As the COVID-19 pandemic forced students and teachers to pivot to remote work, hindrances to learning were plentiful, but University of Arkansas – Fort Smith alumnus Nate Evans, who teaches seventh-grade literacy at Ankeny Community School District made it his mission to help his students succeed in any way possible – starting with their desks.
Evans, who studied English education at UAFS in 1995 when the university was still known as Westark Community College, spent his free time this Fall organizing Woodworking with a Purpose, a non-profit organization that builds desks for children in need of a home workspace. Woodworking with a Purpose operates within the local communities of Ankeny and Des Moines, Iowa, and its dedicated volunteers have built more than 1,200 desks for area school children since the end of September.
“Being a part of the UAFS community brought out a desire to know those around me and look for ways to help others,” said Evans. “I learned so much giving back to the community while becoming a stronger servant leader and person.”
During his time at Westark, Evans served as a student ambassador and a representative of Westark PRIDE, assisting school leaders and the City of Fort Smith.
“When the Westark president presented his dream of seeing Westark become a university, the passion he had to follow his dream obviously paid off,” Evans said. “Nearly everything he mentioned about what he wanted is now a part of the UAFS campus. It is amazing to see what happens when one person shares their dreams to make the world a better place.”
Evans credits UAFS for giving him the opportunity to work with the Baptist Student Union and complete a missionary trip to Des Moines, where he later settled.
He said the process of building the desks was not easy in the beginning. He first started building with a small team of five volunteers on Sept. 26, 2020.
“We’ve had days in the fall that we had 15-20 people spread out across our front lawn and driveway working together to help kids,” said Evans. “Since we started we’ve had more than 50 volunteers help us at some time or another.”
In December Woodworking with a Purpose gained sponsorship through CORE Foundation Inc., which helps small organizations improve the lives of others by giving them a better chance for success. Evans’ project is one of 19 organizations that receive counsel and resources for CORE causes.
“I hope that my dream and passion to help kids learn and grow inspires others to lend a helping hand and build a better community and a brighter future,” he said.
For more information on Woodworking with a Purpose, visit Woodworking with a Purpose on Facebook or at his website: https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MTA0MzQw