CAMP ZAMA (Feb. 26, 2020) -- Housing residents at Camp Zama and Sagamihara Family Housing Area have a trove of options for do-it-yourself projects, repairs and maintenance: the Self-Help Stores at both locations.
"We've got anything from riding lawnmowers to push lawnmowers down to a nail if you wanted to hang a picture," said Ben Ingram, supervisory engineering technician for the Housing Division of U.S. Army Garrison Japan's Directorate of Public Works.
While most residents are aware the stores offer free trash and recycling bags, many do not know about the full array of products available for free or checkout at the stores, said Ingram, who is in charge of the stores.
"We've got hand tools. We've got ladders, extension cords [and even] drip pans for your stove," Ingram said.
At the SFHA store, personnel have arranged items so they are on display, Ingram said.
"You walk in, and it's kind of like a little mini show room," Ingram said. "It's very easy for anybody. Even if you don't know the name of what you're looking for, but you know what it looks like, you can go and point and say, 'This is what I need.'"
Although both stores have identical inventories, the Camp Zama store does not have items on display in the same manner. However, Ingram said he plans to change that in the near future with a store renovation.
"I think if we present it better, it'll make it easier for the residents," Ingram said.
Ideally, personnel will have the renovation done by May, Ingram said.
The staff at both stores are knowledgeable, experienced and helpful, Ingram said.
"The guys have been there quite a while," Ingram said. "They're pretty consistent, and there isn't a high turnover on the staff."
While residents are always welcome to call the Housing office and submit a trouble ticket, the stores include supplies for easy fixes, such as replacement screens for doors, grass seed and light bulbs.
For a full list of offerings, on-base residents can visit the stores for a pamphlet. The stores offer 40 items for issue, such as picture hangers, sand paper and shower heads, as well as many items for checkout. The checkout items include 34 carpentry and plumbing tools, 16 garden tools, 10 power tools and other equipment such as carpet shampooers, dollies and floor buffers.
Currently, both stores are closed on Tuesday, Ingram said, with the Camp Zama store open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the SFHA store open Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Both stores are also closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m. and on holidays.
Ingram said he hopes to change the stores' hours so residents can visit at least one store seven days a week, but is still working out the details.
When it comes to checkout items, residents should know that while they are generally limited to 24-hour use, residents can call to inform clerks if they are going to be late returning an item, Ingram said.
"At least make a phone call and let us know, so we're not chasing a lawn mower three months later," Ingram said. "If you call and say, 'Hey I haven't finished yet,' or 'Can I keep it another day?' the guys at self-help are probably going to say 'Sure,' and they're just going to make a note on the ticket and change the date."
Justin Griffiths, a SFHA resident who visited Feb. 13, said he mostly visits the self-help store for free garbage bags, but he has also used the store for free drip pans for his stove and dust masks.
The stores' advantages are clear, Griffiths said.
"Everything here is free," Griffiths said. "Everything is convenient. You don't have to go to the stores or anything, you just come here and get it."
The self-store on SFHA is in Building 150, and the contact number is (DSN) 315-263-4639 or (COMM) 046-407-4639, and the self-help store on Camp Zama is in Building 694, and the contact number is (DSN) 315-267-6080 or (COMM) 046-407-6080.
Residents can call the Directorate of Public Works maintenance line with housing issues at (DSN) 315-263-4613 or (DSN) 315-263-4274 or (COMM) 046-407-4613 or (COMM) 046-407-4274.