Hit the Nail on the Head

South Baltimore tool nonprofit celebrates its fifth anniversary.

Raenard Weddington - October 2017

Hit the Nail on the Head

South Baltimore tool nonprofit celebrates its fifth anniversary.

Raenard Weddington - October 2017

Baltimore Community ToolBank executive director Noah Smock. -Justin Tsucalas

Standing in an open warehouse, surrounded by aisles and aisles of shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows, Noah Smock sifts through a thick stack of papers, each representing a charitable organization that has borrowed tools from his South Baltimore supply in recent weeks.

Smock is not a manager at Lowe’s. He is the executive director of the Baltimore Community ToolBank, an inventory of some 5,000 tools that can be rented by schools, churches, charities, and other local organizations for a mere three cents on the dollar. The cost-effective strategy helps these do-gooders and underserved communities take on projects that they can’t afford. “The people we serve are often tasked with solving difficult problems with very few resources,” says Smock. “These tools allow them to realize impossible dreams.”

Since launching in 2012, the local nonprofit has partnered with some 500 organizations, including the Y of Central Maryland, Parks & People Foundation, and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, which used the tools for everything from daily tasks to large-scale projects, such as tree plantings, playground restoration, and urban farming.

This past summer, with the help of the ToolBank, the South Baltimore Partnership conducted major neighborhood cleanups, which president Betty Bland-Thomas says would have otherwise been impossible. “I couldn’t afford to buy shovels, power tools, gloves, and weed whackers for 25 people,” she says. “The ToolBank has been a blessing.”

The nonprofit was once “promise rich and cash poor,” as Smock puts it, but it now has two full-time employees, a 20-person board, and plans to empower some 50,000 volunteers in 2017. The work is sustained by grants and donations from the likes of DeWalt, Home Depot, and other foundations, but mostly, the community.

In return, Smock and his team do their part to beautify their own somewhat gritty South Baltimore neighborhood, having added bright blue murals and two rain gardens to the warehouse-lined Wicomico Street. “We want to strengthen and celebrate our communities,” says Smock. “To me, tools are empowerment.”





You May Also Like


On The Town

Baltimore’s Little-Known Pickle History Celebrated at New Festival

Everything from fried pickles to pickle ice cream will be served at the September 22 event.

The Chatter

As Hurricane Dorian Travels Up The Coast, Experts Assess Baltimore’s Storm Readiness

Taking stock of the city’s preparedness in the case of a major weather event.

The Chatter

Trump's Continued Attacks on Baltimore Addressed in Democratic Presidential Debate

Candidates are some of many who have come to the city’s defense in recent days.


Travel & Outdoors

Crazy Train

Is the proposed 300-mile-per-hour maglev train Baltimore’s future? Or fantasy?

News & Community

The Revivalist

Bill Struever remade Baltimore’s harbor neighborhoods. His second act may be more dramatic.

The Chatter

Baltimore Clayworks and City Youth Create Tile-Mosaic Mural in Park Heights

Ceramic arts center partners with community organizations to bring the project to life.

Baltimore Community ToolBank executive director Noah Smock. -Justin Tsucalas

Connect With Us

Most Read


Baltimore Clayworks and City Youth Create Tile-Mosaic Mural in Park Heights: Ceramic arts center partners with community organizations to bring the project to life.

The Mare Projects Connects Communities in the African Diaspora: Works from their first-ever residency program will be on display at Gallery CA.

Male/Female Statue: Should It Stay or Go in Penn Station Overhaul?: The future of the long-controversial 52-foot sculpture could be in question with train station redesign.

City Council President Brandon Scott Announces Mayoral Bid: Election for Baltimore’s top office expected to shape up as a generational battle.

History of Baltimore's Bygone Synagogues Captured in New Plein Air Art Exhibit: Collection of oil paintings on view at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation through October 28.