Tools, tables, training and more: Cincinnati ToolBank has what nonprofits need, for less

Where can nonprofit organizers go when their upcoming event requires dozens – or even hundreds – of tools? Or when their fundraiser calls for a roomful of tables, chairs and AV equipment? The answer is the Cincinnati ToolBank, which has virtually everything they’ll need at prices that are impossible to beat.

Several months from now, the ToolBank will offer nonprofits even more. Fresh off its 10th anniversary, Cincinnati ToolBank is immersed in its own buildout, converting the upper floor of its 25,000-square-foot warehouse in Roselawn to a sprawling, multi-purpose space for training, co-working, and staff and board meetings.  

An affiliate of Atlanta-based ToolBank USA, Cincinnati ToolBank was a fast-rising star on the local nonprofit scene in 2019, when it served more than 230 agencies and 45,000 volunteers with some $1.6 million worth of borrowed tools. Desperate for more space, the ToolBank moved out of its 14,000-square-foot warehouse in the West End and into its current space on Seymour Avenue. 

“We couldn’t fit any more tools, we couldn’t hire any more people, and we couldn’t grow,” said Executive Director Kat Pepmeyer. The old warehouse, she added, also “had more character than it should have,” including a slanted floor and leaky roof. 

 Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy students

Captial campaign put on hold

Pepmeyer explained that the ToolBank’s leadership team was ready to launch a capital campaign for the second-floor buildout when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “We had all these great plans,” she said. “Then the shutdown happened, and we collectively took a step back. We realized we weren’t feeding people; we weren’t saving lives. Our business model depended on volunteers getting together. So, 2020 didn’t feel like the right time to launch a capital campaign.” 

As the world began to re-open in 2022, ToolBank’s leadership team revisited the need to expand. They approached the construction industry to share their vision for a space that would not only help fulfill ToolBank’s mission, but also would serve critical community needs. In no time, several contractors had signed on to bring this vision to reality: Valley Interior Systems, Clark Dietrich, CertainTeed, Waltek, Kraft Electric, Lithko and Perfection Group. In addition, Turner Construction Company generously agreed to manage the buildout as their Turner Leadership Project for the year. From creating a schedule to coordinating with all trade contractors involved, Turner’s team has dedicated countless hours to complete this project. 

“We value the work that ToolBank is doing and believe they have the systems and partnerships in place to support workforce development. They are truly doing an indispensable service for not only our industry but also for the community.” Zach Williams,
superintendent of Turner Construction

The new warehouse – with a 5,000-square-foot basement and two 10,000-square floors – immediately provided all the space needed for a lending inventory that comprises more than 220 different types of tools and equipment in volumes large enough to equip thousands of volunteers at a time. That inventory includes more than a thousand shovels, 300 wheelbarrows, hundreds of small hand tools, and everything from table cloths to bullhorns to oversized scissors for ribbon-cuttings. 

That campaign is now in full swing, with $220,000 raised toward the $450,000 goal, and construction rapidly progressing. 

Training, too

On top of managing the construction side of things, Turner Construction has also partnered with Lydia Burns from Allied Construction Industries to host student volunteer days on site. Students from Woodward High School and the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy have worked alongside professional carpenters, learning in a real-world scenario to construct bathrooms in the refurbished space. The goal was not only to learn and practice, but to see what impact their work will have on the community.

Easterseals Redwood is also using part of the second floor as a training center for individuals who are seeking workforce development certifications. “This has always been the dream—to provide training for kids and adults who want to learn more about the trades,” Pepmeyer said. “That is our vision for the future.”

Target date for completion is Aug. 23. 

(left) CCPA students learning from Valley Interior Systems veteran carpenters;
(right) Valley Interior Systems, pre-fabrication team member

In the meantime, Cincinnati ToolBank, with an annual operating budget of $356,000, continues doing what it does so well: lending valuable tools at minimal cost to nonprofits. Over the ToolBank’s first 10 years, the agency served 581 agencies and 315,076 volunteers, fulfilled 5,024 orders, and saved nonprofits $11.2 million. 

How does it work?

Nonprofits pay a modest annual membership fee, which is dependent on their size, and then incur a minor charge – “next to nothing,” in Pepmeyer’s words – for every item used. For example, the weekly rental rate for a large wheelbarrow is just over $2; a large adjustable wrench, 31 cents; banquet chairs, 90 cents each; a heavy-duty pop-up folding tent, $6.57. 

Nonprofits also reap additional savings through ToolBank’s ability to store, clean and repair tools. Cincinnati Parks, one of ToolBank’s frequent users, donated a cache of tools from Eden Park with the idea that borrowing them at a low cost from ToolBank was easier than storing and maintaining them.

All told, a system that focuses on community sharing and reuse “saves a lot of space in the landfill,” Pepmeyer noted. “It saves nonprofits from using a grant to buy tools they only need once.” 

Woodward CTE High School student working alongside Turner professional 

Some examples…

Nonprofits served come in all sizes. Habitat for Humanity paid $2,000 for the use of $65,000 worth of tools last year for its annual Rock the Block home-repair events. Those tools – to name a few – included saws, street sweepers, chainsaws, drills, ladders, paint trays, lawn mowers, rakes, loppers and shovels. The Evanston Community Council spent $354 to secure $11,764 in supplies for six separate events, including clean-ups, a Memorial Day Parade and flower-planting. 

On a smaller scale, the Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Nature Center, and Friends of Harriet Beecher Stowe House were able to spend less than $100 for well over $1,000 worth of tools or event supplies.

Student from CCPA working alongside Turner and Allied Construction Industries team members

Accepting donations

The ToolBank accepts donations of new and gently used, high-quality tools, tool accessories, and maintenance supplies. In particular, it is seeking new or gently used TVs, monitors and audio-visual equipment. Donations of materials that exceed ToolBank’s needs are either sold at ToolRush or given to other organizations that can use them. 

Sponsorship and naming opportunities remain available for Cincinnati ToolBank’s training center and community space within the warehouse buildout.


For more information, or to donate, please visit https://www.cincinnatitoolbank.org/give/donate-funds/.  


This content sponsored by Cincinnati ToolBank.


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