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Who's Helping Around Here?
by David Buczek
Darren Cotton of the University Heights Tool Library
Have you ever had to do work around the house, but have lacked the tools to do the work? Here in Buffalo, Darren Cotton, 26, has developed the perfect organization to provide you with tools for a yearly fee of ten dollars. The non-profit University Heights Tool Library has created an opportunity for people all across Buffalo to get their hands on tools to use for various projects at an extremely low cost. With this membership, you can lease tools on a week to week basis. This includes basic tools such as hammers and screwdrivers, to more mechanical tools such as an electric saw.
“I decided to implement this into Buffalo when I was studying abroad in South of France.” Cotton says that he felt this was needed here because of the rising population in the city, and felt that with the growing economy, there was a greater need to access tools rather than own them. He stated that being away from home gave him an appreciation of what the city had to offer. The University Heights Tool Library was established in May of 2011 during Cotton’s graduate years at the University of Buffalo.
The Tool Library receives a large sum of its money from the University District Council Office Funding program through the City of Buffalo. Cotton emphasized that this part time job has helped him to expand across all of Buffalo into bigger initiatives such as ReTree The District. The Tool Library has invested countless tools to plant hundreds of trees all across the city. Cotton currently works at the University of Buffalo for the Regional Institute which is heavily involved in urban planning within the area. With an undergraduate degree in International Studies, he has learned to utilize multiple business aspects of cultural diversity, and has incorporated them into this brilliant idea for a better Buffalo.
When asked about the future of the new business, Cotton responded, “Right now we are at a crossroad as to whether or not we want to keep this a volunteer organization or expand this into a professional one.” With the money that the Tool Library has raised through several avenues of donations, membership, and investments, Cotton has taken over the empty business storefront next door. Once an old run down and beat up office space, the Tool Library has invested time and money into repainting, reflooring, and more importantly rebuilding the store front to look more appealing.
“As we were remodeling, I had never seen so many volunteers in one little shop before. I was really pleased to see it.” When asked about what he was going to do with the additional space, Cotton said that he planned on possibly adding this as a work room for people who are in need of some extra space. As the Tool Library continues to receive investments, they will look to expand into other decayed areas in Buffalo to help spark local neighborhoods.
The simple aspect of borrowing tools for ten dollars a year has expanded into a new kind of development here in Buffalo. This small shop not only offers a variety of tools to come home with you for simple repairs, but also offers a complex connection of city organizations, and the hundreds of volunteers that are helping to rebuild this city. With more college students like Darren staying in the city and coming up with new ideas such as the Tool Library, Buffalo will continue to become a better city than it once was.
The Tool Library is always looking for new members and volunteers. For more information on how to volunteer or for membership access, you can see their hours of operation and can sign up at www.thetoollibrary.org.
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