Originally from The Coast News
ENCINITAS — From the eight chairs inside Park Dale Lane Elementary School’s conference room to the chairs in the lobby of El Camino Creek Elementary, Encinitas Union School District is dotted with hundreds of pieces of furniture that tell a story.
It’s a story of the friendship between a real estate agency executive and a longtime school district official.
Mike Evans, the founder and owner of Sea Coast Exclusive Properties, has quietly donated hundreds of pieces of unwanted furniture to the district.
Gerry Devitt, the school district’s facilities and maintenance director, has taken those pieces and breathed new life into them, extending their life and saving the district thousands of dollars in the process.
Both men are quick to defer credit to the other for the largess.
“Gerry is a great man, and I think he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does,” Evans said Oct. 11.
“Mike has really been a great benefactor to the schools, and people might not even know it,” Devitt said. “But the chairs you sit in, the partitions in some places and other pieces, we wouldn’t have them if it weren’t for Mike.”
And so their relationship goes.
Donations to school districts aren’t a new phenomenon, but the furniture donations from Sea Coast to the school district are unique, officials said.
For example, officials in the San Dieguito Union High School District said they’ve rarely had offers of furniture, and usually the pieces are too old or worn to have any use.
Neither Devitt or Evans can say exactly when the arrangement began, but Evans says that “many years ago” as Sea Coast, a large real estate firm, was expanding, a lot of the first generation furniture was reaching its useful life span.
Evans thought of selling off the furniture. Instead, he got on the phone and called his good friend Devitt, who was at the school district.
“I asked him if the school district needed any furniture, and Gerry said, ‘Sure,’” Evans said. “And he came right over, looked at the pieces I had, and contacted the district and they signed off on the donation.”
As Evans’ company grew and expanded, the furniture turnover also increased. And every time, Evans said, rather than selling it, he would call the district first.
Evans said that each time he donated it, Devitt would take the pieces and paint, re-purpose and recondition them to their former glory.
“I don’t know how he does it, but these were pieces that were pretty much at the end of their lives,” Evans said. “And Gerry gave them new life.”
Devitt estimates that over the years Evans has donated more than 100 chairs, tables, desks, printers and partitions to the district. The district tracks donations as required by state law, but they weren’t able to readily provide The Coast News with information on how much the district has saved due to Evans’ donations.
“It’s been thousands of dollars,” Devitt said.
Devitt said his favorite use of the donated furniture was a few years back at Paul Ecke Central, where the school was building a computer lab for the pupils. Devitt said he was able to create a lab space using the desks and partitions.
“It turned out really nice,” he said.
Evans said he’s grateful that the district has been able to find use for the old furniture. Devitt said he’s grateful that his friend thought of the students at the district.