Modcon Living Continues to Make an Impact with Help of Social Enterprise

ModCon's Tool Library - Photo by Brett Lawrence

If you’re of a “certain age”—read, “OK, Boomer”—you likely remember the late ‘60s, early ‘70s ABC series “The Mod Squad.” The series featured an unlikely trio of undercover detectives, each representing a segment of the era’s counterculture, tackling big, sticky cultural issues.

Today, Columbus has its own Mod Squad in the form of a social enterprise founded by longtime Central Ohio nonprofit Modcon Living. The business is tackling cultural issues in its own way, helping support the crucial mission of its parent nonprofit.

The 2020 version of Mod Squad is a fee-for-service social enterprise that delivers modifications and construction renovations to just about anyone who needs them. Unlike Modcon, whose services are largely restricted to seniors, Mod Squad provides repairs to both homeowners and renters, young and old. And those services are cost-effective, with the social enterprise billing customers just $60 an hour. 

Wondering what Mod Squad can do for you? Julie Smith, Modcon’s retiring executive director, says if it doesn’t require a permit, Mod Squad can typically tackle it.

“If you need grab bars, need a vanity, need a ceiling fan hung, you should call us,” said Smith, who added other typical jobs include fixing the guts of a toilet, repairing tub and shower valves, installing a new bathroom vanity or fixture, installing faucets and handles, repairing screen-doors, adding handrails, and replacing window panes.

Smith says she likes to think of Mod Squad as Franklin County’s handyman service, a sort of on-call helping hand. But the social enterprise does more than help homeowners and renters with projects. All of Mod Squad’s profits go back to Safe At Home, Modcon’s grant program for low-income seniors.

Modcon’s Tool Library – Photo by Brett Lawrence

Although Smith is headed for retirement, she packed a lot into her final year leading Modcon. In addition to the launch of Mod Squad, Modcon relocated to a new warehouse space at the end of 2019, providing more square footage and a convenient location near John Glenn International Airport.

Earlier in the year, Modcon rebranded after a 30-year history as Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, leaving behind a long partnership with their national network, but embracing the opportunities to more narrowly tailor their mission and work to the unique needs of Central Ohio.

Within days of their official rebrand, Modcon was named one of Philanthropitch Columbus’  inaugural winners, accumulating nearly $27,000 in funding.

In the midst of launching a new brand, attracting new funding, launching a new social enterprise, and starting a search for a new executive director, a few Modcon staples remain the same.

Its extremely popular Tool Library can now be found at its new warehouse at 3840 E. Fifth Ave. It is, Smith insists, “the best thing we have going.”

The Tool Library is a membership program with sliding-scale fees based on a member’s self-disclosed income. The scale is anywhere from $0 to $40 for an annual membership and affords members access to an array of tools, from garden and lawn rakes, shovels, weed wackers and lawn mowers, to more heavy-duty tools such as nail guns, leaf blowers, band saws, and more. Tools are loaned for one to seven days (gas-powered tools are one-day loans).

And, of course, Modcon’s core services remain intact. The organization continues to focus on serving senior homeowners, working with about 200 every year to fix roofs, repair furnaces, address plumbing leaks, and tackle electrical work, among other things, all either for free or at a discounted rate.

Smith calls her departure the right time for her and for the organization, and insists the board and the team she leaves behind are ready to move the Modcon family forward, toward bigger and better things. Mod Squad will be at the forefront of those efforts, helping to funnel visibility and profitability to its parent organization. While Smith may no longer be part of the Mod Squad, she’s confident that the season ahead is destined for a happy ending.

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