Reston, VA

Another season of the coronavirus pandemic has brought on the second semester of remote and hybrid education. And for students without desks, the switch means they must look for alternative school setups.

Alisa Harriot, Lisa Merkel and Tracy Converse, three local Reston and Herndon community members, brainstormed a solution to the alternative setups: they and a hefty group with over one hundred members would find, build, or recycle desks to deliver to the students. 

On Sept. 11, after discovering a group of families in need of desks, the women decided to start a desk collection to benefit these families. They each posted on their individual Facebook pages asking if their circle of friends had any desks to donate. Immediately, the project took off. 

The posts prompted a major community effort to help support these families in need, from people at home building desks from scratch to the donation of surplus desks from the schools in the county.

In addition to an outpour of desks, the women were able to partner with local food pantries to aid with the distribution. They were also given a storage unit at South Lakes High School to help hold a larger number of desks. 

“It’s been a really quick-moving and exciting project that takes a lot of people and a lot of help from the community,” said Harriot. “We have yet to be in a position where we didn’t find that help.”

The story that mobilized the women was that of a local girl who, with the onset of virtual learning, didn’t have anywhere sufficient to set up a workspace and as a result, had to flip a toilet seat into a modified desk. After hearing this girl’s story, they launched into action to help other students in similar situations. 

“If you want to see a bunch of community members activate, you let them know that there’s a little girl somewhere using a toilet as a desk,” said Harriot. 

As of last week, 107 desks have been delivered to students in need. The project has gained the support and participation of about 147 volunteers from the Reston and Herndon communities in the last month. 

They are currently looking to work with The CORE Foundation to become one of their core causes to begin taking financial donations for the project, according to Harriot. Harriot also is thinking about continuing the effort even after school resumes in-person. 

“At a time where everything seems so divisive and uncertain, it’s been really nice to see a bunch of people … all of a sudden working together and doing great things,” said Merkel.

Those interested in donating desks can drop them off at their storage pod at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive). Individuals in need of a desk are encouraged to reach out to their school counselor, who will work with them to find the best way to pick them up. For more information, email [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Alisa Harriot

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