BLOOMINGTON — After her husband died last year, Normal resident Elsie Cadieux was left with boxes of tools she would never use.
“He was very handy and liked to have a tool for everything,” Cadieux said of her late husband, Andre. “I was so happy to put them someplace where they would be used.”
Cadieux donated many of the tools to a new community project, The Tool Library, started earlier this year by Matt LaLonde, an Illinois Wesleyan University junior accounting major from Downers Grove.
LaLonde has since partnered with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project to administer the project, through which residents can borrow tools for free to complete home repair projects.
Starting Jan. 11, The Tool Library will open for lending on weekends at the WBRP office, 800 W. Washington St. It will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, and 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
“This is your dad’s garage,” said Deborah Halperin, WBRP board director who staffs the project office every Wednesday, when she accepts tool donations for the library from 3 to 5 p.m.
Halperin also is coordinator of IWU’s Action Research Center, where she supervised LaLonde during his summer internships.
LaLonde spent three days each week working for State Farm Insurance Cos. and two days each week working with Habitat for Humanity of McLean County’s Restore, where Halperin said LaLonde saw a need for a tool library in Bloomington-Normal, especially the city’s west side.
“We have a lot of renters and first-time homeowners — it’s where housing stock is affordable,” Halperin said.
LaLonde acknowledged the west side, spotted with blight, could benefit from the tool library, but it will be open to anyone.
“Providing low-income families with free tool resources is great, but I think even middle-class and even upper-class who can afford to buy a tool, it just doesn’t make sense to spend $100, use it one time and put it on a shelf,” LaLonde said.
Halperin said The Tool Library could help people weatherize their homes, saving on utility costs, and improve safety and curb appeal that can increase the value of their homes.
“People who live in safe homes … and feel like they’re comfortable in that space, that’s what makes the community stronger,” said Halperin, adding the library project could inspire more community involvement, perhaps as two people standing in line for tools discuss their own projects and community needs.
She said she expects to learn a lot about what people need in the first few months of opening the tool library, as some tools likely will be borrowed constantly while others sit on shelves. Halperin said some have suggested stocking tools for car repair, a need for some in order to work.
“It could go a lot of different ways,” she said.
As of mid-November, the library had about 75 tools on hand, but with a $1,500 grant awarded through the IWU Weir Fellowship, LaLonde said a new tool shopping spree is in the works. WBRP also is seeking a grant through the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant.
The Tool Library also will enlist two other IWU students who have experience with tools to work 15 hours each week as co-managers of the tool library, LaLonde said.
More information about The Tool Library, including a growing list of available tools, is available at www.thetoollib.com.