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Volunteer Highlight: Jakob Barton

Jakob is a rising junior at Occidental College in Los Angeles where he is studying Economics and Environmental Policy. He hopes to help create a more sustainable future for the planet and the people who live on it. Although at school in California, he originally hails from Winchester, MA and still spends his summers in the Boston area. Jakob has a history of service-oriented work, including multiple service trips in high school as part of the Winchester Unitarian Society Youth Group. He is a long-time friend of Barry Glass -- the founder of Volunteer Ventures and Desk Mates -- and was eager to help the organization as it was just getting off the ground.

What initially drew you to Desk Mates?

“As I have moved out of my teenage years and into adulthood, I have become ever more appreciative of the educational opportunities that I have been so lucky to have throughout the years. I know that the educational privileges I had are not shared by all, and I wanted to help push the threshold of opportunity in the right direction. Providing a child with a desk gives them an environment conducive for learning and shows them their education is legitimate, important, and valued by their teachers and families. I wanted to volunteer at Desk Mates because I saw the organization for what it was -- a vessel to help foster the educational journey for a future generation of leaders.”

What did you do with Desk Mates?

“Mostly the work I did was hands-on in the woodshop with Barry doing everything from drilling holes to cutting wood. I helped create the desk kits that were sent out to volunteers for assembly into the final product. In addition to kit preparation, I found other desk-building volunteers through my local network and even made a few myself!”

What did you get out of your time volunteering?

“In the most tangible sense, I am extremely happy to have learned what I did about carpentry and woodworking. These skills are invaluable and working with my hands to create something provides me with a sense of satisfaction that I truly treasure. More importantly though, I got to see a network of volunteers rally around a cause to help people they have never met. Desk Mates is really cool and unique because it connects neighboring communities who normally interact with each other far too infrequently. And, of course, the gratitude and thanks we received from the recipients of the desks was enough to make all of the work worth it because, in the end, it’s not really about what I got out of the experience, but rather it’s about the lasting impact of my work.”

What would you say to others wanting to get involved with Desk Mates?

“Do it! The work is fun and meaningful. What more can you ask for? Desk Mates runs on volunteers and whether you help once or twenty times, the impact of your work will be felt. It is a great organization and I look forward to continuing my volunteering work with them as the organization continues to grow.”

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