Words: Uma Basso
Editor’s Note: Sonnhalter is the marketing agency that represents MCAA members Mortar Net Solutions and Kapro Tools. Their efforts with the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity has helped to build and furnish many homes for more than 10 years to date.
More than a decade ago, Sonnhalter had a vision to give back to the community. Choosing to partner with the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, Sonnhalter soon found a way to contribute beyond the traditional building project. Recognizing the need for tools and construction materials to support Habitat for Humanity’s mission to build quality housing that is affordable for families, Sonnhalter jumped on the idea of a Tool Drive.
Sonnhalter completed their 11th Annual Tool Drive this past August. We caught up with Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, Public Relations Foreman, and Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect, to learn more about Sonnhalter’s innovative way to give back to the community.
The Sonnhalter Tool Drive: The Beginning
Matt Sonnhalter, Vision Architect at Sonnhalter, shared the company’s desire to give back to their community. During an agency brainstorming session, the Sonnhalter team was challenged to find a cause aligned with their client base. As a marketing agency dedicated to clients serving tradesmen, supporting the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity’s mission seemed like a perfect fit.
While taking part in a home building project was the initial thought, Sonnhalter found that it could make a greater impact on the community by partnering with the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity to host a Tool Drive. With the agency’s ties to different manufacturing sectors, reaching out to Sonnhalter’s clients for donations was a great way to engage others in their cause. To round out its overall vision of giving back, Sonnhalter also rallied the local community to donate tools and building supplies to a worthy cause.
The Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to bringing affordable housing to communities in the area. Habitat for Humanity, a national nonprofit found throughout the country, furthers this cause by building new or rehabilitating existing homes. From there, the nonprofit connects homeowners with an affordable mortgage that fits into their household budget. The goal is to supply quality housing that families can afford.
Beyond this, Habitat for Humanity engages local communities and businesses through its neighborhood revitalization projects, area collaborations, and its ReStore home improvement store.
What Is the Sonnhalter Tool Drive?
Whether building a new home or renovating an existing structure, Habitat for Humanity relies on donated materials and labor to keep down costs. Tools and materials are essential for the volunteer project crews working on the job site.
Through Sonnhalter’s Tool Drive, manufacturers, distributors and other tradesmen can help further the cause of Habitat for Humanity by donating tools and materials. Whether it’s overstocked inventory, product demos, or just items that a company no longer uses, these donated tools and materials are used on Habitat’s job sites.
Donated items, such as tools, appliances, furniture, and supplies that are not used on the job site, are sold to the local community and contractors through Habitat’s ReStore location. The proceeds from the sale of donated items are used to continue Habitat for Humanity’s mission. Either way, Habitat for Humanity benefits from the generosity of its donors.
Sonnhalter held its first Tool Drive in 2010. Working with their partners in the industry and the community, they raised $16,000 in their first year. The Sonnhalter Tool Drive has collected over $310,000 in tool and building supplies since it started this fundraising event more than a decade ago.
While supporting a charitable cause may have started with the desire to give back, the Tool Drive grew into something more. It became an all-agency initiative with everyone eager to help. Staff would get the message out and engage with existing or new donors. Sonnhalter’s team would drive around in the Habitat for Humanity box truck to pick up donations or arrange drop-off locations.
Beyond engaging the staff, the local community was encouraged to take part in this charitable initiative. Reaching out to area churches, libraries, and even recreation centers, people were asked to donate used tools, building materials, appliances, and home goods that they were not using.
While this is a fantastic way for a homeowner to clean out the clutter in their garage, the Tool Drive also brought attention to the need for affordable housing for lower-income families. People who may not participate in a traditional Habitat for Humanity home build project could still contribute to the cause in another way.
The Tool Drive also encouraged industry partners to engage in this local community project. By donating excess inventory, demo models, or tools or materials no longer in use, they could support the worthwhile cause of affordable housing and community development.
Running A Tool Drive During a Pandemic
Fundraising during a pandemic is not without its challenges. Since a big part of the Tool Drive involves engaging with the community, picking up donations and drop-off boxes was not always an option. Even Sonnhalter’s “Lunch and Load” day, where the staff celebrates together over lunch after spending the morning picking up donations, was put on hold.
Another unknown was the community and industry partners’ financial ability to even contribute during such a time. Yet, even the pandemic could not hold back the community’s giving spirit. Notably, community contributions of tools and materials were higher this year as many people spent time cleaning out their garages and homes while they were home.
To get around some of the logistical challenges with picking up donations, many manufacturers shipped their donated tools and merchandise to Habitat for Humanity directly. This sped up the delivery of donations and made it safer than picking up the items in person.
While collecting donations during the pandemic was challenging, the Sonnhalter Tool Drive was a success in 2020. At the onset of COVID-19, there was a real concern that donations may fall, however, donors were far more generous than previously thought. The 11th Annual Tool Drive raised an impressive $27,000.
How Can Someone Participate
Every August, the Sonnhalter Tool Drive accepts donations of tools and construction supplies. In previous years, donated items were left at drop-boxes and designated drop-off areas throughout the community or Sonnhalter would pick up the donated items at the homes or place of business.
The Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity can use help year-round. Manufacturers, distributors and members of the community and interested tradesmen may Interested in making a donation now or in the month of August, visit www.Sonnhalter.com/tooldrive. In addition to tools, donations of any kind are accepted, as The ReStore retail by Habitat for Humanity provides essential items from furniture to decor pieces that can be used in homes of those in need.