When the Phoenix Community ToolBank opened its doors in January 2014, the Phoenix Collegiate Academy was among the first organizations to borrow tools. Serving grades two through eight, the elementary/middle school didn't have a playground at that time. The school partnered with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds, to bring the joy.
In one chilly weekend, 300 volunteers, many of whom were Phoenix Collegiate Academy parents and staff, transformed an empty lot into a colorful and vibrant playground. Now the students’ favorite part of the day is recess when they get to play on the playground. The playground is also available for kids in the community to use.
“Our build wouldn’t have happened without the tools we borrowed from the Phoenix Community ToolBank, because we need tools to make things happen,” says Rachel Yanof, CEO, Phoenix Collegiate Academy.
YouthWorks is Baltimore City’s summer jobs program, which places young people age 14 to 21 in six-week summer work experiences throughout Baltimore. A group of six to eight students volunteered at the Baltimore Community ToolBank for six hours each week, maintaining the rain garden, helping with light landscaping and branding ToolBank tools with the signature ToolBank blue paint. Participating youths learned basic job skills, while learning the value of helping their community.
Beds for Kids provides beds and other essential furniture to families with children who are transitioning out of homelessness. Individuals, furniture companies, hotels and colleges donate used or scratch and dent furniture and Beds for Kids volunteers use tools from the Charlotte Community ToolBank to clean and repair the furniture. They borrow sanders to refurbish college bunk beds, and drills and socket sets to assemble furniture. When Beds for Kids moved into their new building, they borrowed ToolBank tools to renovate the offices and landscape.
“When you have a strong ToolBank, you have stronger organizations. The ToolBank makes everyone more efficient, makes the dollars go farther and ends up with less waste, because no organization needs 25 sanders, if you only need them once a year,” says Beds For Kids Founder Daniel Fogarty.
Hands On Greater Portland partners with over 300 nonprofits, schools and government agencies to identify the needs of community and connect volunteers with projects. In April, Hands On co-hosted Comcast Cares Day matching 2,200 volunteers with projects at 16 sites. The flagship project was at Glenfair Elementary, a low-income school where 96% of the students are on reduced lunch. 400 volunteers installed a jogging path, spruced up the learning garden, performed landscaping, cleaned classrooms, painted the gym and cafeteria, and painted a US map and labyrinth on the exterior grounds. Volunteers also helped teachers with special projects in their classrooms.
“Hands On has a small tool supply for painting and landscaping projects in our basement, but it’s a hassle to get them out and they are not in the best shape, “says Breden Butler of Hands On Greater Portland. “For this project, we didn’t have nearly enough tools to accomplish everything, so the timing of the Portland Community ToolBank opening was just perfect. The ToolBank has significantly more tools, both quantity and selection, than we have. We would not have been able to do everything we wanted to do without the Portland Community ToolBank.”
The Mayerson High School Service Learning Program inspires teachers to get creative with their lesson plans by creating tangible items to benefit nonprofit organizations. Sophomores recently competed to design a handicap accessible picnic table using Popsicle sticks. The winning design was a table that allows wheelchairs to pull up on one side and folds into two park benches. With help from The Home Depot and tools from the Cincinnati Community ToolBank, students constructed the winning design for a local nonprofit that creates pathways to independence for people with disabilities. Not only did the students learn applied skills through tools, but they also learned about accessibility issues and had an impact on their community.
“It felt good to get out of school and do something for people that are less fortunate than myself," says Eric, a sophomore. "I learned that it feels great to do small things, such as build picnic tables for children with disabilities. It really does show that even little things can make a huge difference in someone else's life.”
Art on the BeltLine is the largest art exhibit in Atlanta. In 2014, Art on the BeltLine consisted of 62 visual exhibits and 50 performances within a 3 month period. Almost every artist used tools from the Atlanta Community ToolBank. Visual artists used tools to clear foliage to install their work. Performance artists borrowed generators, tables, safety equipment and other tools for set fabrication.
“Art on the Atlanta Beltline couldn’t happen without the support of organizations like the Atlanta ToolBank,” says Elan Buchen, Art and Culture Project Coordinator for Atlanta BeltLine. “Almost every sculpture, mural, and performance utilizes the resources that the organization and staff provide. From generators, tables, and water coolers for events, to extension ladders and augers for installation, the Atlanta ToolBank has it all.”
InLight Richmond is an annual one-night exhibition of light-based artwork featuring both national and international artists. It encompasses sculptures, performances, video, and more. Before the Richmond ToolBank opened, InLight Richmond organizers had to scramble to find tools to install and power the artwork.
“InLight is a huge undertaking, and requires many tools that we would only use once a year, says Erin Willet of InLight Richmond. "The ToolBank allowed us access to ladders, drills, extension cords, etc. that we would have either had trouble borrowing or had to dip into our very tight budget. There was also an ample amount of the tools we needed so the artists did not have to wait on each other and share a limited tool selection while they installed the work.”
In 2014, a disabled senior couple was faced with the specter of losing their most prized possession: their home. A 40' wheelchair ramp and extensive interior repairs were needed to maintain their independence, and luckily a strong community partner was there to help. Through the use of volunteers, skilled leadership and LOTS of ToolBank tools, HouseProud Atlanta was able to complete the project at a very low expense - and at no cost to the homeowners.
For nearly 25 years, HouseProud has provided free home repairs to low-income seniors and the disabled to keep them 'warm, safe and dry'. Each year, hundreds of HouseProud volunteers use ToolBank drills, saws, and hammers to build wheelchair ramps, install handrails, replace doors, and much more. Less experienced volunteers use painting tools such as paint roller cages, paint trays, ladders as well as landscaping items such as hand trowels, rakes and shovels. In 2014, HouseProud borrowed over $64,000 in tools - and paid less than $1,300.
“We could not fulfill our mission without the thousands of dollars worth of ToolBank tools we borrow each year," says HouseProud Executive Director Lisa Jones. "As a small nonprofit, it is imperative that we keep our overhead low and that as many dollars as possible are used to directly serve our senior clients. We often leverage the ToolBank's name and strong reputation as our partner as we are seeking more and bigger grant dollars."
Every summer, hundreds of student and adult volunteers converge for a week-long home repair blitz week with Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families (SELF). Volunteers use ToolBank tools to complete critical maintenance and mobility modifications that enable residents to build ramps, rebuild rotting porches, and perform repairs that allow residents to stay safely in their homes. Other SELF programs programs focus on helping people learn new skills, find employment, save money or start a small business. SELF dramatically enhances the quality of life for residents of Butler County, Ohio by empowering individuals to achieve, sustain and advocate self-sufficiency.
“The Cincinnati ToolBank is an invaluable community partner," says SELF Executive Director Beth Race. "With the availability of tools for every work site, the ToolBank ensures that our volunteers can start working right away and stay busy. The ToolBank saves small non-profits like us time, space and money-- so that we can focus on coordinating hundreds of community volunteers and on the project at hand.”
Every summer, the South Baltimore Partnership hires students for their Clean and Green Team, where they learn about environmental stewardship while cleaning and beautifying the streets of Sharp-Leadenhall, a low-income neighborhood of Baltimore.
Budget restrictions in 2014 nearly forced the South Baltimore Partnership to reduce the number of students in the program. When they learned they could borrow needed equipment (brooms, dustpans, trash grabbers, etc) from the Baltimore Community ToolBank, they were able to retain a full class of students. That summer program made a lasting, positive impact - both in the Sharp-Leadenhall community, and on the students who were able to participate.
“People out here are looking at us and saying Thank you and Good job”, reports Will, a Clean and Green Team member. "It changes their life too, because now they feel like, 'Young people are out here cleaning up our streets. I can do that, too!' "
Team Rubicon is a national disaster response organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.
In late May of 2015, central Texas were hit by more than 20 inches of rain, breaking records in several areas and causing widespread flooding. On June 1, the ToolBank Disaster Services mobile unit deployed to Wimberley, Texas to assist Team Rubicon with the flood response. Over the next 28 days, ToolBank Disaster Services equipped over 2,685 volunteers with tools. Volunteers demolished dozens of houses, sawed up hundreds of fallen trees, and cleared untold miles of debris.
All Hands Volunteers provides immediate, effective and sustainable support to communities in need by harnessing the energy and commitment of dedicated volunteers after a disaster.
In June 2014, ToolBank Disaster Services partnered with All Hands Volunteers’ to respond to two tornadoes that hit Pilger, Nebraska. All Hands coordinated all of the volunteer efforts on the ground, running both the volunteer reception center and leading teams comprised of organizations and volunteers. Over the next two weeks, ToolBank Disaster Services equipped 2,943 volunteers with the tools needed to complete over 100 different projects, expediting that community’s return to normal life.
"Working with the ToolBank in Pilger was one of the most valuable partnerships that I've seen on a domestic project,” says Jen Weinstein, Director of Marketing and Communications for All Hands Volunteers. “Because of the resources that ToolBank provides, we were able to coordinate almost 3,000 volunteers to help clean up over 85% of the village in just over two weeks, helping homeowners on their road to recovery after the devastating tornadoes."
The Mill Creek Watershed Council works to identify the causes and sources of watershed impairment and prioritizes activities to improve water quality. In 2014, Mill Creek volunteers used ToolBank shovels to mulch and plant over 400 wetland shrubs and trees, ToolBank trash grabbers to remove litter from the creek and along its banks, and ToolBank wheelbarrows, loppers, and bow saws to remove invasive plants.
“We operate on a lean budget with a streamlined staff,” says Kara Scheerhorn, the Council’s Watershed Coordinator, “so the Cincinnati Community ToolBank is an excellent resource for us! The team at ToolBank make it extremely easy to pick-up and drop-off the tools and are very good at working with our schedule. Many of our volunteer events would not be as successful without the help of the ToolBank. We are extremely lucky to have a resource like this in the Greater Cincinnati area.”
Park Pride works with volunteers to tackle a variety of projects in support of Atlanta’s parks, including landscaping and beautification; stream clean-ups; plantings; painting; completing erosion control projects; building community gardens, benches and picnic tables; and removing invasive plants. Park Pride has enough tools to outfit 30 volunteers at a time, yet they regularly host groups of 200 or more volunteers. For these projects, they borrow tools from the Atlanta Community ToolBank. In fact, they borrow tools for almost 50% of their projects.
“Working with the Atlanta Community ToolBank is easy, efficient, affordable and fun!”, says John Ahern, Park Pride’s Volunteer Manager. “The staff is incredibly welcoming, knowledgeable and supportive. Without the Atlanta Community ToolBank, Park Pride would have to significantly scale back our programming. The ToolBank is an invaluable resource for the communities and non-profit organizations it serves. It would be impossible for us (and impractical) to purchase, house and maintain all the tools we need for our volunteer stewardship projects in parks throughout the year.”
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay finds collaborative-solutions that benefit the land, waters and residents of the Chesapeake Bay. The Alliance has completed over 400 projects using ToolBank tools valued at almost $200,000.
The Alliance’s READY program provides green jobs for young adults. These young people work in crews to install dozens of rain gardens on institutional properties such as schools, congregational grounds and large non-profits. The program teaches job skills in an applied environment that focuses on storm water management. Meanwhile, the rain gardens filter runoff pollution, recharge local groundwater, conserve water, protect rivers and streams and create a habitat for birds and butterflies.
“The tools provided by the ToolBank allow us to equip all of our teams and control cost at the same time,” says Rain Garden Program Director Don Tsusaki. “Our program would not make nearly the same positive impact if we didn’t have the Baltimore Community ToolBank.”
The Mission Continues empowers veterans facing the challenge of adjusting to life at home to find a new mission in volunteering for their community. The veterans are split into platoons that conduct monthly service products around the Houston area.
“When we come out, we feel an urge to keep serving,” says Mission Continues Fellow Eusebio Collazo. “If I can’t serve my country, then I want to serve my community.”
Eusebio is a member of Houston’s 2nd Platoon which focuses on health and fitness. Recently, the platoon spent a day volunteering at the Urban Harvest community garden. The veterans used tools from the Houston Community ToolBank to weed garden beds, spread fresh dirt and mulch, plant vegetables and pressure wash and paint the gazebo.
“The ToolBank allows us to go out there and complete our mission in the community,” says Eusebio. “Without the ToolBank we would have to purchase the tools, and like most nonprofits, we don’t have a big budget.”
The 6th Branch utilizes the leadership and organizational skills of military veterans to execute aggressive community service initiatives at the local level. The Baltimore Community ToolBank supplies the 6th Branch with tools and equipment every week of the year, allowing them to engage over 3000 unique volunteers in rebuilding of parks and maintenance of a 2-acre community farm in the middle of East Baltimore (popularly known as the “streets of The Wire”—but not for long). For less than $4,000, the 6th Branch was able to borrow $64,000 worth of tools and equip 3,700 volunteers.
“If we had to survive on our own tools, there’s no way we could afford it, "says Sixth Brnach Executive Director Dave Landymore. "As currently structured, the ToolBank makes our work possible.”
Team Depot seeks to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to call home. In Charlotte, Team Depot works with the United Way, Red Cross and VFW to identify veterans who need help. Although the Home Depot Foundation provides gift cards to buy materials for the projects, Team Depot uses ToolBank tools to make their budgets go farther.
In 2014, Team Depot executed five projects in a single day. They renovated the courtyard for a transitional home for veterans, landscaped, and planted trees. They also renovated a kitchen performed repairs, installed gutters, fixed a deck, and installed a new shower. For one veteran, Team Depot built a fence so she could have a service dog.
“It’s very convenient and easy for us to coordinate through the ToolBank,” says Home Depot Store Manager Andy Conrad. “If we need 50 rakes, a chain saw and 10 wheelbarrows, it’s all centrally located. We can use more of our money to purchase materials, instead of tools.” Store Manager John Reinke dispels a myth about Home Depot having access to tools: “You’d think that because we’re Home Depot we should be able to tackle a big project. But we don’t have a lot of tools to rent or use [in community projects]. The ToolBank helps us facilitate what we do. It’s a win/win.”