Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tool Library Gift Cards

Give the gift that keeps on giving (and sharing) this year!

Not sure what to get your loved ones for the holidays this year? Get them a Tool Library gift card for just $20 and give them access to thousands of tools!

Gift cards are valid for one free membership to the Tool Library at the Tool Belt level ($20). This entitles members to borrow up to 5 tools at a time for up to a week at a time.

Stop by the shop at 5 W. Northrup Place during our regular hours of operation to pick yours up today!

ReTree the District – At the Root of Civic Innovation

Buffalo, NY – With the last 175 trees scheduled to be planted on Saturday, November 5th, ReTree the District will reach the 1,000 tree goal that community partners in Buffalo’s University District set two years ago. More than just planting trees, ReTree the District has sought to infuse both the virtues of the sharing economy and mobile technology into project planning and implementation. The goal was to make it easier, cheaper, and more efficient for citizens to create the change they wanted to see in their community.

A row of newly planted trees on Englewood Avenue.

A row of newly planted trees on Englewood Avenue.

Started in 2014, ReTree the District has planted 825 trees to date, attracted over 1,500 volunteers who have logged more than 5,000 service hours, and resulted in over $100,000 invested in the community.

Hundreds of UB students and dozens of faculty and staff have been instrumental in the project’s success. Through semester long independent studies and colloquium classes, students have not only participated in the physical planting of trees, but also project planning, coalition building, and the logistics required to implement a large scale service event. They’ve canvassed neighborhoods and built relationships with residents and block clubs. Once anonymous tenants of a street, students have become embedded members of the community, bringing their skills, talents, and energy with them.

“Planting trees is a great way to get out of the house, meet your neighbors, and make a positive contribution to your community.  By providing service opportunities that make an immediate impact on the community, we are changing the student-resident dynamic for the better,” said Mickey Vertino, President of the University Heights Collaborative.

Tools for the project have been borrowed from the University Heights Tool Library, a community nonprofit located off of Main Street in Buffalo, that provides individuals and community groups access to thousands of tools for just one small annual fee. Similar to businesses like Reddy Bikeshare and Zipcar, the Tool Library embraces the sharing economy and the idea that access to a product is more important (and cheaper) than ownership.

The Tool Library has also worked with students and community partners to develop many of the digital tools that have helped foster ReTree the District’s culture of civic innovation.


Volunteers sign in via text messaging the morning of the planting. #savepaperplanttrees

When the project started, there was no comprehensively updated tree map for the district. A smartphone-based application helped the team work with UB students to map over 2,500 tree locations in University District. When registration lines were backed up out the door on the first large-scale planting day, a text message-based registration and waiver process decentralized the registration process and collected volunteer contact information in an easy to use digital format. When the event’s troubleshooting phone was overwhelmed by incoming calls about broken tools, missing stakes, or other issues from the field, a text message-based troubleshooting system was created that would allow volunteers to text in issues, while organizers could respond in real time. When online surveys sent out to volunteers after the event only garnered an 8% response rate, a text message-based feedback system was implemented that increased these rates to between 40% and 50%, providing valuable suggestions to incorporate into future planting events.

As the large-scale planting chapter of ReTree the District draws to a close, project partners will be turning their attention and the use of these new civic tools to tree maintenance and stewardship. Thanks to a partnership between the City of Buffalo Parks Department, the Buffalo Green Fund, and Cornell Cooperative Extension, a comprehensive citizen-based tree stewardship program called the CommuniTree Steward Program debuted last spring. ReTree the District partners have also offered half a dozen field-based hands-on stewardship workshops throughout University District.

Whether it be large scale tree plantings, such as ReTree the District, or neighborhood cleanups, public art initiatives, community gardens, or the beautification of neighborhood parks, these civic tools allow communities to do more with less and organize in ways that would have been impossible a decade ago.

UB Students work with a resident to backfill their newly planted tree

UB Students work with a resident to backfill their newly planted tree

By focusing on the physical improvement of a neighborhood through a low-cost, participatory project like ReTree the District, organizations can engage community members directly in the process of change and provide a neighborhood with a new sense of what is possible when working together. Projects such as tree plantings are more than the sum of their parts. They are multifaceted projects that foster citizen empowerment, improve the physical environment, promote community development, and bridge the divide between diverse populations.

Project sponsors include the Buffalo Green Fund, Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, University at Buffalo, UB Academies, University District Community Development Association, University District Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt, and the University Heights Collaborative. Additional support has been provided by Akron Tree Farms, Bailey Avenue Business Association, Chestnut Ridge Nursery, City of Buffalo Division of Parks and Recreation, Dash’s Market, Home Depot, ReTree WNY, Schichtel’s Nursery, St. Joseph University Parish, St. Joseph Neighborhood Housing Initiative, University District Block Club Coalition, University Heights Tool Library, and Wegmans.


For more information, to get involved, or to donate please visit or contact Darren Cotton, Director, University Heights Tool Library (; 716-857-0096)

Community Soup Micro-grant Program Returns November 13th!


The University Presbyterian Church‘s Community Soup is back on Sunday, November 13th at 5:00PM. Share a great meal with your neighbors and help get a great idea off the ground!

The Soup Grant is a grassroots model for funding small projects through community meals. A group of people come together to share a meal at an affordable price. All income from the meal is given as a grant to support a project to benefit the Buffalo community. Everyone who purchases a meal has one vote to decide who gets the grant.

Download the full program brochure for more information.

Dinner costs just $5.00 and project proposals are encouraged from those between the ages of 15 and 25.

Proposals are due two weeks before the soup event (by Sunday at 11:59 p.m.). E-mail them to Lee Ann Grace at

Download the funding application

Be sure to follow the University Presbyterian Church on Facebook for ongoing updates on this and other community events.

University Blooms


Help plant 1,000 daffodil and tulip bulbs across University District on Sunday, October 30th. We’ll be planting on the west side of Main Street starting at 10AM and on the east side of Main Street starting at 1PM.

We’ll be targeting green spaces like Linear Park and the Rail Trail, as well as some of the Westminster Triangle Parks and in front of the new mural on Bailey Avenue.

RSVP to the Facebook Event

Apply to The Pitch Business Plan Competition


THE PITCH is a collaborative M/WBE business plan competition designed to elevate the profile of minority and women business owners in the city of Buffalo. Three businesses will be chosen from a pool of applicants to participate in a pitch-prep boot camp before presenting to a live panel of judges comprised of business owners and leaders in the Buffalo area.