Pixels to Planks

Simple Thread Building Change at the Richmond Community Toolbank

Pixels to Planks

As a remote-first company, it is not often that our team is all in the same place at the same time. But back in October, we gathered to spend a week co-working in Richmond, as we do a few times a year. During one of those days, we took a break from our whiteboards and keyboards to engage in a day of corporate volunteerism at the Richmond Community ToolBank.

This unique experience not only fostered team unity but also allowed our team of professionals to step out of their comfort zones to make a tangible impact on our local community.

About the Richmond Community ToolBank

Nestled in the heart of Richmond, the Richmond Community ToolBank serves as a 10,000 square foot hub for community projects, offering a vast array of tools and resources to local charitably intended organizations. The organization’s mission is to empower groups to tackle various projects, ranging from construction and maintenance to community events.

Need equipment for a park or community garden clean up? They’ve got that.
Mural project? ToolBank has supported plenty.
Fixing up the homes of our elderly? ToolBank is ready!

From picks to cherry pickers and from shovels to rototillers, the ToolBank has all the equipment one might need. Whenever it’s a charitably intended project, ToolBank wants to help at the fraction of the time and money it would take to organize this sort of equipment on one’s own.

Personally, the ToolBank is near and dear to my heart because it is the first non-profit organization where I was fortunate enough to serve as a board member. My time there was an honor and I enjoyed evangelizing their mission, raising funding, and rolling up my sleeves on service projects. Even now that I am no longer actively on the board, I was still excited for so many of my coworkers to experience the impact of an organization so important to me.

taking a tour of the warehouse

The Mission, if You Choose to Accept it

One of the best programs that ToolBank runs is one called “Building Change” in which a company can bring their team of four to forty to the ToolBank warehouse. During the course of an afternoon the teams break up into small groups of 3-4 and build items that the local community has requested. Benches for pocket parks, bat boxes, composting bins, and raised garden beds are amongst the most popular requests in the Richmond area. For Simple Thread, a local school district had requested a large order of picnic tables.

We saw this volunteer day as an opportunity to leverage our team’s communication and self-organizing skills in a hands-on setting, providing support where it was needed the most. This endeavor not only showcased the team’s technical prowess but also required collaborative problem-solving, as they navigated the intricacies of construction.

Challenges and Triumphs

As the team delved into the project, they encountered challenges that extended beyond the realms of product design and software architecture. Reading the directions, procuring the right components, and assembling the tables demanded a different set of skills. Yet, it was precisely these challenges that brought the team together in a new and unique way.

We Can Do This!

Team Unity and Collaboration

Working in a non-office environment allowed team members to interact in ways they rarely (if ever) did with each other during their usual workdays. From brainstorming ideas for optimizing construction processes to sharing laughs over a setback, the day at the ToolBank became a catalyst for strengthening team bonds.

I’m really bad at summoning the courage to make things with my hands, but the ToolBank made it super easy, fun, and foolproof. Very much enjoyed the teamwork, the end result, and the fact that I helped do something that gave back to the community. – Jeff M.

Each member brought a unique perspective to the project, showcasing that our team’s collaboration extends well beyond the digital realm. Everyone left the day feeling a little more accomplished and capable.

The Joy of Giving Back

In the end, everyone wants to feel like they are part of something larger. Everyone wants to feel like that their effort matters and will have an impact beyond what they themselves see.

Beyond the tangible picnic tables that emerged from the project, the true reward lay in the knowledge that our team had positively impacted local schools. While we only helped with a small portion of the total number of tables the district needed, it was good for our team to know that these tables would serve children as outdoor classrooms, lunch tables, or play places during recess. It also empowered some of our staff. While we have a team of digital professionals, we can often confine our accomplishments to virtual domains. In that way it was satisfying to see how the team could step into the physical world and create real-world change.


For our team, my hope is that the day spent at the Richmond Community ToolBank was fun and transformative experience for us. From walking around and watching the teams, to me it demonstrated that corporate volunteerism goes beyond just providing financial support; it is about investing time, effort, and expertise in the very communities that sustain us. When I was on the board we would always talk about how Building Change was a “win-win-win.” A win for the companies who get to do a fun and impactful team building activity, a win for the ToolBank in sharing their mission with more people, and a win for the organization who benefits from what was built.

As we returned to our whiteboards and keyboards, I think the team carried with them a satisfaction of a job well done but also a newfound appreciation for the impact they can make when working together outside our digital comfort zones.

To learn more about Richmond Community ToolBank visit their website.

To learn more about Building Change see this page of their site.

To learn more about Simple Thread’s pledge to give back to the community see our work with The Giving Wall, and a partial list of our historical donations.

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