This old house: Lakewood to introduce unique tool lending library for repairing century homes

There are more than 17,000 homes in Lakewood that were constructed 100 years ago. And while these homes comprise Lakewood’s charming and unique landscape, they carry their fair share of upkeep.

LakewoodAlive is working on giving its residents access to the tools they need to maintain, repair, and update their homes with its proposed Lakewood Tool Box—a tool lending library where members can borrow the tools they need for home improvement.

“Most homes in Lakewood were built between 1900 and 1920,” says Allison Urbanek, LakewoodAlive’s housing and internal operations director. “A very large percentage of our houses are turning 100, if they haven’t done so already.”

The Lakewood Tool Box is currently conducting a $12,500 crowdfunding campaign via its website and Facebook to complete the initiative. The drive, which started Monday, September 17, has already brought in more than $3,300 and will run through Friday, October 19.

When complete, the Tool Box will be housed in a 40-foot-long shipping container at the Lake Erie Building (Screw Factory) at 13000 Athens Ave., located in Lakewood’s historic Birdtown neighborhood. An assortment of tools will be available for borrowing—from handheld power tools and lawnmowers to miter saws and roof nailers—says Urbanek, who adds that their research has shown a particular demand for ladders and sewer snakes.

Lakewood residents would be able to borrow tools based on a sliding-scale membership fee. “Like your library card, you would pay a fee, and it would allow you to gain access,” Urbanek explains. “The tools will be available to all income levels.”

Urbanek adds that they chose the Birdtown location in part because of the amount of historic housing stock in the neighborhood, and partly because there is a mix of low- and moderate-income families who would benefit from the tool program.

The Tool Box is a complement to the city’s Knowing Your Home educational series that focuses on sustainability and home maintenance practices. Additionally, Urbanek says she envisions the Tool Box as being a hub for fostering neighborhood cooperation and friendships.

“I envision people coming every Saturday, picking up a tool, and asking someone [else there], ‘What are you working on?” or saying, ‘I could help you with that project,’” she says. “Lakewood comes together in some unique ways. This will provide one more layer of coming together, friendship building, and trade sharing.”

While any dollar amount is welcome, Urbanek says certain donations are eligible for recognition and small rewards. Anyone who donates up to $24 will receive a thank you letter, and donors who give between $25 and $124 earn rewards like window stickers or free tool rentals. Donations between $125 and $199 earn a golden paintbrush—actual paintbrushes used by volunteer to paint homes throughout the community, then decommissioned and turned into works of art through spray paint. The level of $200-299 includes a golden hardhat, and the recognition gifts escalate with every donation up to $1,000.

“We just want to say thank you,” says Urbanek of the recognition gifts. “We know this goes above and beyond for most folks, and this brings so much to our community.”

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