City Shaper: University Heights Tool Library Director

City Shaper: Univ. Heights Tool Library

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Each Monday, we highlight someone in Western New York who is making a difference in the community - whether it's a businessperson or non-profit leader.

This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik takes us to Buffalo's University Heights neighborhood, where you can find the University Heights Tool Library. Its director, Darren Cotton, is this week’s City Shaper.

"For just $20 a year, you get access to over two-thousand tools, so, ranging anywhere from your basic hand tools, as you see on the wall here, to power washers, shop saws, weed-whackers, all sorts of great things," explains Cotton.

The University Heights Tool Library is Cotton’s brainchild. He is a Colden native, who moved to Buffalo to go to UB.

"Ended up living in the Heights while I was an undergrad, sort of fell in love with the neighborhood and have been here ever since," says Cotton.

"What inspired you to open up this place?" asked Dudzik.

"So, I was actually living off-campus with a couple of friends in an off-campus apartment, so it was the first time I was living on my own, super excited about that, but unfortunately, we had a landlord that wasn't so great," says Cotton. "So, me and my friends started doing a lot of the work ourselves, but unfortunately as 19-year-old college students, we don't have a ton of tools, so we ended up raiding our parents’ garages for a lot of stuff we needed and that really got me thinking I'm sure I'm not the only one in this situation."

And the idea for the tool library was born. Cotton developed a business plan and started applying for grants.

"We had probably like 30 tools. So, when people walked in, it wasn't a very impressive display. It was kind of like as I like to say three rakes on a wall," he says.

The concept is simple - pay the $20 membership fee and you can borrow up to five tools for up to a week at a time. Whether you're fixing up your home, or building a garden, the tool library is open to everyone.

"We do pretty much operate on an honor system. We've lost a few tools along the way, but overall it's been really impressive the way the community has sort of embraced the concept and also sort of respect the fact that if I don't return this tool then no one else can use it," says Cotton.

Cotton and his team of volunteers also team up with other community groups like the artists from TeamRazorWire, who were City Shapers in June, to work on projects to beautify Buffalo's neighborhoods.

"I really hope the tool library continues to grow. I would love to see one in every neighborhood. It's a great, I think, asset for every neighborhood to have and is a springboard for ideas," says Cotton.

The Tool Library is staffed entirely by volunteers. If you have tools you're no longer using at home, donations are accepted.

If you'd like to nominate someone to be a City Shaper, you can email Kelly.

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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