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Big nonprofit, small nonprofit

One will lend you a hammer. The other wants to end global poverty.

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Atlanta Community Tool Bank

Number of full-time employees: 3

On an average day, Atlanta Community Tool Bank Executive Director Patty Russart oversees human resources, keeps tabs on finances, and helps build relationships with partner organizations.

"I do everything from cleaning the bathroom to meeting with corporations," says the former engineer, who left her nonprofit executive job in Chicago (replete with a team of 16 fundraising professionals) to move to Atlanta five years ago.

The nonprofit — the first of its kind in the country — was founded in 1991 by a Peoplestown resident who noticed that his neighbors, many of whom were elderly, needed home repairs but lacked the tools. A small supply was gathered and grew until it snowballed into the small but robust organization that exists today.

For a nominal fee based on an organization's annual budget, a nonprofit gets access to the Tool Bank's more than 191 different types of blue-painted, mostly donated tools. The arrangement saves charities and nonprofits the cost of purchasing equipment, which this year alone has helped organizations hold onto thousands of dollars they might otherwise have spent on tools they'd use just once a year. On a recent Wednesday at a temporary workspace set up to equip a countywide day of service in Gwinnett County, Russart organized more than $25,000 worth of trimmers, pickaxes, rakes, and other tools for a school cleanup. The group just had to pay $600, which a sponsor covered.

In July, the Tool Bank and its more then 34,000 individual pieces of equipment started moving into their new home, a 27,000-square-foot warehouse in Chosewood Park along the Atlanta Beltline. And while the organization's new space is large and its collection of hammers, shovels, and Weedwackers enough to make a contractor envious, the organization remains one of Atlanta's tiniest.

In addition to Russart, a communications and outreach director, and a "tool librarian" and operations manager keep the tool bank running. (Plus their dogs, Bebe and Charlie, who both occasionally hang out at the new office.) If one member goes on vacation, another picks up his or her duties. They keep spare clothes at the office in case they need to change before a more formal function after a day lugging around equipment or demoing the new space — something the group is doing themselves and saving $25,000 in the process. After all, they've got the tools.

TOOL RUSH SALE 50 percent or more off retail to benefit the Atlanta Community Tool Bank. Nov. 2, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.; Free. 410 Englewood Ave. 404-880-0054.

FIELD WORK: CARE assists newly displaced people in the provincial capital of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo in November 2008. - COURTESY KATE HOLT/CARE
  • Courtesy Kate Holt/CARE
  • FIELD WORK: CARE assists newly displaced people in the provincial capital of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo in November 2008.


Number of full-time employees around the world: 10,185

Every Monday through Friday, approximately 200 people fill CARE's five-story office building in Downtown Atlanta. There, they keep tabs on and help support humanitarian missions and fight poverty in more than 80 countries on every continent except for Antarctica. They send assistance to people living in war-torn nations and staffers during emergencies and conflicts. And they study policy to help people have better access to clean water, prevent attacks on women, and kick-start economies.

Almost every hour of the day, someone working under the umbrella of the organization is awake somewhere around the world.

Though each country's programs are allowed largely to operate independently, Vice President of Global Support Services Patrick Solomon still touches base. That means Skypeing with a colleague in Sydney at 10 p.m. or waking up before the sun rises to chat with a project manager in Asia. It also means lots of traveling. In the last year, the Trinidad and Tobago native has traveled to Benin, Ghana, Mali, and Ecuador. Last week, he hopscotched from Bangkok to Manila and back. Just before he left, President and CEO Helene Gayle was on the ground in Jordan to visit with Syrians escaping the Middle Eastern country's civil war. Last year, CARE issued more than 5,000 airplane tickets to its employees around the world and booked more than 6,000 hotel room nights in 80 countries. In Atlanta alone, the nonprofit shelled out more than $7 million in travel-related spending.

The nonprofit's engine in Downtown and its efforts on the ground depend on approximately 100 people who try to ensure the organization pulls in enough cash to continue supporting a global mission. CARE's $586 million 2012 operating budget was larger than the city of Atlanta's. Its list of donors reads like a who's who of do-gooders, corporations, and philanthropies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For such a large organization, a major challenge is making sure CARE remains nimble enough to respond to crises. On top of all that, it's trying to accomplish the audacious goal of eliminating poverty.

"We're trying to work ourselves out of business," Solomon says with a smile. "Tough place to be right?"

THROUGH THE EYES OF A GIRL auction featuring more than 100 pieces of art by girls from Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, India and Madagascar. Oct. 11, 7 p.m. $50. Mason Murer Fine Art Gallery, 199 Armour Drive. 404-879-1500.

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