The Colonie Senior Service Centers (CSSC) have started a new volunteer-run venture which hopes to keep seniors independent longer, while also helping homeowners cut down on tool costs.
Tool Box, run through CSSC’s Umbrella of Colonie, celebrated its soft opening Thursday, Oct. 1. The store at 1693 Central Ave. accepts donated tools for resale and is run by volunteer handymen and women who accept the used tools, clean them and stock the shelves. Proceeds from the store go toward helping Umbrella, which connects seniors to retired handy-workers to perform minor household repairs.
“A lot of seniors have tools left over from the years,” said CSSC Executive Director Ed Neary. And most often, when children get to the point of becoming homeowners, they end up buying their own tools, rather than use tools passed down.
CSSC worked with the Albany Guardian Society (AGS), a not-for-profit that provides services to Capital District seniors. The organization then directed CSSC to the Tool Thrift Shop in western New York for model to work with.
“We looked at their shop and how it works, then we decided to take the plunge ourselves,” said Neary.
Tool Box accepts a range of used tools in good condition, from hand-powered to automotive. It also accepts hardware, like screws and nails, brass and copper in any form, lawn and garden tools and non-liquid painting supplies. Not accepted are things like gas powered equipment, building supplies, electronics and appliances.
Volunteers are retired handy-workers from the Umbrella program, or area seniors. They accept the tools and hardware and clean them. The tools are then sold for a less-than-market price.
“Back when I was first starting out and you needed a tool or needed something, you went tot a hardware store and paid retail price,” said Neary. Now, he said, there are rentals, but the Tool Box sells the items for homeowners to keeps in the future.
AGS Executive Director Ken Harris said the volunteer-run store is also a good opportunity for Capital District seniors to get out and socialize.
“This is a program that, on face value, (homeowners) will be able to buy used tools,” said Harris. “But to actually have people there and see the volunteer engagement is going to be a worthwhile opportunity…. People will feel engaged and invested into a program for socializing.”
In addition to the tool resale, there will also be a display in the store devoted to “aging in place” prepared by AGS. The display will have informational DVDs and books to give seniors information about changing up their homes in order to live independently longer. There will also be tools and equipment, like lever door handles, as opposed to round, grab bars and pull-down shelving.
“The display is going to show the universal design feature you might have in your home to help you safely age in place,” said Harris.
Proceeds from the Tool Box will go to support the seniors who use CSSC’s Umbrella program. The program connects seniors with trusted retired handy-workers for home inspections and basic repairs. It contracts with other companies for larger improvements as well, like roof work or driveway repair.
Seniors who opt for the program usually only need it for a couple years before they move onto the higher level of care, said Neary. The workers CSSC connects seniors with are “reliable and trustworthy,” and help identify what part of the home may need to be addressed first in an inspection, Neary said.
The program largely cuts down on scamming risks as well. Within the last year, police departments around the Capital District have reported large scamming rings targeting seniors with poor driveway repairs or false home improvement plans.
“We build a relationship between handymen and homeowner. The handymen have a good background and are known to us,” said Neary. “We’re asking (seniors) to trust whoever we send in, so we want them to know we’ll stand behind them.”
To begin with, the Tool Box will be open for retail business Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., although volunteers may work more hours to accept tool donations and cleaning. Neary said store hours may expand once the program starts growing.
For more information, go to www.colonieseniors.org.