THE ROOTS OF TOOL SHARING
Many of today's thriving tool-sharing programs grew out of the cooperative movement of the 1970s, which spawned a proliferation of co-ops, from food to housing and energy. Tool-sharing promotes many cooperative core values: self-help, self-responsibility, equality and solidarity.
Today's tool-sharing and lending programs range from small, informal arrangements among neighbors to large operations supporting thousands of community volunteers. They include tools for carpentry, landscaping, woodworking and car repair, and are housed in homes, community wood shops, libraries, neighborhood centers and even warehouses. And you'll find the programs supporting all walks of life, from single working mothers to farmers living off the land.
Roger Faris knows the economic value of tool-sharing programs well. He's spent the last 25 years running Seattle's Well Home Program, which includes a tool bank. The program began in the wake of devastating impacts on the city from Boeing layoffs in the early 1970s. "People were really struggling," Faris says. His program is in an old elementary school building and loans out carpentry tools; it was an immediate hit and continues to thrive, loaning tools and how-to books to Seattle residents for donations.
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Home Repair Services tool-sharing program has provided critical support to poorer residents for a quarter-century. Lending carpentry tools to people with an average income of $18,000 or less, the program helps its users realize the dream of home ownership. "It's become wildly popular," says Dave Jacobs, executive director. "We were shocked to find so many self-reliant people." In the last year, Jacobs says the program made more than 4,000 individual tool loans, many to single mothers and senior citizens.