New tool-lending program flourishes under quarantine
"Beautification" has been a buzzword in the City by the Lake for many years. The Colony City Council, Keep The Colony Beautiful Board (KTCB), and the residents they serve continually prioritize programs and services aimed at keeping their community clean and green. Those efforts take many forms, from outreach about the latest recycling best practices, citywide clean-up events, and traditional gardening classes, to targeted improvement projects organized through the city's Volunteer Assistance Program (VAP).
But as we all know, things changed in the spring of 2020 following the outbreak of COVID-19. It was under these new conditions that a fledgling program took flight, and "tools" became the new buzzword around town.
Made possible by the support of KTCB, a tool-lending program called, The Colony Cares, was launched in 2019 and is the first of its kind in North Texas. Through the program residents may checkout a variety of common home-improvement tools for use on their property – completely free of charge! As you would expect, available tools include lawn mowers and weed-eaters but also shovels, post-hole diggers, and safety equipment.
The Colony Cares is managed by the city's Community Image Department as an extension of the VAP. The program's primary intent is to help those residents who have the ability to keep their homes maintained but perhaps not the means. Every lawn mower lent out is one more home with a freshly mowed yard and one less potential "tall grass and weeds" violation.
Tools are not only available to individual homeowners but also to volunteer groups working on neighborhood projects, such as Scout Troops, church groups, and/or students.
So when many residents found themselves at home much of the time during recent statewide "stay home" orders, there was a sudden, greater interest in taking advantage of The Colony Cares. It no longer became necessary to actively promote the young program. Rather, there was a waiting list.
During the first couple months of 2020, staff received 85 inquiries about tools and lent out 39, which are good numbers for the late winter. Over the first two months that followed the COVID-19 outbreak, however, participation more than doubled: inquiries rose to 206 and 100 tools were lent out. (Naturally, high-touch points of all tools checked-out are sanitized by staff in between uses.) For further comparison, there were 567 inquires and 274 tools lent during the entire first year of the program, which drew some media attention from our local CBS affiliate.
It is the hope of KTCB and the City that the increased participation and awareness of The Colony Cares Tool-Lending Program continues into the coming summer and beyond. Recycling outreach and educational events are important components of any city's beautification efforts but the practical impact of helping residents maintain basic landscaping and home-repairs themselves is immeasurable – as is the value of the face-to-face partnerships developed between staff and the residents they serve.
It was the creation and implementation of The Colony Cares program, along with other citywide initiatives, that helped The Colony earn the Governor's Community Achievement Award in 2020. As a result, the City will receive $250,000 in grant funding for landscape improvement projects along TxDOT roadways in The Colony.
"The City of The Colony is extremely proud to receive this award," Mayor Joe McCourry said. "It is reflective of the relentless efforts by both our residents and city staff to promote beautification and green-living in our community year after year. We look forward to applying this grant toward further beautification of our community."