Pax Christi sells woodwork to provide school supplies – Arkansas Catholic

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Raymond Bertasi makes and sells handmade wooden objects to help students in need

Posted: March 25, 2022

Aprille Hanson Spivey

Raymond Bertasi of Little Rock looks at a serving tray he handcrafted on March 17. He started PAX Tiny Workshop last year to dedicate carpentry projects to Pax Christi’s backpack fundraiser.

Since Pax Christi Little Rock, a Catholic nonprofit for peace and social justice, was resurrected in 2017, it has been on a mission to serve. So his latest fundraiser is Appropriate, selling handmade wooden serving trays.

All proceeds will go directly to backpacks filled with school supplies for students in need. And they’re all handmade by Christ the King Little Rock parishioner Raymond Bertasi in his PAX Tiny workshop.

“That’s kind of the theme of this particular project – serving trays to serve people, serve others. And that’s what we do in the workshop is make these boards to serve other people, he told the Arkansas Catholic on March 17 as he sat in his workshop, surrounded by stacks of wood and handcrafted serving trays with handles, trivets , coasters and cutting boards, ready to be sold.

Bertasi, a carpenter for about seven years since retiring, started PAX Tiny Workshop last year to dedicate carpentry projects to Pax Christi’s backpack fundraiser. In 2021, he made blue bird houses.

“I’ve always had a soft heart for people who need a helping hand, who need a helping hand, and it starts, I think, with the kids. I just can’t imagine going to school and struggling, without even having enough supplies. It’s pretty basic.

Pax Christi Little Rock vice president and communications director Dr. Sherry Simon said she started donating backpacks in 2017 at the former Rockefeller Elementary in Little Rock. Since then, they have added schools, helping 1,500 students at two Catholic schools, St. Theresa School in Little Rock and North Little Rock Catholic Academy, and three public schools, Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Little Rock, Carroll Smith Elementary at Osceola and Broadmoor Elementary School in Pine Bluff.

Since 2017, they have spent $47,102.73 benefiting 4,320 students. Low-income schools provide lists of supplies, such as pencils, pencils, loose-leaf paper, notebooks. Items are purchased in bulk, and Pax Christi members pack and distribute the backpacks.

But Bertasi’s contributions were a game-changer, raising $6,058 in 2021, exceeding his goal.

“He’s so loyal,” Simon said. “Raymond is also a true friend; we did not go to him. He said, “That’s what I want to do for you this year.” …I was blown away by it. He worked so hard last year I thought we burned him, but no.

Bertasi creates around 10 serving trays at a time, inspired by the designs of his wife Leslie. It takes about a week, or 50 hours, to make 10 trays. He uses cherry, walnut, and hard maple, mixed with exotic woods like bloodwood, purpleheart, lacewood, and yellowheart that he can find at local stores. Pax Christi reimburses him for the material.

Coins retail for between $30 and $250 and are customizable. For a buyer who wants to learn design and make their own cutting board or serving tray with Bertasi, the PAX Tiny Workshop experience will cost $500. Everyone is welcome to visit his studio and browse the styles, he said. His fundraising goal is $5,000.

Bertasi is halfway to its goal of making 60 pieces. He hopes most will be ordered when Pax Christi needs to buy school supplies, usually in June.

“I’ve always had a soft heart for people who need a helping hand, who need a helping hand, and it starts, I think, with the kids. I just can’t imagine going to school and struggling, without even having enough supplies. It’s pretty basic,” he said.

To order one of Bertasi’s creations, email or leave a voicemail at (501) 580-3849.


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