraser: Back at the pickup site at Agawam High School, it was a steady stream of cars with people who had signed up to receive a desk.

Agawam Lions Club Member: First name and school?

Cheryl Terramagra: We’re keeping this super simple. There’s no economic need or determination. There’s no household limit. Does not matter who requests your desk. We’re simply going to get a desk in the hands of students.

Dave Fraser: Melissa Kulak picked up a couple of desks for her three children and two stepchildren, all learning remotely at home.

Melissa Kulak, Agawam Parent: It was great to see them doing this and get free spaces for them to do their work properly and not at the kitchen table.

Lindsey Hoague, Agawam Parent: It’s phenomenal, especially with a child of special needs. He really needs a place to sit and focus, and I thought this was perfect.

Agawam Lions Club Member: Thank you, guys. Take care.

Dave Fraser: As gratifying as this project has been for the Lions Club, it also reminded them of how tough this pandemic has been and how families everywhere are struggling. But if a simple gesture like providing a desk for those who need one can make a difference, they are happy to be of service.

Cheryl Terramagra: I think we want the students to know the message here is, you know, we’re giving you this desk, we’re giving you a tool in your toolkit. And we’re going to try to positively influence the learning process as much as we possibly can.

We’d love to take the pandemic away, but I can’t do that.  To the extent that I can give you something tangible in a message that goes along with that, we’re going to do that.