One Iowa teacher and part-time auto mechanic spends much of his free time building furniture for those in need.
Nate Evans — a full-time teacher at Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale, Iowa — began the furniture-making project in the early days of the COVID lockdowns, when many students suddenly found themselves at home learning remotely but without the equipment they needed to succeed.
“Two years ago this September, we began Woodworking with a Purpose, right here in the garage with a few friends making desks for kids in need,” Evans said.
At that time, he and several volunteers built about 2,000 desks for local students.
But that was only the beginning. The project then morphed into an opportunity to help foster kids and foster families by providing wooden storage chests that would make the moving and adjustment processes a bit easier for everyone involved.
“[K]ids struggle with moving in to their new place with nothing,” Evans said he learned from his sister, who had been a foster parent.
In addition to helping foster families, the Woodworking with a Purpose project, a non-profit organization, now builds all kinds of wood-based furniture, such as coffee tables and end tables, for those with many different kinds of needs.
“If your neighbors needed something, if you could help them somehow, that was the kind of family I grew up in,” Evans remarked.
Despite their enthusiasm, Evans and his volunteer helpers have faced several obstacles along the way. Lumber prices rose considerably during 2021 and reached a peak of $1,357 per thousand board-feet back in March, so acquiring materials became difficult and expensive.
The group also relies almost entirely on monetary donations and donated supplies to keep things running, and when and how much people will donate is often unpredictable.
“We are in need of a few new tools such as a belt sander, hand planer, and a few other things,” Evans’s group posted on Facebook. “We are unable to purchase any equipment through donated funds, so all tools are my own.”
Still, despite the scarcity of adequate supplies and the increased costs of production, Evans and other Woodworking with a Purpose members have continued to “bless” people with their time and talents.
“We were able to do that for them and bless them with that,” Evans said about building furniture, “and give them a chance to know that somebody out there cares about them loves them and wants to do something good.”