“Tooling” Around the Southeast

SEAC’s Tool Shed Empowers Rochester Residents

Words and Photos by Andrea Westerlund

Mike Evans has been with the South East Area Coalition (SEAC) for 12 years, but the organization—tasked with beautifying and supporting the southeast quadrant of Rochester—has been around since 1968. SEAC has offered many services over the years, but one of the most highly requested initiatives—and one that Mike has reinvigorated—is the Tool Shed.

Located on University Avenue, the Tool Shed officially opened for business in its current form in April 2023. With 285 members, Mike and his team have lent more than 1,500 tools to members of the Rochester community. 

“We’ve saved people more than $80,000 in tool purchases,” explains Mike. “We’ve kept an estimated 3.5 tons out of the landfill, and we have members in 34 zip codes.”

The Tool Shed isn’t just about lending out building necessities; he team also hosts DIY classes,from property investment to tool safety. SEAC really aims to be a place for the community to come together, learn, and improve their surroundings at little or no charge.

“The whole point is to remove the obstacle of cost to improve your life,” says Mike. “Next, we’re hoping to open a mobile version of the Tool Shed.”

Not only does SEAC empower the communities it supports, but italso provides a place for members to work and make a difference in their community. Anyone can take advantage of the community resources available. In fact, SEAC’s Outreach and Fundraising Coordinator, Kiki Smith, learned about the organization through an email newsletter.

Kiki’s background in fundraising and community work made her a perfect fit for the organization.

“It’s been an awesome journey,” Kiki says. “I couldn’t have found a more supportive environment.”

Now Kiki teaches workshops for people with vision impairments like herself. During this interview, she was prepping a gardening class for community members with low vision.

Rounding out the SEAC team is Nick who points to a string of less-than-awesome jobs and brief stint living in a van as the motivator to get involved with the coalition.

You could say the rest is history, but that’s probably not how the community would describe it: many of Rochester’s favorite businesses have used the Tool Shed to build businesses, make renovations, and beautify the city. Neno’s used supplies from the Tool Shed to repair equipment essential to making their delicious gourmet Mexican food. Xerox used tools to create a pollinator garden. The impact has not been small.

In addition to the Tool Shed, SEAC has hosted many community projects including a drive for Dimitri House, passing out food vouchers, and planting seeds at Kirkhaven Garden.  

“It’s literally my dream job,” says Mike. “I get to fight for my neighborhood and community. The southeast area is where my heart is.”

If you want to support SEAC or the Tool Shed, visit seacrochester.org.



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