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'Desks are impossible to find' | Military Mom working to make a difference, one classroom desk at a time

Maria Reed hopes to help as many people as she can as students and parents navigate distance learning

HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — The rain outside comes and goes on this dreary Thursday afternoon in Harker Heights, but inclement weather wasn't going to stop Maria Reed and William Ulch from working on a passion project to help families get through at-home learning amid COVID-19.

"Homeschooling can be incredibly stressful and I am a 12-year veteran teacher," Reed said. "So, I think I know what it means to be all of a sudden put into a position to have to teach."

The goal is to build as many classic old school 1970's-style desks as possible and to give them all away. It's a tall task but one Reed believed in from the beginning.

"I make desks so we can help those that need them because they are hard to find," she said. "So, if anyone needs them, we hope they will reach out to us so we can get them one."

Reed and Ulch are up for the task, measuring, planning and cutting thick pieces of wood they will slather with Gorilla Glue and screw tightly together.

The road ahead for many parents isn't going to be easy and Reed said she knows it. There will be learning curves around every turn but she believes the best thing any parent can do is control what they can and that is the environment.

"The first thing I'd like to say to parents out there is, 'Breathe,'" she said.

"Create a dedicated space, because you need a learning environment that's conducive to learning. So find a space in your home where you can set up a desk, set up an area so that they can learn," she said.

Maria said the space for learning doesn't have to overwhelming or very big, just consistent. She also said, as hard as it may seem to do, make it fun.

"I know that that sounds crazy sometimes but we do, even when I was a teacher, we have to break it up and make it fun," she said. "Maybe stand up, walk around, go outside. Do all of those things."

Reed said that there are online tutorials that can help and some are free for military families if you need some advice on how to help your child succeed. She also said that this is a good time to work on a passion project and get them done.

"Maybe learn how to start a small business. Lemonade day is a great option, learn how to play the guitar or play the piano. This is a great time to get those passion projects done," Reed said.

The desks that Reed and Ulch build together take about two hours to complete from start to finish. The material, she said, costs as little as $25 dollars. 

While she uses a table saw to cut the wood herself, she said there are ways to work around that if you don't own one yourself.

"Some of the cuts we are doing are called straight cuts," she said. "You can actually have those done at your local home improvement store and they will usually do those for free."

As Reed and Ulch work together, Reed thinks about the teachers she knows who are adapting to a new normal that none of them asked for.

"Take a breath too," she told them. "Not every teacher is tech-savvy. This is a learning process for all of us. Take a step back and be a little patient. I hope people realize and appreciate what teachers do on the daily."

The cutting, sanding, gluing and planning, she said, is worth the feeling she gets as a Military Mom to help someone who needs it. She also hopes that as we come together and work our way through this pandemic that a little bit of kindness from everyone goes a long way.

"Take a step back, take a look at what's happening and be a little patient. Give grace to the students and parents, give grace to the teachers. Sometimes, that's all we need," she said.

If you or someone you know could use a desk for their child who is being homeschooled or distant learning, you can send Maria Reed a request and she will do her best to make it happen.