Re-tooling on the homefront
Tools for Troops hands out free tools to veterans
As an engineer, West Linn resident Pete Wall is always on the hunt for new tools.
So when he joined hands with Patt Bilow of Lake Oswego earlier this year to found a new organization for veterans, it occurred to Wall that many service men and women returning home might also need tools for their garages.
Six months later, that new organization Tools for Troops held its first ever tool giveaway at the Robinwood Community Center. The idea is simple: veterans or current members of the five major service branches (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard) are eligible to take any refurbished tool that Tools for Troops has to offer, free of charge. The tools are gathered through a variety of networking efforts, including spring cleanups in North Portland and the Sabin neighborhood in Northeast Portland, and then an inventory is sent out to interested veterans.
In all, Tools for Troops distributed 143 hand and powered tools to more than a dozen veterans during its first giveaway June 11.
Were giving away things for free, no donation box at all, Wall said. (We have) everything from landscaping, rakes, shovels, hoes, toolboxes, power drills, chainsaws, hedge cutters
Wall himself is not a veteran, but most of his family has served – including his son, in the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army – and he said he has the greatest respect for everyone in the armed forces. Bilow, for her part, served for 20 years in the Coast Guard.
We really hit a niche, because the demand is phenomenal, Wall said. Weve got the coast guard, weve got the marines, weve got just about everybody coming in.
Many of the veterans who stopped by were notified of the service through the Joint Transition Assistance Program (JTAP). Scott Wilkening, a Reintegration Specialist at JTAP, sent out a mass email about Tools for Troops to 450 veterans in the area, some of whom looking for work.
The invitation eventually made its way to Alex Konopka, a current Coast Guard reserve based out of Astoria. Konopka and his family live in the Portland area, and he jumped at the opportunity to add new tools to his collection.
I got probably 10 or 12 items, Konopka said. Then my shipmate probably got 4 or 5 other items its a pretty cool setup all the stuff was cleaned, freshly oiled, ready to rock.
In total, Konopka estimated that his tools were worth about $300.
Its really valuable for us, Konopka said. I have a young year-and-a-half year old son its really helpful what Pete offered us.
Konopka is scheduled to leave for duty July 6, and again for a longer term in January.
Im showing my spouse stuff, so she can keep the place up while Im gone, Konopka said.
Another veteran at the tool giveaway was a carpenter with 20 years of experience who was looking for work.
Now hes got a couple of tools, Wall said.
After handing out an estimated $5,000 worth of tools during the first giveaway, Wall came away encouraged about Tools for Troops long term success.
Weve got no flyers, weve got no advertising, nothing, as we speak, Wall said. Once we get up a head of speed, by the end of this year we should be in a position to do it once a month.
Tools for Troops does not have a central location, and Wall said the best way to donate tools is to email the organization.
Well come and collect the tools, Wall said. What were looking for is for neighborhood associations to collect at one place and we can go around each month and pick them up.
Those who have tools to donate or would like more information should contact email@example.com.