Keep El Paso Beautiful's Katherine Palafox is with Fire Department Battalion Chief Ralph Johnson in the community toolshed at 301 E. Robinson. (Photos by Vanessa Monsisvais / El Paso Times)
EL PASO -- West Side Fire Station No. 22, 6500 N. Mesa, is a popular site to borrow yard cleanup equipment through the Community Tool Shed program of Keep El Paso Beautiful. Hoses, rakes, shovels and push brooms are among the most requested hand tools to clean up yards, especially in the summer, said Fire Department Capt. Manuel Torres. The tool lending program began in 2004, he said, and since then people have borrowed, used and returned the tools at no cost. But a couple of days ago, Fire Station No. 22 and all the other stations that participate in the program closed the toolsheds. The reason is simple, said Keep El Paso Beautiful Director Katherine Palafox: "We have temporarily shut down the Community Shed program to restockand refurbish the sites." A grand reopening of the sheds will be hosted at 10 a.m. Oct. 10 at Fire Station No. 27, 6767 Ojo de Agua, on the West Side. The public will be able to take pride and learn to organize their neighborhood cleanups, Palafox said. The sheds will be open before Pride Day, the citywide cleanup that involves more than 8,000 volunteers every year. Keep El Paso Beautiful received a $10,000 grant from the Supplemental Environmental Program to refurbish the sheds. Palafox said this was a good time to meet with officials of the city's Environmental Services Department and the Fire Department to improve the program. Now, fire stations in the program are doing equipment inventories. And because several tools had gone missing, the program will reinforce the lending process. All tools are lent free, Palafox said, but tool borrowers must be 18 or older, must provide a valid identification and must fill out a lending form to check out supplies. Fire Station No. 22 was one of the first stations to start the program, she said. When the program began, Keep El Paso Beautiful opened eight toolsheds in the city, one in each city representative's district. Now the toolsheds are available at 32 fire stations. Every year, more than 600 cleanup and beautification projects are assisted through the program. The Community Tool Shed program has won many national and state awards, including the Texas Environmental Award of Excellence. Palafox said the program began in El Paso and is being copied by other cities across the country. Information: 546-6742.