MLK Day at Hope Farms

Jan 21st was Martin Luther King Jr day. During that time there was many different volunteer activities going on and I chose to visit Hope farms to see what they were working on. Hope Farms™ is a Houston-based, nonprofit agriculture education project. A 7-acre urban agricultural operation designed to grow fresh, affordable produce in the midst of a Houston “food desert” while training and providing small business incubation, co-op services and workforce readiness for U.S. Veterans. This Recipe for Success foundation commonly partners with The Mission Continues. This project had over 300 different volunteers from various places from ToolBank, Mission Continues, Starbucks, and Chick-Fil-A and various other volunteer organizations.

That day there were 10 big projects that needed to be done:

  1. Building Raised Bed Gardens
  2. Painting (and potentially building shelving and other aspects) new structures
  3. Working on the Culinary Classroom
  4. Painting other areas of the Pole Barn
  5. Shelving and other storage for parts of the Pole Barn
  6. Building formal Compost Area
  7. Planting Fruit Trees
  8. Public Art creation
  9. Building/Mulching new production area
  10. Fence and Tree Clearing

Monique Sapp, the community impact leader for the Mission Continues, spoke about what this project meant to her. She also spoke on how important it was to provide veterans a positive outlet in the community. These types of projects and messages are exactly why the Houston Community ToolBank is not only excited to visit and volunteer our time for projects that impact the community, but to lend the tools to help construct a powerful sense of togetherness and cooperation.

I decided to help work on the Raised garden beds. There were at least 40 volunteers alone working on the raised garden beds,  The process itself was pretty simple. 

The Houston Community ToolBank lent out 40 wheelbarrows, over 100 chairs, 20 tables and more to this MLK Day project. This was not the only project we had the honor of lending out tools to either. We are proud to support big projects and small projects throughout the Houston area to support community building efforts. 

You can check out the rest of the days Pictures on our Houston Community ToolBank SmugMug.

1,000 Orders Officially made!

 

The Houston Community ToolBank has officially become the first Toolbank to reach 1,000 orders in a year. We reached a Milestone at the Toolbank by fulfilling our 1000th order. Thank you to all our local member agencies for helping us reach this mark. The Memorial Park Conservatory was our 1000th order, they have been a faithful borrower for at 4 years and have used our tools for volunteer events and more recently for public programs in the park, such as The Fitness Fair.

The Volunteer for the Martin Bailey Garden Project (Stage 1)

Volunteers

Houston ToolBank is excited to not only partake in Disaster Relief, but we also like to lend our tools for local community led events. The Volunteer for the Martin Bailey Garden Project (Stage 1) was a project Hosted by Vox Culture, “This eco-garden is a green space that will produce resources for students, including food and educational opportunities.” 

Nguyen T. Nguyen of the Rotary E-Club of Houston was the leader of the event. This event was planned by both him and the assistant principle of Margaret long wisdom high school. With over 30 other volunteers; students, faculty, the Rotary E-Club of Houston, and the Houston ToolBank. I had the pleasure of being present to watch the tools being put to use in a positive way that impacted the way Margaret long wisdom high school would be viewed by the current student and staff, including future one’s. 

Filling the Garden Beds

I had the pleasure of speaking to one of the assistant principles about how one of the purposes of the garden was “In the memory of Mr. Martin Bailey,  [He] was a alumni of the first graduating class of Wisdom HS and remained a highly active alumni board member who continuously advocated and strived for the embetterment of the students at Wisdom High School.”

This was one of the many non-profit projects the Houston ToolBank lends it’s tools to. So lend a helping hand to us or a volunteer project, or even a hammer!

Distributing Tool Shed Replacement Kits to individuals impacted by Harvey

Welcome to the Houston Community ToolBank blog! This is the place to see where our blue tools are, what’s happening in the warehouse and the office… and which project is next up for the ToolBank.

For our first blog post, we’re excited to chat a bit about our Tool Shed Replacement Program. As of last week, we have sent out 450 tool shed replacement kits into the community to be given to individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The kits were put together using tools generously donated by Apex, a tool manufacturer based out of Maryland.

Some of the assembled Tool Shed Replacement Buckets in the Warehouse.

Since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, we’ve been working with nonprofits all across the region to help with recovery, lending out tools to organizations working on projects of all sizes. All tools lent out for Harvey-related projects are free, which means the nonprofits, churches, schools and community organizations that borrow are able to focus their funds and energy on important recovery efforts. Our blue tools have equipped more than 30,000 volunteers to complete over 90,000 hours of relief and recovery work since the storm.

The concept for the Tool Shed kits arose from the generosity of an in kind donor, Apex Tool Group. Apex donated 64 pallets of tools to us for recovery efforts, valued at an estimated $200,000. While many donated Apex tools have been incorporated into our inventory and lent out, there were more items given than could be used by our members for recovery efforts. Erika Hornsey, our phenomenal Executive Director, designed the Tool Shed Replacement Program to ensure that the tools were part of Harvey recovery as the donors intended.

“Our goal is to give these kits to homeowners who may have lost everything, including their tools,” Erika Hornsey told us. “We know these kits are just a small step towards normalcy, but we’re glad to see these items going where they are needed.”

Each Tool Shed kit includes a brand new shovel, a rake, pliers, gloves, and measuring tape among other items.

A complete Shed Replacement Kit laid out.

Putting together 450 kits may seem too large a project for our small staff, and it certainly would’ve been without volunteers. Without Gates Millenium scholar volunteers, the kits would have taken a huge amount of time to assemble. Many of the tools were taken out of packaging and sorted by numerous other groups, as well as our tireless warehouse assistant Kelsey Smegner. We’re so grateful to the volunteers and staff who make it possible to undertake big projects like this one.

Since we work mostly behind the scenes with our member organizations and groups, distribution of the kits to individuals was done through a few partner organizations and corporations who are working on recovery efforts. The three chosen organizations are Harvey Housing Recovery Project, Habitat for Humanity and UPS

The last large group of buckets went out just last week with UPS, who will distribute their kits to UPS employees who were impacted by the storm. Habitat for Humanity will be giving one kit to each Harvey-impacted homeowner they work with. Harvey Housing Recovery has already distributed their kits to the hard hit Canyon Gate community, in which all 723 homes were flooded. The kits came at a time when the community certainly needed a boost.

Harvey Housing Recovery group of volunteers and bucket recipients.

Anna, one of the residents who received a kit, explained how much the kits helped her as she continues with DIY repair projects around her home. At a time when financial resources are stretched thin, the tool kit helped tremendously.

In late April, we shared a post about our kits on Facebook, and a number of local groups took note. For instance, we were able to work with Memorial Moms, a group of women who have done a huge amount to help their neighbors on the west side of Houston. They were able to distribute hundreds of items to their neighbors as part of welcome kits given out to home owners returning to their houses for the first time.

While we don’t have assemble kits left, we do have many items still available for donation, so please let us know if you know of an organization that could help us with distribution! A big thank you to all involved with the kits – from Apex to Habitat for Humanity Houston, Harvey Housing Recovery Project, UPS and Memorial Moms. We couldn’t have done it without you!