Building the Future of Cleveland Through Donated Tools

Words: Carrie Snider

12th Annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive to Benefit Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity

Words: Carrie Snider
Photo: Sonnhalter

Every August for over a decade, people have donated tools, building materials, housewares, furniture, and funds as part of the Sonnhalter Tool Drive. It’s pretty amazing how much impact some old tools have had to the local community. 

All of the donations have gone straight to the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, which means two things: the items can be used to build affordable homes for families or individuals in need, or the items can be sold in the ReStore where people can buy used building materials and tools for less than retail. 

Proceeds from ReStore sales are used for building and rehabilitating Habitat for Humanity homes, making it a win-win for all involved.  

Now it’s time to add to that total impact. The 12th Annual Sonnhalter Tool Drive will be held from August 1 to 31, 2021. Organizers are asking people to look through their garages, attics, sheds, warehouses, and work sites for possible items to donate to the tool drive. New or used items are accepted. In addition, organizations, businesses, and manufacturers are asked to donate extra inventory, demo models, tools, and building materials to the cause.

When it comes down to it, a seemingly small donation could mean a lot. Who could your old tools impact? 

How to Donate

Bring items to a designated Sonnhalter Tool Donation Station. For more information about how to donate or to arrange pickup, contact Rosemarie at rascherl@sonnhalter.com or 216.242.0420 x130 or visit Sonnhalter.com/tooldrive. Not sure if your items can be donated? Read this handy guide to find out more about the kinds of tools and other items they accept. In general, they accept items that are in good working order, have all the needed pieces, etc.

From Inside and Outside the Community

While year after year, the tool drive receives many donations from the local community, Sonnhalter’s Public Relations Foreman Rosemarie Ascherl explained that an even bigger component is donations that come from outside the neighborhood.

“They might be manufacturers or our clients, suppliers, distributors; they might be cleaning out warehouses or cleaning out extra inventory, and ship it either to us or directly to the Habitat for Humanity,” she said.

The tool drive is a chance for these firms to clean up shop and help others at the same time. 

Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect at Sonnhalter, has also seen the generosity of those who live in Cleveland by offering donations of some tools, or some furniture. Then there are the donors who have an excess of bulk building supplies. 

“A lot of the bigger donations that we get tend to be from clients, past clients, or people that we know in the industry, specifically in the masonry world, like Mortar Net Solutions,” Sonnhalter said. “I know there's a lot of great brands and companies that work in the masonry industry; we'd love to get some additional folks to participate as well.”

Because the more donations they can get, the more Habitat for Humanity families in Cleveland they can help.

Donations for the Sonnhalter Tool Drive tend to ebb and flow from year to year, but they have averaged  more than $28,000 in donated items and funds each year. Some years they get higher and others lower; as Sonnhalter explained, the more times people hear about the tool drive, the more likely they are to take the time to donate this year or the next. 

Surprisingly, in 2020 during the pandemic, even with social distancing restrictions in place, people went above and beyond to donate. Perhaps people had the time to dig around for donations, or they felt the need to help others more keenly.

While traditional drop-off and pick-up wasn’t an option during COVID, manufacturers got around it by shipping straight to Habitat for Humanity. When it was all said and done, last year’s tool drive brought in a whopping $27,000 in donations. That total went a long way in helping many in the Cleveland area get affordable places to call home.

Where it All Began

Over a decade ago, when Sonnhalter was looking for a way to give back to the community, they brainstormed ideas on how they could do just that. They realized that partnering with the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity was a natural fit. Habitat for Humanity needed more tools and building supplies, and Sonnhalter had the connections to get the word out to the right people and organizations. Thus, the annual tool drive was born. 

They raised $16,000 in donations the first year alone. The first-year results were certainly encouraging, and they added to their total every year since.

While getting the word out about the tool drive to gain donations has been the main goal, another benefit has resulted. As more people have heard about Habitat for Humanity, the more local people and organizations realize how needful affordable housing in the area is. In turn, they become more than just donors, but they become advocates for the cause. 

All these years later, organizers at Sonnhalter never expected the tool drive to grow as much as it has. The generosity of local residents and businesses in and out of the community continues to astound everyone. Whether someone is giving just one hammer, or a company is offering a truckload of building materials, there really isn’t a “small” donation. As people come together, little by little, they’re building a better Cleveland for everyone. 

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