Community Connection

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!

November Tool of the Month: Folding Table

15025648_1198396640244219_2031011758177008469_oThe reliable folding table was deployed 232 times on 18 projects in November. We have 150 in inventory, so many of our ‘soldiers’ went out multiple times!

Here’s a snapshot list of partners and projects empowered by the mighty table in November:

Bea Gaddy Family Center: Thanksgiving Dinner

The Mission Continues: Baltimore & Washington DC Platoon Service Days

St. Vincent de Paul: KaBoom! Playground Build

Pigtown Main Street: Small Business Saturday

The York Road Partnership: Community Meeting

Elijah’s Blessing Community Service Center: Feeding Veterans

Baltimore Free Farm: Fruit Tree Fair

Mayor’s Fall Clean Up



October 22 was the Mayor’s Fall Clean up. Volunteers all over Baltimore City came together to clean up their community. The City provided dumpsters and extra pickup locations for disposal. We received multiple orders from our partners and even hosted a cleanup event ourselves in the Carroll-Camden neighborhood.

In one day alone, our tools went out to 18 partners, empowering 54 projects and 673 volunteers across Baltimore! The retail value of tools lent was over $40,000 dollars in this one weekend–all at pennies on the dollar to partners.

Here’s a news clip that shows a strong example of the value of our tools in the hands of neighborhood volunteers:

October Tool of the Month: The Trusty Trash Grabber


Our regular volunteer from Itineris, Ian, prepares to beautify Carroll-Camden with his trusty trash grabber!

In the month of October, more than 150 of our blued up trash grabbers went out 16 different orders. We only have 75 in inventory, so most of them were running out two and three times!

Organizations that borrowed trash grabbers to beautify their block:

Pigtown Main Street

Southwest Partnership

The York Road Partnership

The Northwood Football League

Arunah Avenue Neighborhood Association

Itineris Inc.

The New Broadway East Community Association

Green Street Academy


UMBC volunteers

School is back in session, which means that our UMBC volunteers are back in action at the ToolBank! Thanks to the Shiver Center, we continue to host regular group and individual volunteers throughout the year.


The CRU crew has joined every Friday during the school year for the past three years, making them our most loyal volunteers (and fans)!

PRC096 students 

The ToolBank is currently hosting 3 students from the UMBC 096 Community Service & Learning Practicum. We’ve gone co-curricular!

Additionally, we continue to serve as a site for orientation week, welcoming in students from all classes and disciplines to learn more about our shared community through the lens of working at the ToolBank.