HISTORY OF ST. JOSEPH’S TOOL CHEST
St. Joseph's Tool Chest was founded by Ron Kroll after he, his spouse, Linda, and daughter, Mary, and nine others went to Quito, Equador in February 2008. They went to volunteer at the Working Boys Center, begun by Fr. John Halligan, a Jesuit priest, more than 50 years ago. The WBC helps the poor of Equador rise from poverty by graduating in eleven different trades. Since 1964, more than 5,000 families (25,000 people) have been able to change their lives through this incredible organization.
The group of twelve went to build a "Minga" or home for a family in the Working Boys Center. This group of volunteers and the people of WBC hauled concrete block, tied rebars, shoveled gravel and many other tasks needed for the completion of the home. The tools that were used were primitive but functional.
Fr. Halligan's philosophy of working for what you want and need rather than just getting a "hand-out" is a brilliant answer for the families in the Center. It restores their dignity and gives them self-respect and ownership of their own lives and the lives of their children.
Ron, the owner of a tool and die company, quickly realized the need for modern tools at the Center from a tradesman’s perspective. He started St. Joseph's Tool Chest with the aim of getting individuals to donate unwanted tools that could be refurbished. Working out of a shop at his home in Sussex, WI, Ron provided the refurbished tools to WBC through a charity, Family Unity International, Elm Grove, WI, since renamed Community Outreach. He also provided refurbished tools to the Fort Defiance Indian Hospital at the Navajo reservation in Arizona as well as St. Hyacinth, Prince of Peace and St. Anthony's churches in Milwaukee. Then Ron developed a relationship with the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse (SMW) in New Holstein, WI. The SMW, which supplies food, clothing and tools to 35 missions in South and Central America and Africa, has become the principal recipient of tools from St. Joseph's Tool Chest (SJTC).
In 2013, SJTC received a monetary donation from the Divestment Club of New Berlin. This group of 15 couples meets about ten times a year to discuss charities as possible recipients of a donation. SJTC was selected after a review of available documentation and a personal interview with Ron.
In 2015, SJTC was again seriously considered for a monetary donation from the Divestment Club. During an interview, Ron said he was dealing with some health issues and wondered if the Divestment Club would be interested in taking over SJTC. Bill Jonas, now President of SJTC, and Gene Kaczkowski, Secretary, agreed to take over but the operation had to be moved to New Berlin.
After some time, donated space in the form of a 100 year old hay barn with attached workshop was located in New Berlin. Machine tools used for the refurbishing process and all donated tool inventory were moved to New Berlin in early 2016. Generous help in setting up production was provided by two Milwaukee firms. Wenniger Compressor company provided a 5HP compressor to power the industrial sandblaster owned by SJTC, the workhorse of our operations. Roman Electric Co. updated the lighting and supplied numerous electric outlets to add flexibility to our workshop.
In its shortened production year of 2016, SJTC donated 486 tools to the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse. In 2017, SJTC conducted an April Tools Day® at Holy Apostles parish. Hundreds of used and new tools were received, making the donation drive a huge success. Tools of every kind were skillfully refurbished by a capable crew of eight retirees allowing SJTC to reach out to four local area charities as well as the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse and donate 1,340 tools during the year (see the Home page).