The Blue that Binds: Why We Love ToolBank USA

October 28, 2016

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Have you ever noticed hammers, power drills, and hard hats with sprayed blue paint at some of our projects? Well, if you have, you’ve seen firsthand the remarkable work of ToolBank USA. ToolBank’s nonprofits lend a wide variety of tools to groups who want to accomplish a project to benefit their community, at heavily discounted costs.

As you may know, we are a nonprofit that prides itself on forging partnerships with other nonprofits on both national and local levels. In our central Fellowship Program, each Fellow we place at a host site organization is an obvious example of this, and more examples can be found by looking at the nonprofits our platoons work with to paint classrooms, build playgrounds, and more. But we have a relationship with a nonprofit that is so mobile and so essential that we felt it deserves its own blog post.

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Let’s start off with the hard facts.

The ToolBank allows us, a medium-sized nonprofit, to save precious donor dollars on tools so we can instead put our funds towards making bigger and better projects. To that point, Regional Resource Specialist Damion Martin said that the Houston Community Toolbank allowed him to borrow 90% of the equipment he needed for our recent Delta Class 2016 Orientation service project.

When we look at how the Toolbank affects our bottom line, he said, “the retail value of the materials borrowed exceeded $16,000 and we paid them just under $500 for the week.” This means we have all that much more to spend on other resources to support our platoons and the communities they serve.

They help us stretch every dollar to go towards making an impact. Noah Smock, Executive Director of the Baltimore Community ToolBank, said that “In 2016 alone, the Baltimore Community ToolBank has empowered 6 large group projects through the Baltimore/DC chapter of The Mission Continues, loaning more than $42,000 dollars’ worth of tools to equip nearly 500 volunteers.”

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But the value they bring is also about quality. Since we are a bunch of hard core of veterans, we needed a bunch of hard core tools!

We borrow all kinds of power tools, from circular saws, jig saws, miter saws, and power drills, to grinders, generators, and power washers from the ToolBank.

In our 9/11 service projects in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, we borrowed rakes, shovels, drills, and rotary hammers. Katrina Hill, the Regional Resource Specialist for this region said, “they have everything we could possibly need tool-wise, and then some…Thanks to the ToolBank we were able to equip all of our volunteers with the tools that they needed to get things done.”

What else does the ToolBank help us save? Everyone’s most precious resource: time!

Katrina tells us, “You would be amazed how much time we save simply not having to hunt down tools. Now that we have a consistent source for our tools, we can dedicate our time to making our projects that much more impactful.”

Without the ToolBank, we would have to call volunteers asking for them to bring special tools, so there was never a guarantee what we needed would actually be there.

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In our inaugural Mass Deployment, Motown Muster, the ToolBank proved invaluable. Looking forward, Jess Peter, City Impact Manager for the Midwest said, “These types of relationships are critical as we move into new cities.”

She has a particularly compelling story about her experience with the ToolBank when she was a Regional Resource Specialist, and how our early relationship with them lead to their role in Motown Muster.

“Our Fellow at the Atlanta ToolBank, Chris Atkinson, reached out and got me connected with Matt, ToolBank’s Director of Disaster Services. I got a chance to meet with Matt face-to-face, tour the trailer, and talk about deepening our partnership. As soon as I walked on the truck, I knew we needed to get him to Motown Muster.

Our Fellow in Atlanta making the connection while the trailer was in St. Louis was a real turning point in exploring what our relationship with ToolBank could become.

Matt signed on to bring their truck to Detroit for our Mass Deployment, and went above and beyond his intended role of tool lending and accountability.

Matt became part of the project team, attending our late night planning sessions, making supply runs, and saved the day more than a few times. We legitimately could not have done it without him.

I think it really speaks to the character of our two organizations that we still text Matt about jokes that got us through the long hours. Matt just showed up and said put me to work, I don’t want to sit around in the truck all day, and we definitely took him up on that.

The Regional Resource Specialist team will be doing some professional development and site visits for our Mass Deployment in Atlanta, and have again reached out to the ToolBank for support with tools and space to make the trip a success.”

Jess’s mention of the Fellow at the Atlanta ToolBank is beneficial to us, but the beauty of this partnership is that this benefit isn’t one-sided.

Executive Director of the Houston Community ToolBank Erika Hornsey said, “Not only do they make use of our blue tools on service projects, but they also volunteer and attend our events.” And because our flagship Fellowship Program is designed to help other nonprofits increase capacity, our Fellows at the ToolBank do just that.

Erika added, “We are currently hosting our second Fellow, who has been an amazing support to our Program Manager in the Warehouse.” For those ToolBanks without Fellows, there is hope on both sides that in the near future we can give one or two Fellows to help them increase capacity and community impact.

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Our two main programs — the Fellowship Program and the Service Platoon Program, and even our newest program, Mass Deployment — all interact with ToolBank USA in some capacity.

Whether they are lending us tools for large scale projects, or we are bringing volunteers to their service events, we know that we share a vision of community empowerment from the ground up, and will work together toward that goal. Not only do both of us come out winners, the biggest winners are the communities we serve.

ToolBank USA establishes ToolBanks and provides support to these affiliates who improve their communities by equipping volunteers with tools. Visit their website to learn more.

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and twitter.

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