Gr8 Neighbors: Dat Desk NOLA

GR8 Neighbors: Dat Desk

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - So many people have stepped up and done amazing things during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they're giving back or paying it forward.

One New Orleans area woman is making life a little easier for students and parents who were forced to adapt to a new way of learning.

At Holis Hannan's business, Floor 13 NOLA, imagination and a love of art makes for a spectacular showroom.

Wall-to-wall with repurposed furniture. It had just opened up in Elmwood in February when the pandemic shut it down.

"I remember the first couple of weeks, telling all of my workers, we're gonna be fine, this is not going to effect us at all," Hannan says. "We didn't realize the severity of it."

Hannan knew she had to do something.

"Can't sew, can't make masks or gowns. I'm not a doctor, what can I do? I can paint!" says Hannan. "And being a former teacher, I saw what was going on, actually to be honest with you, I heard cries from my friends with kids, going oh my gosh, they have all of their homework all over the dining table, what are you going to do! Then it dawned on me. Desks!"

She has desks and lots of them from a recent hotel liquidation. Originally she was going to give them away, as is, then the artist in her took over.

"I said I'm going to paint the desks and I reached out to friends because I started thinking that's a lot of desks, a lot of painting. And everybody said I can help, I can help!" says Hannan.

The salvaged desks are now incredible inspiring works of art, part of the Dat Desk NOLA project.

Hannan says, "My whole goal was to make these kids want to go to their desk and be able to say that's my desk, also to inspire them, so I started taking inspirational quotes to put on them so when they opened the drawer, it says things like you're strong or they're good enough or they're amazing, that kind of thing."

It is repurposing with a purpose. And for Hannan, there's a silver lining.

She's painting again. That's something she hasn't been able to do since her warehouse burned down along Bayou St. John two years ago.

"I think the biggest lesson is slowing down for the things that I love to do like painting."

And on the day we caught up with Hannan, delivering desks, something she calls the icing on the cake.

Each child who receives a custom made desk is hand picked by a teacher who sees a need.

Hannan started with a goal of painting 50 desks, but it has turned into a labor of love.

She says, "I personally don't see this stopping because it's not just about COVID and kids not having desks at this time and homeschooling. You're always going to have homework and always going to have kids in need, so I want to keep it going because I think there will always be kids who aren't going to have them and we can supply them because I always have desks!"

And in true Gr8 Neighbor fashion, she isn't about recognition, she only hopes her good deeds inspire others to do the same.

"The first thing I thought was why are they doing this segment on me? They should be doing nurses, because there are so many people deserving," says Hannan. "But at the same time, I think I'm coming to the reality that this is necessary and this is great. The more people hear about people like me, the more people might help me do the things I do and for me that would be the biggest payoff, to have people call me and say I want to help you do that thing."

The Dat Desk program is now expanding into Orleans Parish as well. Hannan has also started selling custom-made desks for $50 and putting the money back into the Dat Desk program.

If you want to learn more about it, here’s the facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/Dat-Desk-NOLA-110499507261406/.

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