Millvale Tool Library | Love My Neighbor! Grantees Provide Safe, Outdoor Tool Workshops Amid Pandemic

Aug 2, 2021

Did you know that any adult with a library card in Allegheny county can access over 850 hand and power tools from Millvale’s Tool Library for free? Tools for building, gardening, bike and auto repair, plumbing, woodworking, and more are all available to check out at the Millvale Community Library!

Participants at the pantry box making workshop work together to cut a piece of wood to size. Photos provided by the Tool Library.

While COVID-19 caused many of our Love My Neighbor! grantees to postpone their community projects, some were able to pivot their plans to adapt to or even address the pandemic. For example, the Tool Library, an initiative of the Millvale Community Library, was able to safely hold a series of outdoor how-to workshops on everything from Auto 101 to carpentry.

Spearheaded by Millvale residents and Tool Library volunteers Sheena Carroll and Dan Malakoff, the free workshops promoted equity among residents no matter their income level by equipping them with not only the tools, but the skills to repair their homes and vehicles. Further, the sessions served to empower their neighbors so that more residents might confidently take advantage of the free tools available to them through the Tool Library. For participants, the in-person but socially distanced workshops were a welcomed outdoor activity, providing an opportunity to socialize and learn useful skills amid a stressful and isolating time.

“Attendance [at the workshops] was way down from 2019, but I think those who did participate were much more enthusiastic,” said Dan. “Folks were just excited—and grateful—to be able to come to an in-person event.”

The Tool Library hosted a total of six workshops – four in 2020 and two in 2021. Workshop topics included Auto 101, Marble Cutting Boards: Learn to Cut Soft Stone, Little Free Pantries: A Carpentry Workshop, Learn to Reupholster, Tool Safety, and Building Cold Frames: A Carpentry and Gardening Workshop.

Some of the workshops even resulted in valuable items to help feed community members struggling with food insecurity. For example, the cold frames built during one workshop were gifted to the Gardens of Millvale to help protect their plants from adverse weather so they could continue growing additional food to give out to residents. Similarly, the little pantries created during the carpentry-focused workshop were put up throughout the community to encourage the sharing of food and resources.

  • Participants pictured at the most recent workshop on building cold frames. Photos provided by the Millvale Tool Library.

“We’re super appreciative of Neighborhood Allies for making this series of workshops possible. It was a trying year, and that the Tool Library could still offer programming where folks could safely get together, build Little Free Pantries for those struggling with food insecurity and cold frames for the Gardens of Millvale, or just get hands-on experience with tools side by side (in a socially distant way) with their neighbors, meant so much more to all of us.”

-Dan Malakoff, Tool Library Volunteer

The Tool Library also hopes to hold a Weatherization and Insulation workshop this fall. You can learn more about the Tool Library here.

In an effort to support postponed 2020 Love My Neighbor! projects, we will continue to celebrate the amazing work of our grantees throughout 2021. We are honored to play a part in empowering community ownership in our neighborhoods!

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA