Community Connection

Earth Day


Earth Day may officially fall on April 22nd, but we’ve been slinging tools for environmental benefit all spring! All throughout April, we supported partners in their clean and green efforts. We even hosted our own Carroll-Camden cleanup event as part of the Mayor’s Cleanup on April 29th.

During Earth Week alone, the ToolBank empowered 2,736 volunteers on 76 different projects. A retail value worth of $252,478.08 worth of tools flew out the door to deploy in communities across Baltimore and greater Maryland.

Here are just a few of the partners and projects empowered:

Volunteer Center For Anne Arundel County – Save the Bay Day, 205 volunteers

Baltimore Orchard Project – Earth Day work day, 78 volunteers  

Pigtown Main St – Bloom the Boulevard Festival, 75 volunteers

$5 million in Tools Lent in < 5 years!

We recently reached a milestone: $5 million worth of tools loaned to partners since we opened our door wide to the community. This comes as we eye our 5th anniversary next month.

As we celebrate, we understand it is simply the reflection of true need from our partners. We are proud to have met this need with every resource we have at our disposal.

We continue to grow in response to partner demand. For perspective, we are likely to loan $2 million worth of tools in 2017 alone. We are honored to come to work every day and humbled in service to our partners as we join hands to strengthen and celebrate our shared community.

Thank you for being part of our success in service to others. If you’re reading this, you are a friend who has helped us along the way. Please consider sharing this with another friend who might be able to use our resource.

$10 million, here we come! In fact, our goal is to be posting about $10 million by April 30th, 2019. So stay tuned!

AmeriCorps NCCC Gets Things Done

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps ( NCCC) is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18-24. With only five campuses across the country, we’re fortunate to have one based right here in Bmore!

On March 1st and 2nd, the ToolBank hosted both full units of the campus–102 total volunteers. Amazingly, more than 620 hours of service were logged at the ToolBank over these two days.

We crossed a ton of to-do items off our list thanks to our friends at NCCC. Among other things, corps members helped repair broken tables, refurbish wheelbarrows, construct portions of the floating wetlands, perform spring maintenance in our gardens, clean up trash throughout our neighborhood and weed hundreds of street trees we’ve planted in the past few years.

Here’s a photo log from their two amazing days of service:


Floating Wetlands Initiative at the ToolBank

FW axon pic

Early every year, the ToolBank buzzes with the sound of drills and staple guns as volunteers help us construct floating wetlands for launch in Baltimore Inner Harbor during Earth Week.

Floating wetlands are 4 x 8′ structures that create surface area for planting of native grasses such as spartina and marsh hibiscus. The root systems of these plants help filter toxins out of the water including nitrous and phosphates, which are commonly found in agricultural runoff. Floating wetlands mimic the benefit of natural wetlands, creating native habitat for a host of avian and marine wildlife while filtering micro toxins.

Each year since 2014, the ToolBank works with partners Biohabitats, Inc. and the Waterfront Partnership to construct, launch and maintain the wetlands at optimal capacity. 10 new wetlands will be launched during Earth Week this year.

The ToolBank hosts partners as volunteers for the construction of the wetlands, creating dozens of knowledgeable ambassadors as we build. This year, these groups helped us build the 10 new structures:

Americorps National Civilian Community Corps

Howard Community College

Johns Hopkins Theta Tau co-ed sorority

Johns Hopkins Sustainable Hopkins Infrastructure Program (SHIP)

Johns Hopkins Office of Sustainability

Towson University President’s Leadership Program

University of Delaware Alternative Spring Breakers









Tool of the Month: Orbital Sander

16142965_10107579853115528_7440910891992074834_nSanding Collage

The orbital sander is a corded, palm-grip sander used in wood finishing. It’s light-weight and versatile, lending itself to a range of community projects like those pictured above with partners The Mission Continues – DC and City Year. Our DeWalt brand sanders have gone out 39 times so far this year. With only 8 in inventory, you can see that these tiny but mighty machines see a lot of love from our partners.

Recently, The Mission Continues – DC service platoon used orbital sanders to refinishing a wooden stage in a school auditorium. City Year in DC also used our sanders in service to a school partner to refinish students lockers. Our friends at the Downtown Sailing Center also put our fleet to work refinishing the exterior on a number of their boats to prepare for the sailing season.

We’re proud of the work our partners are able to achieve in service to youth with our mighty little sanders!

Tool of the Month: Digging Bar


These well-loved digging bars are worth their weight in service! A simple design belies this tool’s versatility. These heavy steel bars can act as a lever to pack earth around fence poles, remove air while mixing cement and clear rubble when digging holes in harsh terrain. We carry lengths of 4 and 6 feet, both available to partners for just $0.96!

This month, our digging bars deployed with The 6th Branch, who used them to place boulders to mark new green space and to remove concrete from a vacant lot that will soon become a football practice feel for St. Francis Academy.

The humble digging bar: A simple tool with powerful potential!


ToolBank Empowers MLK Day of Service

On January 16, thousands of volunteers put blue tools to use in their community in honor of the MLK Day of Service.  Over $45,000 dollars worth of tools went out our door to assist partners with 96 different projects. All said, we empowered 1,925 volunteers over the MLK Day weekend.

Partners at The 6th Branch hosted over 450 volunteers for dozens of projects in east Baltimore City. Here are some pics of their volunteers hard at work with ToolBank tools.

Volunteering Untapped Takes Over ToolBank

On the second Saturday in January, 45 friends from Volunteering Untapped joined your ToolBank for a powerful service project.


Logging over 110 hours of service, volunteers worked to prepare our fleet of wheelbarrows for a busy MLK Day of Service and take care of some much-needed seasonal branding. Even their breaks were productive, as we set up a photo station for our volunteer models so we could feature valuable seasonal tools. Check it out!



Staff Tool Picks 2016

Noah Smock, Executive Director

Favorite tool of 2016: Mobile playground!
Thanks to KaBOOM! & Target, the ToolBank was awarded this Imagination Playground set in late September 2016. We’re excited for our first full year of lending it to partners to empower play in non-standard spaces like 5K races & neighborhood celebrations.

Noah says: “Adding a ‘tool’ like this mobile playground really broadens our service in response to community-identified needs. The ToolBank is a responsive resource hub. We listen to our partners & understand that our inventory has to go beyond shovels, rakes & drills. As powerful as those reliable standards are, we have a chance to enrich our offerings when we listen to partners. While we’ll never run out of the basics, we can offer other equipment when we know it will serve our partners.”

The playground went out just twice before the cooler weather set in but look for this blue playscape to pop up in a neighborhood near you in spring 2017!

Least favorite tool of 2016: Trash grabbers15675854_1241720742578475_4032218819626288607_o

This one’s hard, as the work of the trash-grabber is so important & these are durable, easy to use & popular models. But to be honest, they’re also easily lost, clumsy to pull off the shelf & relatively hard to count.

We’re proud of the fact that our 70 grabbers were often out in the field throughout much of the spring, summer and fall. In fact, they went out a total of 1,219 times! We gladly tolerate the trash-grabber because we know it translates to cleaner, greener neighborhoods. But if pressed we admit: these are a pain to pull.

Thumbs up for value, thumbs down for ease to a staff of 2 people!

Rachel Thompson, Program Manager

Favorite Tool of 2016 : Medium Duty String Trimmerimg_3459

Says Rachel: “This 40 Volt Cordless Brushless String Trimmer from DeWALT is by far my favorite tool of 2016. We received two of these models in June of 2015 and loved them so much that we increased our inventory to 12 in April 2016. These are a battery- powered tool but have the power of similar gas models. Whenever I get the chance to use one of these to trim around the ToolBank rain gardens and side walk I get super excited. The power that these put out cut my trimming time by half. Due to their two string design, I get a much more even cut.

Our members loved them too! During the peak season our entire inventory was often out in the field and I would have to sneak in a quick trim between a return and pick up in the same day. Not including my own use at the ToolBank, the string trimmer went out 170 times and considering that they are only needed for half the year makes that quite an impressive number.”

Least Favorite Tool of 2016 : 9 inch Roller Cageimg_3465

The 9 inch roller cage went out 649 times in 2016, which is awesome. What is not awesome is that they went out 649 times and not a single member painted with our lovely shade of ToolBank blue! These are by far the most difficult tool to identify as a ToolBank tool once they’ve been used. Our signature blue gets covered up regularly.

Although they may be annoying in the warehouse, the rainbow of colors and the variety of projects that the roller cage gets used for make them well worth all of the cleaning and rebranding. Everything from street murals to school gyms, park benches and picnic tables got a fresh coat of paint in 2016, which makes all our hard work worthwhile. So while the roller cage may not be a warehouse favorite, it’s well-loved where it really counts: in the field!