WARWICK, R.I. (WJAR) — Todd Schmenk of Warwick has created a wood shop inside of his garage and basement.
"During the pandemic, I took this up," said Schmenk. "Being a mental health counselor sometimes we love to find things we can do as a coping mechanism, but more so a long-term component that gives back, so with this I figured I should practice what I preach."
In March, Schmenk began crafting wood pieces for fun, and then had the idea to make desks for kids in local communities.
"I actually saw a segment on the national news of someone doing it and I thought I could do that," he said. "I have a thing it's called 'Team Positive' and I wrote the book it's all about how to deal with the crisis I figured I might as well walk my talk."
Schmenk did just that.
First, he used scrap pieces of wood he had around his house to make the first one.
"I was originally a teacher, a long time ago and I'm like this would be really cool and I also know from working with parents and with children they're sitting on top at home," he said. "It just takes the pressure off of the family and that was really important to me because I'm seeing it, I’m hearing it from the patients directly."
Before the pandemic, Schmenk participated in swing dancing where he met Brenda Aspelund, who is a teacher at Warwick Vets Middle School.
"He reached out and said, 'Do you have any students who might be in need of a desk?' and right away I thought of two kids that definitely needed one," said Aspelund. "Space to work is really limited in a lot of homes so some of the kids just didn't have a space to work and it's kind of hard to be productive if you're not at a surface."
Schmenk went to work.
He said each desk took about four hours.
"Once I have it cut it's about two more hours to put it all together sand it down and I'm adding little details I probably don't have to add but if I was a kid and I was sitting at a desk what would I want it to look like?" he said.
Schmenk has crafted a few desks so far and plans to do so for anyone in need.
He's also made standing desks for adults who are working from home.
"I'm so deeply touched that he did this for no money, just said, 'Hey could you use this?' and I know that's changed circumstances for a lot of my students, so I really appreciate it," said Aspelund.
"I never would've imagined ever that I would feel what I felt when I got that first email back from a mom thanking me," said Schmenk. "It's nice to see things that are complete but it's ten times that when someone is like hey this is really great thank you."
Schmenk said he encourages other woodworkers to pitch in and do the same for students.