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Friday, April 12, 2024
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If I had a Hammer, Saw, or Wheelbarrow…

For many do it yourselfers, a big stumbling block is having the right tools and equipment to accomplish their projects.  It doesn’t make sense economically to buy a saw to cut a couple of corners for a frame or invest in a wheelbarrow to haul a pile of mulch for a one-time delivery. Especially in DC’s urban setting, storage is a real issue and concerns about the environmental impact of overconsumption come into play for many of us.

So, for example, rather than throw out an old bicycle, it would be nice to have a way to repair the bike you already own. The DC Tool Library was created in 2021 to provide tools to local DC residents with home projects without having to purchase tools.  Just like borrowing a book from your local library, you can take out a power saw, a rototiller, or drill to create your project, and then return it.

The project is a partnership between Green Neighbors DC and the DC Department of Parks and Recreation.  The library is located at Twin Oaks in the Petworth neighborhood,14th and Taylor Streets NW.  Since it opened in 2021, more than 300 people have borrowed tools and over 900 people have registered to participate.

The Twin Oaks DC Tool Lending Library opened in 2021 and has had a steady increase in borrowers.  The goal is to eventually open one in each Ward. Ward 7 is the next in line to open in spring, 2024. Photo: Green Neighbors DC

The organization is volunteer based and relies on a strong community of people offering their time.  Abigail Salvatore is a volunteer at the library. She says the group is hoping to soon open a second location at the Lederer Gardens in Ward 7.  “It would be great if we can have one in every ward down the road,” she says, “and the different libraries could then share equipment.”

The concept of tool libraries started in 1979 in Berkeley, California, and has spread to about 50 cities around the US. In 2013, Green Neighbors DC started in Petworth with like-minded neighbors concerned about green ideas, resources, and actions. The Lending Library is one of their bigger projects, and they are involved in a variety of other climate-related activities.

After the Robbery
Sadly, in early February there were a series of break-ins at the Twin Oaks site, and $11,000 of power tools were stolen.  “It has been devastating,” says Salvatore, “but the outpouring of support and help to restore the library by neighbors and the broader DC community has been amazing.  After such a horrible experience, it seems we are going to come out stronger and better.”  Most of the tools stolen were expensive, power tools, generators, and batteries for the equipment.  Luckily, the garden tools for the most part were spared, and will be available this spring when the center reopens.

The city owns the property and contributes to the maintenance of the building. The city had already pledged $200,000 in the city’s upcoming budget for upgrades to the building, including a new roof and improved security. The second site in Ward 7, also owned by the city, is awaiting some upgrades to the shed, and a recent fire that damaged the greenhouse is requiring further funds to repair the facility.

The volunteers have organized a fundraiser setting a goal of $15,000 to replace the stolen tools, provide more security and obtain insurance.  If you can help out, g,,o to the online website, https://opencollective.com/dc-tool-library/contribute/help-us-replace-our-tools-71038.  Your donation will be tax-deductible.  Salvatore and staff emphasize that the size of the donation doesn’t matter. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it will be deeply appreciated and will help lift the project.

In addition to funds to replace the tools, there will soon be a tool donation drive.  If you have tools you no longer use including saws, drills, camping gear, gardening tools, pliers, or other DIY tools, contact the tool library at dctoolshare@gmail.com. The staff will be happy to talk to you about donating.  It was through the generosity of so many that the tool library had amassed such a great array of tools, and hopefully it will not take long to replace the two-thirds of tools stolen.

The library is actually a resource for not just DC residents. Folks in nearby counties can also check out tools.  Proof of residence is required, and tools can be borrowed for one week.

Looking to Spring to Reopen
Right now, the Twin Oaks Tool Library is closed. But hopefully not for long. “Since many of the garden tools were not taken, and spring is right around the corner, we plan to open in time for folks to be able to borrow the hoes, shovels, and other garden tools to get their gardens started,” Abigail reports.  Watch the website for updates, https://dctoollibrary.org/.  There is great hope that the Lederer Garden Tool Library will also be able to be opened later this spring, as well.

Salvatore says staff have found solace in the broad community support they’ve received and, on a lighter note, in the fact that the most popular tool – the snow cone machine –was not taken.  Life goes on and hope endures.

Rindy O’Brien is wishing for a quick reopening to help gardeners get a good start. Contact Rindy – rindyobrien@gmail.com.

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