Personality: John Michael Joyce

Spotlight on president of the Richmond branch of the ToolBank network

11/10/2022, 6 p.m.
For the last four years, John Michael Joyce has been a helping hand for the many community services in Richmond.

For the last four years, John Michael Joyce has been a helping hand for the many community services in Richmond.

The board president of the Richmond branch of the ToolBank network is intent on the organization becoming more integral to not-for-profit groups by providing rental equipment and other resources to groups still recovering from COVID-19.

“Our organization is just coming out of the pandemic, and really ramping back up as corporate and community volunteerism sees a renewed passion,” Mr. Joyce says. “I want ToolBank to become a household name to anyone in Richmond, and the first thing people think of when facing the question ‘how am I going to get this project done?’”

Originally coming to Virginia from his native Canada in August 2004, Mr. Joyce heard about ToolBank in 2019, after a friend invited him to the group’s warehouse for its annual fundraising party.

Mr. Joyce joined Richmond ToolBank later that year. Becoming part of this group as a virus loomed made the organization’s work much harder. Yet his enthusiasm for ToolBank’s role never waned.

“When I heard about what the ToolBank does for Richmond, I was blown away that I had never even thought about the unique gap it was addressing,” says Mr. Joyce when asked why he got involved with the group. “I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Elected board president last December, Mr. Joyce has focused his one-year term on raising public awareness of ToolBank in Richmond. He has leaned on the talents of the employees, volunteers and board members he works with to accomplish this, trusting their experience as part of the group to ensure success in this mission.

Mr. Joyce acknowledges that goals met during his board presidency may be tough to measure. The pandemic has resulted in a drop in donations and resources for ToolBank, but also led to increased work as they stored, provided and built necessary items such as face masks, hand sanitizer and outdoor accommodations for those in need.

However, there have been some promising results in raising Richmond ToolBank’s profile so far. In particular, Mr. Joyce points to ToolBank’s “Hammers and Ales: Party with a Purpose” event last summer at Brown’s Island, which he lauds as a big success. The event drew its largest attendance to date.

Mr. Joyce intends to continue his board service with Richmond ToolBank once his term ends.

“It has been a very rewarding experience to get more involved with the ToolBank, as well as an experience that has helped a lot with personal growth,” Mr. Joyce says.

“It is remarkable how much must go on behind the scenes to allow the ToolBank to have the impact on the Richmond community that it does, and I’m glad to have such amazing fellow board members and ToolBank employees or it wouldn’t be possible.”

Meet a leader bringing aid to those who aid Richmond and this week’s Personality, Michael Joyce:

Volunteer position: Board president, Richmond ToolBank.

Occupation: Emergency medicine physician and associate professor, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Date and place of birth: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Where I live now: Richmond.

Education: Longwood University and VCU School of Medicine.

Family: Wife, Stephanie, and children, Hugh, 4 and Cora, 2.

Richmond ToolBank is: A nonprofit organization that empowers the Richmond network of volunteers by providing tools, equipment and expertise to volunteer organizations at little-to-no cost, allowing them to maximize the impact they have on our community. We maintain a warehouse of tools including landscape tools, construction equipment, power tools, hand tools, tables, chairs, tents and more. Organizations that want to accomplish a project but don’t necessarily have the ability to buy, store and maintain tools can utilize our inventory, saving them time and money that they can instead use to advance their mission even further.

When and why founded/ founders: The organization started from the realization that access to tools often limited volunteer organizations from accomplishing all their goals, and by taking away that barrier there was an exponential impact factor on the community. The Richmond ToolBank is one of eight affiliates of ToolBank USA that reach across the United States. The Richmond ToolBank was formally established here in 2013 after a two-year market research and needs assessment was conducted. Our founding board president was Clayton Crouch, who led the founding board of directors through a vital phase of raising startup funds and hiring our first executive director, Trey Bearden. While we fall under the branding umbrella of ToolBank USA, the Richmond ToolBank is a true Richmond nonprofit with all of our funding, governance, and leadership based locally.

Why I got involved: When I heard about what the ToolBank does for Richmond, I was blown away that I had never even thought about the unique gap it was addressing. It is genius! Take the time, cost and effort of tool ownership off the plate of those that already have enough going on, and let them focus on what they want to accomplish with that time and money instead! I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.

Why I accepted board president position: I was fortunate to be nominated and elected board president, and felt it was a great opportunity to expand on my commitment to the ToolBank’s core mission. While this type of role was new to me, I knew I could lean on other leadership positions I have held in my professional life to be successful and continue our positive trajectory.

Number one goal as board president: Advance our mission through continued exposure of our mission and services to the community. Our organization is just coming out of the pandemic, and really ramping back up as corporate and community volunteerism sees a renewed passion. A lot of organizations that would greatly benefit from our services are not even aware of the ability to partner with us. I want ToolBank to become a household name to anyone in Richmond, and the first thing people think of when facing the question, “How am I going to get this project done?.”

Strategy for achieving goals: Lean on those with experience! The ToolBank could not be what it is without the amazing team of employees, volunteers and board members that keep the place going, and I knew that empowering those individuals to help us build up our mission would be the most important thing I could do.

Most important thing we have done since we began: There are too many things to count, and it wouldn’t be fair to pick one over the other. Every organization that we have helped, partnered with, or been involved with has an important role on the community. The sum of all these efforts is so much bigger than the individual accomplishments.

Biggest hurdle faced: Like many organizations, the global pandemic really put our organization to the test. Our mission is based on groups getting together and doing good with our tools, and events that were appropriately put on pause. Correspondingly, donations and revenue were down, and we needed a way that we could continue to put our resources to use for the city. We were sitting there with this huge warehouse space and all the tools you could imagine, while the people of our community were at a time of great need. I was very proud of the ToolBank operation pivoting to initiatives like mask distribution, hand sanitizer storage and delivery, as well as safe volunteer events. Our building change program is a unique and one-of-a-kind program that allowed us to use our tools and workspace to build picnic tables, benches and tables to place in community spaces. In a time where outdoor space was essential, our team found a way to provide that space. Initially we started by sending kits of materials and tools to groups to build, and then expanded to multiple builds in the warehouse, and eventually building outdoor classrooms for all the city elementary schools. We are constantly expanding this program to keep up with the demand for people wanting to get together in public spaces!

Tool borrowing is: Just the start. We don’t just want a tool in everyone’s hand, but in hands that know how to use the tools properly, safely and effectively.

Who is eligible to borrow: Anyone who wants to use our tools to perform charitable good for their community, our city and surrounding counties. As long as you are not using our tools for business or personal use, then you are eligible! Membership is free.

How volunteers can get involved: Multiple ways: Volunteers can help with build events at the ToolBank, they can help with events in which we partner, or they can get involved through affiliate organizations already using our tools. Visit our website for more information!

Richmond ToolBank partners with: All nonprofit and charitable organizations that have a use for tools in the city, (including) neighborhood associations, civic organizations, schools, faith-based organizations and city agencies.

Upcoming events: Don’t miss our annual “Hammers and Ales: Party with a Purpose” event on Browns Island (next year in June)! This is a free, family friendly open event where we build picnic tables, benches and get the word out about our organization, coupled with great music and food! But before that, stop by our warehouse and get to know our organization, and learn how we can help you help Richmond!

A perfect day for me is: Taking my family to the river, cooking a big meal for friends, and watching the kids swim and play.

What I am continuing to learn about myself during the pandemic: The importance of slowing down and enjoying the moment. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Something about me that people may not know: I came to Virginia from Canada on a golf scholarship — with aspirations of playing on the PGA tour! Maybe the senior tour is still a chance!

A quote that inspires me: “Question everything.”

My friends describe me as: Hopefully they would describe me as a good friend, who is always willing to lend a hand, or just spend time together.

At the top of my “to-do” list:Finish all the half-finished projects around the house!

Best late-night snack: (Real) poutine from a food truck in Canada.

The best thing my parents ever taught me: The value of commitment. If you commit to do something it is important that you meant it and see it through.

The person who influenced me the most: My dad.

Book that influenced me the most: “Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science” by Atul Gawande.

What I’m reading now: “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know” by Adam Grant.

Next goal: Finish the year with a smaller to-do list than I started with!