Americans have come together in creative and inspiring ways to support each other after two back-to-back storms battered the United States coast over the last month. The national focus on financial accountability during these disasters has also highlighted smaller, local charities that have the on-the-ground perspective to meet highly specific needs in the affected areas. One unique way to help hurricane victims is by supporting ToolBank USA, which is an invaluable resource for communities that have to literally rebuild.
ToolBank USA specializes in lending out tools for volunteers across the country, whether they are working on a regular service project or responding to a natural disaster. ToolBank saves other charities overhead by reducing their costs, particularly for more expensive tools that may only be needed for a one-time project or task. According to spokesperson Caroline Jennings, every dollar spent by ToolBank saves nonprofits $3.17, which can be put back into the community. The organization's nominal fee during "Blue Sky" (non-disaster) periods is only three cents on the dollar for tools — it's mostly just to make sure they get returned on time, according to the foundation's website. When disaster strikes, all fees are suspended.
The group has permanent chapters across the country, including Atlanta, Charlotte, and Houston, as well as a disaster response truck that can be mobilized in the event of a natural catastrophe. ToolBank has so far lent over $400,000 worth of tools to the people of South Texas, but, the double sucker punch of Harvey and Irma has left more demand than supply. ToolBank is now working toward a $225,000 goal to deploy a second response truck in Florida.
“ToolBank USA has deployed our mobile disaster unit for countless natural disasters, and our highly trained staff are equipped with the right tools and knowledge to assist in Texas and Louisiana,” said ToolBank USA CEO Alan Harrison (before Irma hit). “The deployment of the mobile disaster services unit is an extension of our Houston ToolBank and will remain in operation as long as needed to assist in a smooth recovery from Hurricane Harvey.”
Both Florida and Texas will be in need of tools for a long time. There are many areas in Houston that are still underwater, where special tools will be needed to remove mold or tear down houses when the flood waters finally recede. Florida is still very much at the beginning of its reconstruction process, as many of the state's residents are just starting to return after mandatory evacuations covered much of the peninsula. According to CNBC, an estimated 25 percent of all dwellings in Florida were destroyed by the storm.
There are numerous ways to support ToolBank USA, financially or with your time. The organization currently has an Amazon Wishlist for Hurricane Harvey relief materials, which may be the best option for you if you want to donate using rewards points or a gift card. To cut down on the lost value of shipping and transportation, though, a direct donation is your best bet. You can direct your donation to their area of greatest need, to one of the local chapters, or to ToolBank itself as it tries to make its digital operations more efficient.
ToolBank's CEO says that cash is the best way to help, and that you can text 8665 to 832-327-TOOL if you want to donate. "To get tools desperately needed to those most affected, the biggest need is monetary donations," Harrison tells Bustle. "A $250 donation fuels three generators for a day and $100 buys the most requested tool available, a wheelbarrow." Finally, you can donate new or gently used tools to your local chapter in person if you live in a city with a tool bank.
In addition, Harrison also expressed how ToolBank empowers local communities to help themselves. "I’m so proud to work for ToolBank because I know I’m putting useful tools in the hands of people serving their communities," Harrison wrote in a statement. "Each tool works on multiple projects, so it doesn’t go to waste and our donors’ investments are multiplied over time. ToolBank's local affiliates touch thousands of lives and projects a year. That effort saved those volunteer organizations $8 million that could fund other parts of their missions."
Efficiency is critical during disaster relief efforts to make sure that every dollar helps as many people as possible. ToolBank USA may not be particularly well known, but it fulfills a vital role in the philanthropic ecosystem that's especially necessary in the wake of these destructive hurricanes. Your donation would be singularly helpful to the communities impacted by the storms, so give what you can to help them as they start to rebuild.