Bikes for the World

Monday, July 14, 2014

Local Bike Donations

Courtesy St. Louis Bicycle Works
Yesterday we told you about how bikes donated by Bikes for the World are helping youth programs across the United States. We also explained why it's challenging to find new partners, something we are committed to working on continually.

Because BfW is the nation's largest bicycle reuse organization and we are handling over 15,000 bikes annually, we typically donate bikes in full containers (500 at a time). Locally, we sometimes donate as little as 30-100, but only when we know the bikes can be repaired with the recipient. This is why many of our domestic projects are earn-a-bike programs.

Family, originally from Ghana, earns bikes through Rockville
Five weeks ago Bikes for the World had shipped around 5,000 bikes for the year. That number is now close to 10,000. In the past two months, we have seen around 6,000 bikes come into our Arlington warehouse and we loaded containers every week. Needless to say, we don't have time to repair bikes coming through our warehouse; most of that is done through the partners we hand select.

But there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, in exchange for our use of the King Farm barn in Rockville we partner with the Parks and Rec department to pair Rockville youth with refurbished bikes through their TERRIFIC bike program. Our Operations Manager repairs about 50 bikes a year from our donated bikes to supply this program.

Takoma Park Middle School student
Right around the time we were working on the TERRIFIC bikes, we got word that a homeless student from Hyattsville needed a bike. We were able to find one in our Rockville supply that would work and delivered it to him last month.

The student was introduced to us through a teacher at Takoma Park Middle School and the Safe Routes to School program. His family is originally from The Gambia and relocated here from New York in hopes of better working prospects.

The family is currently homeless and staying in Hyattsville Maryland. During the school year, MCPS provides bus service to get kids to and from school, but the arrangement is difficult and makes his commute time consuming. The bike donated by Bikes for the World helped him finish out his school year and saved a ton of time.

St Augustine's Episcopal Church DC
 A few other donations materialized this spring through the hard work of some long time BfW collection partners. Finding a mechanic to get our donations in good working order is often the hardest part.

The West Springfield Rotary worked with The Bike Lane in Springfield to ready bikes for Kristi's Christmas, which donates bikes in June to Fairfax students in need.

The Waldorf Kiwanis has been doing an annual collection with Bikes for the World at Calvary Gospel in Waldorf for years. They approached us this spring and brought to our attention another church in Pikesville Kentucky who had a large number of poorer families who wanted bikes for their children.

During a recent loading in Arlington, the Kiwanis Club sent a truck and trailer to pick up 100 18 inch bikes that were donated by Bikes for the World. These kids bikes were taken to Kentucky where they will be refurbished and donated to the kids in the community.

St Augustine's Episcopal Church in DC (photo above), received a donation of seven bikes through our first Board Chairman Nick Griffin.

Every fall we also donate bikes to the Baltimore Christmas Bike Project.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Youth Programs, Learning and Earning

Courtesy Phoenix Bikes
So far this year Bikes for the World has donated over 9,500 bikes to other organizations worldwide.  While a majority of our bikes are donated overseas, many also stay right here in America. In 2014, BfW has donated bikes to eight organizations overseas. We have also donated just under 1,000 bikes to eight domestic projects
as well.

It is often more difficult to find local groups who support our mission, can accept bike donations in the larger quantities that we typically donate, AND have the workforce to fix up the bikes that are often in need of major repairs.  Nearly 100% of our donations locally are working to benefit young people, either by getting them a bike or teaching them a valuable skill.

Bikes donated to BfW FROM Phoenix Bikes
One of our favorite groups we work with is right here in Arlington, Phoenix Bikes. Phoenix Bikes is a youth program that teaches kids how to fix up bikes, but it doesn't stop there. Check out this recent article from the Washington Post to see how great this program is for yourself.

What you may not know about Phoenix Bikes, and many other groups like them, is that they also turn around and donate right back to groups like Bikes for the World. Just last month Phoenix delivered a couple truckloads of bikes to BfW that have already been shipped overseas. In turn, we donated some road bikes back to them to help support the youth program.

Courtesy BWorks: More DICK'S bikes
Back in May, BfW partnered for a third year with DICK'S Sporting Goods to offer a trade-in trade-up promotion to their customers. During this one week event, customers brought in an old bike to receive money off a new bike. DICK'S then donated all of those bikes, over 5,500!, to BfW.

Two trailers of bikes coming from DICK'S warehouses were diverted to another non-profit in St. Louis, St. Louis Bicycle Works (BWorks). This is another local youth program which can benefit from some of our donated bikes that are less suitable for use on rural village roads overseas.

Courtesy St. Louis Bicycle Works
St. Louis works with Bikes for the World to help ship bikes overseas to our same partners. Many of these youth programs, like BWorks, are based in the city and make use of more road bikes than mountain frames for their programs. They either donate the unwanted bikes to us, or ship them directly from their warehouses.

This shipment (seen left) was loaded in June and is on its way to BfW partner CESTA in El Salvador. Back in Arlington, we just finished loading a container this past weekend, that will also soon be on its way to CESTA, to support their youth program in El Salvador.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Featured Volunteer: Karen Hendrixson

It was just last year when Karen sent an email offering to help unload bikes from DICK'S Sporting Goods in our old Arlington warehouse. Karen was no stranger to BfW, she is a very active member of our board so of course we wanted her help in the warehouse.Now we can't keep her away.

Bikes for the World is always proud to boast about our active board members. They are all very passionate about the work we do and are always looking for ways to improve on that.

In addition to the behind the scenes strategic planning, almost every single member has an article of clothing, or two or three, stained with the unmistakable BfW trademark....GREASE. Dr. Karen Hendrixson is no exception, in fact she likely has some on her knee brace.

This year, Karen is a go-to pro. Last year she would offer to come out to collections, loadings...whatever we needed, but she always cautioned, I'm not sure how much help I will be...

Karen could often be found riding her bike, perhaps on the canal, or with one of her kids, but she didn't usually take it apart. It wasn't long before she knew the ropes at BfW and was spinning pedals off with the rest of us. Now she has her own trademark maneuvers. If you have a saddle that won't go down...take it to Karen, she will show you an unorthodox trick!

Karen joined our board in 2012, but she's been involved a lot longer than that. Her son did a collection with us quite a while ago. But it's her extensive knowledge of Africa that is a valuable asset to our team. She has lived in Ghana and Liberia and is currently helping to explore options of expanding BfW to Liberia. She currently serves as the board secretary.

The bonus to having Karen around the warehouse isn't just the fact that she brings us cookies and brownies...she truly understands how Bikes for the World works. She isn't just wrestling rusty bike parts, she is mentoring volunteers and checking in with staff. With Karen working side by side with staff and volunteers, she sees where we excel and where we could use improvement. This is something you can't fully appreciate sitting in a board meeting.

In fact, all of our board members have either done their own collections, mentored others at collections, picked up bikes, or even packed bikes at a loading. They have all processed a bike and had grease under their fingernails on one or more occasion.

Keeping our board members active in our program is keeping Bikes for the World strong. They understand our limitations and see our potential first hand. They are interacting with our donors, our volunteers, and even our beneficiaries.

The next time you are out at a loading make sure you say hi to Karen...and thank her for the baked treats!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Honoring Craig Annear and Nick Griffin

Jerry Rogers, Keith Oberg, Craig Annear, Nick Griffin
The long awaited tale of "How it Began"...

When Executive Director Keith Oberg (kneeling with bike in the photo to the right) made the decision to establish Bikes for the World, identifying storage and enlisting community groups to collect bikes, he did not do it alone. Craig Annear and Nick Griffin, pictured to the right of the bike at this Bikes for the World collection at Herndon High School in 2005, have been with Bikes for the World since the beginning of time, or at least since Bikes for the World formed.

Craig, who had recently retired from a career as a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency and who had a life-long interest in Africa (and whose son had recently served in the Peace Corps in Zambia), came to an event featuring a speaker from Ghana, discussing bikes in Ghana.

Nick had recently relocated from his home town of New York City to work in international assistance with a Northern VA-based agency, and knew about Keith's efforts through his brother, who had done a field survey and report on bicycles in Nicaragua.

Both saw the potential for Bikes for the World to grow, and quickly became active, spending countless hours driving trucks, mentoring new bike processors, and loading shipments. It helped that both enjoyed physical exercise and wanted to stay in shape. Both took the lead in loading 40' shipping containers, frequently tackling the infamous 'third level.' As Keith often joked to first-timers, "now you know why [we] quit our membership at Sport & Health".

This past year, Bikes for the World recognized both men with the Starley Award for leadership in our ascent. Both Craig and Nick served as Chairpersons throughout Bikes for the World's climb. Tom Tepper is the current Bikes for the World Chair.

Bikes for the World began as a "sponsored project" of a supportive Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). In essence, Keith was given free rein to manage Bikes for the World's finances and operations. Craig contributed his legal knowledge, helping to prepare a standard "memorandum of understanding" which BfW used in establishing relationships with overseas receiving partners. Nick contributed his contacts and expertise in identifying several early partners.

Over its first three years, the program grew rapidly, from 5,000 bikes handled to over 10,000 in 2008. But it was taking its toll on Keith, and on volunteers. Nick was particularly assertive in urging Keith to hire help and broaden the base of support.

Bike use in Africa
In 2008, Nick traveled to Senegal on Bikes for the World's behalf, along with the Village Bicycle Project's David Peckham, to prepare an innovative complementary effort to a USAID secondary school construction project. Nick's international development expertise and contacts, and strong French skills, paired with Peckham's West African field and bicycle technology knowledge, enabled the duo to prepare a proposal to bring in a container of 500 bicycles to enable students walking long miles to school, to get there more quickly via bicycle. The project quickly won USAID and Ministry of Education approval, only to flounder on irrational Ministry of Finance import restrictions.

Finally, in the fall of 2009, Craig and Nick, along with Jerry Rogers (all pictured at top with Keith), convened a meeting in a Rosslyn sports bar--convenient to Nick's office and Jerry's bike commuter route. There, the three prevailed upon Keith to hire office help and begin considering other ways to build Bikes for the World into a permanent organization. It would be the first step toward moving out from under WABA's sponsorship and becoming an independent non-profit agency.

Bikes for the World hopes to ship its 100,000th bike this fall. With over a dozen global partners and increasing corporate partnerships, BfW collects and donates over 14,000 bikes annually, affecting lives from Rockville communities to remote villages in Africa to small schools in Bohol, Philippines.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Featured Volunteer: James Branscome

Jim Branscome finally found his way over to King Farm during a very cold March volunteer night after years of telling himself he wanted to get more involved. It was his first time volunteering with us even though he had been a long time supporter of Bikes for the World.

He came into the dark, unheated barn and got to work processing bikes, knocking back the big stack by the time we closed up that evening.

The following week he was back. It was a little warmer and we were loading a container for Barbados. But instead of jumping up on the dock to help load bikes, Jim stuck with processing and even more importantly, mentoring. Jim patiently worked with students there earning student service learning hours required for graduation.

Bikes for the World helps many students graduate by providing rewarding volunteer opportunities at collections, loadings, and regular volunteer nights. We also host school groups, both local and visiting DC, for service projects. The latest group came to us from Georgia and included over 20 students.

Because we recently took in over 4,000 bikes from the DICK'S Sporting Goods promotion we had plenty of work in our warehouse. However, in order to properly mentor that many students at once, we need good 'lieutenants' on hand. Again, Jim stepped up and worked with students processing bikes, many of them never holding a pedal wrench or hex wrench before.

When you bring in 1,000 bikes a day you need help! And we found that help in some unlikely places. Jim Branscome, and better yet, Jim Mitchell (who we've already told you is a BfW superstar) braved the beltway traffic during rush hour to come down to our Pentagon City warehouse not just once, but several times, to help us take in the donated bikes from DICK'S.

Jim says he didn't mean to come as often as he did to help. In fact, I think he was there 4 times, to the tune of about 4,000 bikes! He was in the trailer every time helping Nick untangle and offload truckload after truckload of DICK'S bikes. And you don't accidentally end up in Crystal City when you live on the far side of the beltway, I can assure you.

Kaila, Karen, Carol, Jim, Harvey, Nick, and Kim
Jim will humbly tell you, it wasn't just him, and he's right. Randy Swart, of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, Harvey Sachs, Jim Mitchell, Kim Sanderhoff of FreeBike Project (all the way from LA), Carol Goodloe, and Karen, Rich, and George (all BfW board members) came out to several DICK'S unloads and moved thousands of bikes with us.

Oh, and we can't forget Phil Ruth, long, long time, dedicated volunteer, who drove from OK a little early just to be part of this effort (and has now relocated to NOVA). And he'll tell you he didn't pull us through either, but with his help processing hundreds of bikes that first weekend, picking up bikes, and delivering ply board to us to stack bikes...he played a big part in our successes receiving so many bikes in such a short time.

Thank you to everyone who helped the past few weeks in Arlington. This year's DICK'S promotion was even bigger than the first two years. We are still receiving bikes from the promotion and expect our final totals to be well over 5,000 bikes. Add to that the hundreds of bikes we took in locally over the past two months and you'll find about 6,300 bikes currently sitting in our warehouse. To put that in perspective: Bikes for the World donated a total of 5,823 bikes in our first year.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

From a Rockville Student to a Student in Bohol

King Farm

This year Bikes for the World reconditioned and donated 33 bikes to the TERRIFIC citizens of Rockville on May 18, 2014.

New helmets, donated by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, and BfW bicycles were awarded to 33 children ages 5-12 who participated in the Rockville Recreation and Parks Department’s “Terrific Bikes” program.
Kommy, 2014 Terrific bike earner
Bikes for the World collects unwanted bikes in the community and fixes them up at our King Farm warehouse. Some of these bikes are then given back to the community through the city's earn-a-bike program.  The majority of our bikes are donated to a dozen partner programs around the globe.
Children earned the bikes by completing at least six responsible acts, such as perfect school attendance for one month or volunteering at a charitable organization for an hour. Many did much more, including one 9-year-old who earned a bike for his younger brother so he could learn to ride.

Gabrielle, 2013 Terrific bike earner AND donor
Every year we find stories such as these where a young bike earner turns around and gives that bike to someone else. The last two years, in fact, several students brought us their old bikes that they had outgrown to donate to our program.

In 2013 we told you about Gabrielle, who earned a bike even though she had just received a new one for her birthday. She wanted to help another young person find the joys of riding a bike. This year we have an update on that bike Gabrielle donated.

Crea Ocdenaria
Crea Ocdenaria is a Junior at Pagnitoan National High School in Maribojoc, Bohol Philippines. Thanks to Gabrielle's efforts, Crea is now one of about 50 new bike beneficiaries in our latest school project in the Philippines.

Crea lives in the Barangay of Dipatlong which is about 3 kilometers from school. That's almost a four mile round trip walking everyday. Crea was chosen for the bike program based on her family's distance from school as well, as their financial situation. Her father, Edwin, is a laborer and earns about $100 a month for their family. Crea's mom, Marita is a housewife. Crea has three siblings, one brother and two sisters.
Pagnitoan HS beneficiaries practice riding skills
The bike Gabielle donated, a blue and silver Power Climber, is now helping Crea get to and from school faster, allowing her more time to study and help her mother with the house and her siblings. Crea is an honor student with a 90.6 average.

Many students are in danger of dropping out of school because of their lengthy commutes. Bicycles are helping entire families by keeping kids in school and getting them home faster to help with errands or family chores.

Pagnitoan National High School is the second school to take part in the Bikes for Education program established by Bikes for the Philippines and supported by Bikes for the World. Our newest beneficiaries just received their bikes after about a six month delay. The devastation last fall caused by the earthquake damaged much of Maribojoc, including the school (you can still see the rubble of a school building behind the bike beneficiaries in the photo above).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bringing Communities Together Across the Globe

Bikes for the World celebrated Bike to Work day this year in the warehouse, which given the day's forecast was not a bad idea! We did support the Rockville Town Center pit stop this year and saw a surprising number of die hard cyclists riding to work Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the staff from CEB was convening on our Arlington warehouse for a day filled with a number of important tasks, including a loading for Kenya and prepping the warehouse for the massive influx of bikes arriving this week from DICK'S Sporting Goods.

Nairobi bike beneficiaries. Courtesy Bina Bilenky
The container we loaded will be heading to Wheels of Africa next week, set to arrive in July. Wheels of Africa works with the cycling tour group Tour d'Afrique to donate bikes to select groups in areas the cycling tour touches. It's a way for their riders to give back to the communities they visit.

Bina Bilenky of Philadelphia, just completed the tour which ended in South Africa this month. Earlier in the ride they traveled through Kenya where she met Wheels of Africa and witnessed the bike donation ceremony in Nairobi. She sent us this photo of our bike beneficiaries.

B4H Wisconsin. Courtesy Jerry Tyler
What made this shipment even more unique than the others is the impressive number of bikes about to arrive in Kenya in July...over 850 bikes! This is possible because we teamed up with another group in Wisconsin also looking to ship bikes to Kenya.

Bicycles for Humanity (B4H) Oregon, Wisconsin recently approached us seeking assistance in making its first overseas shipment. The folks at B4H-Oregon, WI wanted to support the health care activities of a small program in rural Kenya, but wasn't exactly sure how to ship the container of bikes most efficiently.

Conversations led to a four-party agreement between BfW, B4H-Wisconsin, Wheels of Africa, and the community health program in Wagasu, Western Kenya. Together we would get a small number of bikes to that rural community as well as a good number of high-quality bikes and spare parts to the Wheels of Africa program.

Courtesy Jerry Tyler
"Bikes for the World envisions a national movement to collect surplus US bikes and distribute them to partner programs around the world. In turn, these programs repair and distribute these bikes to individuals, together transforming their lives and their communities through enhanced mobility and productivity. 

"This vision encompasses not just the Washington DC metropolitan area-Bikes for the World's home region. It extends to our long-time friends in Chicago, St. Louis, and now Oregon, Wisconsin."  Director, Bikes for the World Keith Oberg on the continuing expansion of BfW.

BfW partnered with St. Louis Bicycle Works last year to help them pack, ship, and place bikes overseas with our established international partners.  BfW did the same with this new group in Wisconsin, B4H-Wisconsin.

CEB prepping warehouse for DICK'S bikes deliveries
With the partnership with national retailer DICK'S Sporting Goods, BfW anticipates receiving about 5,000 bikes in the next couple weeks. Most of these bikes will be stored in our Arlington warehouse until they are shipped out over the next couple months to most of our current international partners.

Several containers will also be delivered to US partners, Working Bikes in Chicago and St. Louis Bicycle Works. Together we hope to donate 20,000 bikes globally in 2014.