“Living here in the United States as I do, I could always get my hands on tools,” he said. But a 2008 visit to Quito, Ecuador, showed him how the other half lives.
“I saw so many men there with my same hands – my same skills – but they couldn’t get the tools. They couldn’t make things for their family,” he told your Catholic Herald in an interview in early summer.
It was a sight that inspired Kroll in 2009 to found St. Joseph’s Tool Chest, a non-profit business that receives and refurbishes tool donations from all around southeastern Wisconsin and in turn gives them free of charge to worthy individuals and organizations in the United States and abroad.
The people and ministries that benefit from St. Joseph’s Tool Chest use the tools to teach members of the community in an effort to enhance self-sufficiency in poverty-stricken areas. Kroll has partnered with Salvatorian Br. Regis Fust and the Salvatorian Mission Warehouse to provide tools to economically-depressed communities in Panama.
“We want this charity to be an expansion of St. Joseph himself,” said Kroll. “The common man thinks he’s a nobody – but look how much he did. Look how he took care of the Holy Family. When you look at pictures of him, you never see him sitting down. He’s always doing something with his hands. He’s always busy.”
Working out of his re-purposed garage in Sussex with the help of his son and grandsons, Krall collects tools, repairs them, and, with the assistance of Br. Regis, helps distribute the refurbished products worldwide.
The charity is run at Krall’s own expense, but he’s happy to give as much as he can, and he feels that divine intervention has enabled him to keep the organization going.
More InfoSt. Joseph Tool Chest accepts donations of new or used tools or cash. For information, call Ron Kroll,
www.stjtc.org or firstname.lastname@example.org
“When we first started, I was looking for a trailer to transport all the tools, and I had just retired. I was looking at one trailer in particular, and it was expensive. Then I got my first Social Security check, and it was for exactly the amount the trailer cost,” he said.
Domestic groups and parishes have also benefitted from the ministry of St. Joseph’s Tool Chest.
St. Hyacinth, Prince of Peace, and St. Vincent de Paul parishes on the south side of Milwaukee received a donation of tools in 2011. Valued at more than $5,000, the donation “most likely would not have been possible without your help, with our limited resources,” stated William E. Doepke, former director of parish resources, in a letter to Krall. Most of the tools were kept at the parish but the rest were donated to needy members of the community.
Other beneficiaries of St. Joseph’s Tool Chest include Fort Defiance Indian Hospital, a Navajo reservation hospital in Fort Defiance, Ariz., and Family Unity International, an organization that fundraises and generates volunteers for the Working Boys Center in Quito, Ecuador.
Kroll is often contacted by individuals and organizations that have need of donations. He fields requests from as close to home as Wisconsin and as far away as Kenya, where a hospital that cares for HIV/AIDS patients has asked for equipment.
Another potential partnership, this one local, would include donations to Links, a Pewaukee program that mentors troubled teens.
The far reach of the charity compelled Bill Patch, fellow Queen of Apostles Parish, Pewaukee, member, to donate.
“I felt it was absolutely necessary if I had the ability to contribute that I should. You are doing something good for someone you’ve never met out of your love for your fellow man, and when you do something purely out of love your relationship with God will grow,” he said.
“If you teach a man to fish instead of giving him a fish, it’s much more beneficial, on so many levels,” Patch continued. “He can provide for his family now and it contributes to his feeling of self-worth. It can be returned to the community.”
Another parish member, Frank Paulus, feels that St. Joseph’s Tool Chest benefits the donors as much as it does the recipients of the tools.
“Many years ago my dad passed away and I got all the tools from his tool shop, and they’re sitting in my basement and I haven’t used them in years,” he said. “Ron was more than happy to be able to take them; he fixed them up, shipped them off, and I always felt so good about it because I knew my dad’s tools were going to different places where people would use the equipment to learn to take care of themselves.”
Many of Kroll’s donors are survivors who have inherited the tools of a loved one but don’t know what to do with them.
“I’ve had many widows cry, just bawl their eyes out, as I take their husbands’ tools off their hands,” Krall said. “With men and tools, there’s this big connection. Giving the tools away is like a final closing for the widow. But what a great tribute to the man, that his tools can live on like this.”
Kroll believes St. Joseph himself would have benefitted from similar assistance.
“You see these pictures of St. Joseph leading Mary on a donkey – I don’t see a U-Haul in the background!” he joked. “St. Joseph was a carpenter, and when he would move from city to city, I’m sure he had to go to people and get new tools, re-establish himself to take care of Mary and Jesus. This is the kind of thing we’re doing.”
He relates to St. Joseph not only as a worker, but as a father and husband.
“Guys today, they’re all screwed-up and confused. We pick sports figures for heroes. St. Joseph is the kind of man we should all try to be,” he said. “I believe that Mary is pointing me to bring attention to St. Joseph. He’s such a great role model for fatherhood and manhood.”
St. Joseph’s Tool Chest is always looking for donations (equipment and money) and volunteers, and the future can often seem uncertain, especially financially. But Kroll says he has “no fear.”
“It’s not in my hands,” he said. “This is all divine intervention. This is design.”