Volunteers build 29 desks for students at the Harding University Partnership School

Monday, August 16, 2021
some of the desks made for the Harding School

The pandemic laid bare all sorts of inequities for too many of our K-12 students. Some families lacked the computers or the broadband internet necessary for their children to take part in online education. At the Harding University Partnership School it quickly became evident that many students didn’t even have a dedicated space where they could work, which, of course, made it harder to focus upon and complete that work.

That’s where local volunteers stepped in. David Bothman from UCSB’s California NanoSystem Institute learned about the need for the desks from Chris Errea, the outgoing president of the Harding School Foundation (think PTA). Not only did Bothman get to work, but his wife Teresa shared news of the project with Charlotte Gould, part of Santa Barbara Craftivists for Change.

The Craftivists formed after the 2016 election, a like-minded group of Santa Barbarans who wanted to do things that could immediately help people. They’ve done everything from knitting pink hats in support of Planned Parenthood, knitting blankets and hats for immigrants, making fingerless gloves for the March for Our Lives March in D.C. in support of the Parkland students, knitting hearts for the community in Christchurch, New Zealand following the mosque shootings, to making and distributing hundreds of “Get out the Vote” buttons prior to the election.

COVID meant mask-making, and lots of it—300 for the Harding School, but then thousands more for local nonprofits, some being shipped as far away as Native American communities in Arizona and New Mexico. Currently they are making soap sacks for the Salvation Army to distribute at the Transition House and knitting/crocheting blankets for the Storyteller Children’s Center.

“We were doing a lot of things for people out of state,” says Craftivist member Rose Santellano-Milem, “but we decided there’s a lot of real need here.” Gould, who has a background in industrial design and operates Dancing Shadows—a local company that designs and manufactures creative shade solutions for gardens and landscapes—took charge of the project for the Craftivists. “I came up with a design that utilized materials I had on hand and that I could mass produce,” Gould relates. “This helped reduce cost and allowed the project to be simplified so that non-woodworkers could participate.”

“It was definitely a real labor of love,” recalls Santellano-Milem. “Most of the members are in their 60s or 70s, so it challenged us, but we really wanted the children to have these desks.”

Ultimately the Craftivists completed 17 desks and Bothman finished 12 on his own. The brightly painted desks were delivered to the Harding School and teachers helped decide which students were most in need. Santellano-Milem informs, “People said the kids were so excited when they got them.”

Contributions of time, materials, and money were crucial to this project getting completed, as the Craftivists aren’t a non-profit; Santellano-Milem puts it this way, “We just do it, we’re not an ‘official’ group, really. It makes us feel good to help people.”

Monetary assistance for the desk project came from Marlene Zoellner, Rose Santellano-Milem and Jeff Milem (Jules Zimmer dean of the Gevirtz School), and Home Improvement/Ace Hardware; paint and materials were donated by Richard Gould, Jim Gould, Miners/Ace Hardware, and Rose Santellano-Milem and Jeff Milem; and the labor was done by Charlotte Gould, Richard Gould, Steve Scheftic, Patt Pattison, Bernadette McDermott Lewis, Teresa Bothman, Elisabeth Douglass, Genevieve Antonow,  Sarah Lukas, Rose Santellano-Milem, Voula Aldrich, and Nancy Hutterer.