Neighborhoods across the country are seeing the birth of community tool lending libraries. The idea is for a non-profit organization to collect and organize tools- everything from ratcheting wrenches to compound miter saws- and loan them out to members of the community. For free.
The one in Atlanta started out lending tools to local churches and non-profits whenever they did public school work days. The one in north Portland(my personal favorite), has generated an amazing amount of interest and participation by posting ads in hardware stores: "While you're here, please buy something to donate to the Tool Library." You'd be surprised how many people do.
Libraries matter because they encourage some counter-cultural ideas that are also Christian values- sharing, good stewardship, and community. They are anti-materialistic (unless you're a rancher or a contractor, you probably don't really need to buy a post-hole digger) and anti-consumeristic (you need ladder jacks? Here are the ones we have. Take care of them!) They encourage cooperation, and they actually help to build community. It turns out that sharing tools is a great way to share life.
Of course, there's no reason to limit the "library" concept to just tools (or books). Why not do the same thing with:
- kitchen gadgets (bread makers, pasta rolling machines, meat slicers)
- audio/visual equipment (HD video cameras, projectors, sound equipment)
- bicycles (locate it near a park and loan out tandem bikes, kid trailers, or cargo bikes)
It works best with specialty items (things you don't already have and only need for the duration of a project), but maintenance/repair can be expensive. Avoid things that are creepy to share (underwear, foot scrubbers, and disposable items come to mind), and be sure to include ways for people to connect through participation such as a "How this tool worked for me"-card included in the carrying case or "I was the last one to use this tool. If you need help or advice on how to use it, feel free to call me."
The goal is to meet needs and build community by sharing things. Why not start something like this in your community, and allow it to use your church basement for storage?