Bikes for the World

Friday, May 8, 2015

One Weekend, Two Containers

On April 25, 2015 Bikes for the World hosted what we dubbed The Battle Beyond the Bridge, a friendly competition between East Side and West Side Maryland. Representing the East was a collection site hosted by George and Mary Medicus in Kent Island. In the West corner, Otterbein United Methodist Church, a strong contender, and crowd favorite.

Kent Island represented the Underdog backed by a powerful team of scouts from troop 495. The Battle was a squeaker with no losers. In fact the winners will be MiBici in Costa Rica and Pinelands Creative Workshop in Barbados, our next two container shipments slated to be loaded during Bike Week, next week, by corporate group CEB.

In the betting world what we ended up with was likely a Push. Basically, no one 'lost' the contest. Kent Island turned in a most impressive collection at 266 bikes. Otterbein United Methodist topped their total last year collecting 232 bikes and 13 sewing machines.

Both collection managers, George and Mary and Cindy Brown and Mike Johnston (of Otterbein UM) have been recognized by BfW as Featured Volunteers.

Both sites, additionally collected mobility aids such as crutches, canes and walkers. This was in response to a request from BfW recipient partner Ability Bikes in Ghana. Ability Bikes is a co-op bike shop owned and operated by individuals with disabilities.

We had such an incredible turn out for these specialty requested items we will likely also be sending many to our partner Goodwill Panama.

Sewing machines will be in the container next week for Costa Rica.

Total bikes collected the weekend of April 25-26? 717 BIKES! But we really do need to acknowledge the effort turned in by Otterbein United Methodist.  They have been with us from the start and since their first annual collection they have now collected 2,607 bicycles and 94 portable sewing machines. 

Otterbein UM continues to hold the BfW record for a one-day, single-site turn out at 402 bikes in 2009. Since then they regularly collect over 200 bikes every last Saturday in April.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Featured Volunteer: George and Mary Medicus

Meet the Medicuses. George and Mary Medicus make up the husband/wife team of our featured volunteer  this month (with a special honorable mention for their Granddaughter, Julia). George and Mary have organized and managed our Kent Island collection since 2013. This year they set a personal goal of 200 bikes to double what they collected their first year. They shattered it by collecting 266 bikes!

Mary and George, working together, really mobilize the entire community to make this collection a huge success. They work with area businesses who help support the collection by funding the advertising efforts which include hundreds of flyers and print and radio interviews.

Returning again this year was boy scout troop 495 who did a majority of the wrenching during the collection. Their son was a member of this troop 30 years ago and today, just as then, this troop proves to be a dedicated, involved, caring group of scouts and families.

One change this year was the collaboration of five different recycling centers in the area. They had tried to get them on board last time to no avail. This time Mary had decided to attend a council meeting to re-introduce the idea of collecting bikes at the recycling center. By just putting her name on the agenda, the connection was made.

By the time we arrived Saturday morning (even before the scheduled collection time) there were probably 100 bikes already on site. With a team of pickups and trailers George and his crew were busy transporting bikes from the waste transfer stations to the collection site. Meanwhile bikes were rolling in from donors dropping them off too.

Looking for added muscle to help process all these bikes, we put a wrench in Julia's hands. At five years old, we believe Julia may be our youngest volunteer to date! And she absolutely was taking those pedals off all by herself. She needed a little help turning the bikes over but then look out.

Julia is actually how this partnership all started. When George and Mary went looking for a used bike trailer to haul her around on bike they came across Keith Oberg and Bikes for the World.

George and Mary on Verrazano-Narrows Bridge last year
George and May have literally been around the world on bike. They remember fondly rides across Maryland, the not-to-be-missed Seagull Century, and trips down the C&O. They also loved riding Idaho's Bitterroot Mountains, becoming closer to nature along Anchorage's bike trails, exploring Bejing's hidden neighborhoods, touring atop Tuscany town walls, and tooling around the Netherlands in awe of the bike culture flourishing there.

Their daughter recalls a trip about 15 years ago that put a halt to their tours on tandem when they took a bad fall in New Zealand. This was before everyone was uber connected by the internet and she was home trying to get more information about how her parents were. Mary spent some time in the hospital and George was taken in by a friendly Kiwi. Even though they were swiped from their bicycle built for two they continued on with the vacation, hiking on crutches.

Yes, this is Mary on that one speed bike
So how do we get from riding bikes on vacation to tackling a huge bike collection? Let's go back even further and let Mary tell you about her start with bikes:

"I guess to understand why we wanted to hold collections, you'd have to go back to the 1950's when biking brought magic, mystery, and mischief into our childhoods. I loved my 1955 sturdy one-speed. As soon as I got home from school, I changed into my cotton, plaid 'biking' dress put my little plastic-covered flip-top note pad with its own pencil holder in the bike basket, and sped off to explore my neighborhood Wilson Point, in Middle River, Maryland. I pretended I was a detective--a coupe-less, 2 wheeling, Nancy Drew--filling that note pad with careful observations and queries."

George also remembers fondly his days on a bike exploring his Baltimore neighborhood. In fact, in typical boy fashion, George managed to find trouble on one 20 mile ride when he and his buddy got a little too close to a company's property. It resulted in a call to his parents and a disappointing ride home in the family car for boy and bike.

"The magic of those afternoon neighborhood bike rides has never left me," Mary reminisces. "I rode my bike daily to the local playground, through our alleys, with friends, by myself, on my sister's bike handlebars. I'm in year 70, and every time I jump on my bike, that old sense that there's something out there to discover returns. I'm 10 once again!"

"We're hoping every bike we collect will offer the sense of adventure and magic to someone else. Biking gives you independence, a freedom to navigate and transform your life. In our travels we've seen how essential bikes are for vast numbers of people. Entire houses have been built with supplies transported on bikes! Degrees have been earned, paychecks pocketed, romances built--all through biking," George and Mary Medicus.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Powered By Students For Students

Earth Day 2015 marked our third container loading for our Bikes for Education program in the Philippines. Over 400 bikes were loaded to be donated to our partner Bikes for the Philippines (BfP) who will be refurbishing the bikes and shipping them to Bohol.

Students at Fatima National High School in Cortes, Bohol have been chosen as beneficiaries and will undergo extensive training in bike handling skills, safety and basic bike maintenance. The bikes donated by Bikes for the World will help these students get to school more efficiently, saving them time, money, and energy.

This container of bikes was almost entirely collected, prepped, and loaded by students in Maryland, Virgina, and DC.

Rallied together by the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek (RCCC), a number of Frederick County schools joined forces to collect and prep 305 bikes at the annual RCCC bike collection in Frederick this April.

Many thanks to the Visitation Academy, Hood College Rotaract, Frederick Community College, and Mount Saint Mary's University Enactus Club.

Several other schools worked with BfW to help collect and prep bikes that were donated to Bikes for the Philippines. In Virginia, Irving Middle School and Springfield High School students worked side by side to contribute bikes to this effort.

A senior at the Friends School of Baltimore organized and managed a collection in connection with Earth Day activities at her school.

Our student volunteers were motivated to find as many bikes as they could, inspired by the stories of student beneficiaries at Baclayon HS, Pagnitoan HS, Lusaran, and the Regional Lead School for the the Arts, the newest school partner of BfP.

Jack Morris, from Boy Scout troop 666, completed his Eagle project with BfW collecting bikes that were some of the first rolled into the container for the Philippines. Jack, at 13, is one of the youngest scouts we've ever partnered with on an Eagle project.

In his project paperwork Jack stated, "I will continue to stay at my collection until my goal of 50 bikes is met." Thankfully Jack wasn't standing out there until midnight and in fact shattered his goal collecting 105 bikes during his collection.

Nathan Gurley of troop 1539 also completed his Eagle project the same weekend collecting over 50 bikes, some included in this Philippines shipment.

Continuing with the scout theme, Girl Scout Troop 1999, working toward their Bronze Award, helped us in the warehouse as we unloaded all the bikes coming in from these collections. They also help prep bikes that we received from local bike shops who partner with us to collect bikes from their customers who are upgrading their bikes.

Stone Ridge's Social Action crew helped pack the bikes into the container on Earth Day. Throughout the school year this crew worked on several loadings and worked to strip parts from marginal bikes that weren't worth shipping overseas. The parts are incredibly valuable to mechanics working on our bikes. Many of these parts were also included in this latest container.

It is worth noting, our last container donated to Bikes for the Philippines was also packed by the Stone Ridge Social Action crew.

Last, but certainly not least, college students across the country who are part of the FreeBike Project help fund this shipment.

Through this program, college students receive a free bike to use during the school year. The program was started in California and now stretches coast to coast with hundreds of bikes in their fleet.

FreeBike Project supports Bikes for the Philippines by donating money that helps deliver these bikes from our warehouse in Arlington VA half way around the world to rural school districts in the Philippines.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pittsburgh Expansion

Bikes for the World is proud to announce an ongoing partnership with City Center Self Storage in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. This collaboration is making our efforts to expand beyond the DC Metro area on a regular basis possible.

City Center Self Storage has agreed to store bikes for Bikes for the World at no cost. They are also serving as a permanent drop off location for residents in the Pittsburgh area. We recently partnered a scout looking to do his Eagle project with us with City Center Self Storage who provided promotion, storage, and a truck for transportation for this inaugural Pittsburgh collection.

"The idea to team up with the amazing charity Bikes for the World arose as an attempt to fuse my love for biking with my desire to somehow make a lasting difference.  I saw other scouts in my troop help out by putting mile markers or benches along a bike trail near our community, but I thought I could stretch the impact of my project farther. I began to research bike charities and found Bikes for the World.  Through their website, I realized how many old bikes are collecting dust in area garages, basements, and sheds and how rewarding it would be for people to be able to ship their old bikes to others who could truly use the bikes to their full potential," Louis Collins troop 366.

Louis checked out our website and started reading stories of how bikes were changing lives around the globe. Bikes that were being tossed away in America but still had a lot of life left in them.

One story made a particular impression on Louis. The story of Alex, a 43 year old cocoa farmer from Bodaa, Ghana. Alex received a bike through our partner Village Bicycle Project.

Alex uses his bike to travel the four miles between the farm and his home. With the help of his bicycle, Alex is able to commute to work four times faster saving time and energy he can now devote to his family.

Louis realized, "if one bike from one collection can change one man's life so entirely, then as a bicyclist, who has multiple old bicycles gathering dust in my garage, and as a scout I have a duty to inform others of the sheer impact we can make with one bicycle."

On April 11th Louis accepted the challenge and enlisted the help of fellow scouts to collect and prep over 100 bicycles that will eventually be donated overseas to help change lives.

An Eagle project is an important step for a Life Scout to earn the distinguished honor of becoming an Eagle Scout. The project is meant to improve or demonstrate the scout's leadership skills.

"Working with a young collection manager to set up a successful collection can be a challenge, especially dealing with longer detailed emails when a lot of kids today prefer shorter text messages. Louis was very thorough while dealing with the set up and preparation of his collection. He answered our emails promptly and returned with many questions that helped him plan a successful collection. I was very impressed with how he embraced every aspect of the collection process and expected him to do very well as a result," Yvette Hess, Outreach Coordinator

Louis had the added challenge of being a first time manager in the Pittsburgh area with no on site support from a BfW representative. He secured the site, reached out to reporters, recruited and trained volunteers, and coordinated the transportation of the bikes.

And his hard work paid off. After the collection Louis had 124 bikes and two weeks later they are still trickling in. "I am glad we could collect so many bikes that will truly change the lives of hundreds of people.

"City Center Self Storage was incredibly helpful and helped us unload all the bikes in a really efficient manner," Louis Collins

"We’re a customer-focused, family-grown business whose founding partners have deep ties to Pittsburgh and a history of self storage Pittsburgh operations. We know the significance of the black and gold colors that make up our logo – they represent a city of passionate people who are as committed to hard work as they are to the people around them. As your fellow Pittsburghers, we’re dedicated to providing a quality product, an unparalleled experience, and superior customer service," City Center Self Storage.

City Center Self Storage reached out to us last year asking how they could get involved and help. It was a partnership that seemed to fit both of our missions perfectly. They offered free storage of bikes allowing us to start our expansion in Pittsburgh. Through other partnerships we hope to also expand in Long Island NY later this year as well as Canada.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Get Outside, Promote the Ride

Last year we said good bye to King Farm where a bulk of our Rockville Youth Bike Project (RYBP) work took place. We continue to offer student service learning hours needed for graduation to area youth at our Arlington warehouse and at events within the city of Rockville.

REI plays a huge part in this effort with our bike collections hosted there for the past decade. In fact, it is through an REI grant that our King Farm warehouse got up and running. We also owe a great deal of gratitude to REI and specifically staff members Rhonda Krafchin and Mark Nelson, for their long-standing support and effort setting up the RYPB as well as successful collections at numerous REI locations in the area.

The following offers a snapshot of our collaborative effort over the years:

Bikes Collected

For the last 10 years, the REI and Bikes for the World partnership has provided a unique community outreach experience for members of REI. Customers upgrade to a new bike purchased from REI and donate their old bike to Bikes for the World. REI stores have hosted 71 bike collections, generating an impressive 2,479 bikes. These donated bikes are shipped all over the world, changing lives for the better.

Promoting Volunteerism

Our REI-BfW collection events also engaged over 400 volunteers with more than 3,000 hours of service. Thanks to the support of REI, we converted an old barn into a vibrant warehouse, which served as the hub of our volunteer effort for 7 years. Volunteers logged over 6,500 hours prepping bikes for donation and learning teamwork and mechanical problem-solving skills.

Eagle Projects

Seven Boy Scouts have partnered with BfW and REI to hold bike collections as part of their Eagle Scout community service project. Boys work with the management team at REI to help promote the event and bring our donors into REI. Two other Eagle projects led the REI-funded effort to transform an old barn into our Rockville warehouse, where we dispatched bikes to partners around the world.

Bikes Donated

BfW celebrated the donation of our 100,000th bike during America Recycles Day 2014. During our tenure at our Rockville warehouse, BfW loaded and donated over 25,000 bikes. Partnering with area community groups and schools we provided rewarding educational service projects loading containers of bikes that were donated to individuals in Africa, Central America, Asia, and the United States.

Encouraging Safe Riding

With REI’s guidance, BfW created a local bike program, teaching maintenance and repair skills, and promoting bicycle use and recreational safety to area youth. BfW went into area schools to teach safe riding practices and perform helmet fittings. BfW provided over 300 refurbished bikes to area youth who earned them through completing tasks focused on good grades and exhibiting positive values.

Saving Our Environment

REI bike shop staff routinely set aside abandoned bikes and unsellable stock to donate to BfW. We also rescue bikes from local recycling centers. Volunteers earn service-learning hours while learning their way around a bicycle, stripping parts from unusable bikes and prepping bikes for donation. Parts we collect through this project are crucial to keeping donated bikes up and running overseas. This effort removed 313,740 lbs. of metal from our waste stream and put it to good use.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Featured Volunteer: Ken Woodard

Ken Woodard
Ken Woodard has been working with Bikes for the World for the past four years as the teacher/advisor for Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart's Social Action group. Mr. Woodard is the History Department Chair and Upper School History teacher at Stone Ridge. Every other Wednesday he is our resident bike mechanic at Bikes for the World. Everyone who knows Ken will mention his love of bikes and his enthusiasm for his work with BfW. It is without pause that we honor Ken for his work with BfW, which reaches far beyond our warehouse.

Ken's dedication to our program, our mission, and especially the students at Stone Ridge shows in every task we throw at him. Whether he is prepping a bike for shipping, loading a container, promoting a bike collection, or tooling away in the back taking parts off bikes, Ken IS Bikes for the World.

Social Action 2011-12
One of our main missions at Bikes for the World involves providing rewarding service projects to our community. Ken helps us bring this to life in his mentoring of our Stone Ridge crew. He's done such a great job, Stone Ridge was named one of our first Featured Volunteers two years ago. In addition to the work they do loading containers of bikes for donation overseas, his crew of 2-6 students (it keeps growing every year!) also regularly tackles our scrap bike heap to rescue usable parts off otherwise unsuitable bikes.

Social Action 2014-15
"Ken's ability to train and guide the girls in this highly technical skill that utilizes the most specialized bike tools is unmatched. He is able to speak to them in a way that makes sense to them while still conveying the mechanical knowledge necessary to successfully remove every single part from a bike frame. The girls come into our warehouse (some unable to ride a bike) and graduate knowing how to remove pedals, bottom brackets, and headsets. They also learn the importance a bike can have in someone's life and livelihood. Ken inspires confidence in his students and his impact is felt worldwide," Yvette Hess, BfW Outreach Coordinator

Social Action 2013-14
"Mr. Woodard has been an excellent leader and mentor for the Stone Ridge Bikes for the World social action group. He is always working hard, either by assisting student volunteers or by working on a separate project. He is a wonderful role model for all of us as his dedication and his willingness to help others is so evident. He demonstrates how important it is to help others, and how much fun can result from doing so," Katie Ledecky, Stone Ridge '15

"Ken puts his whole heart into all he does, and Bikes for the World represents an intersection of many of Ken's greatest loves- bikes, service and the kind of genuine challenge that leads to growth. His enthusiasm has been contagious, and now all of Stone Ridge knows exactly what to do with our old bikes," Lauren Brownlee, Upper School Director of Social Action and History Teacher

Social Action 2012-13
"As a second year architecture student, who has spent the semester in the wood and metal shops at school, I am so grateful for everything I was capable of learning through working with the bikes and it has made my semester of strictly steel project and large scale prototyping fractionally easier. I owe this to both Ken and everyone else at Bikes for the World," Deborah O'Connell, Stone Ridge '13

"Ever since he started working with Bikes for the World it has been one of his favorite topics of conversation. He never hesitates to share his experiences with others, teaching them the impact that bikes can have on an entire community. He talks about the success of the organization, detailing the steps they take in order to make sure the bikes get to their locations safely. He enthusiastically details his job as a volunteer, becoming especially excited when he is given the opportunity to load the containers which will eventually be shipped around the world.

"Bikes for the World has given my dad the opportunity to take something that he loves and is so passionate about and share it with the international community. He has so much enthusiasm for the organization's mission and takes immense pride in his work there," Lauren Woodard, Stone Ridge '16 (and Ken's daughter)

Friday, March 27, 2015

BfW's Newest Partner Helping Students In Morocco

Bikes for the World's next shipment of bikes is heading to Northern Africa to a group called Darna in Tangier, Morocco. This pilot effort will mostly serve the youth project, the bikes being distributed to kids ages 8-15.

This is our first time shipping to Darna (meaning Our House) and only their second container of bikes ever, the other delivered from a French group about seven years ago. Depending on the success of the received shipment, we hope to continue donating bikes to this group in the future.

Our bikes will be used for youth empowerment, the majority to be distributed to students to assist in their commutes to school in Tangier.

Darna runs comprehensive social programs including a youth community house, women's community house, and a teaching farm. The youth and women's houses provide temporary homes for children and women at-risk. They also provide various training programs to help them re-integrate into society.

The Farm School helps encourage agricultural development and a return to the agricultural sector outside of Tangier. The Farm houses 30 children, many boys at-risk. The boys receive agricultural training while there, as well as training in agricultural machinery repair.

The boys at the Farm School will be learning the mechanical skills needed to help refurbish our donated bikes to put them into use for this program.

Bikes will be made available to youth living in nearby, low-income apartments to help them get to and from school.

One of Darna's main focuses is to get kids off dangerous streets and into school where they receive an education and learn job skills. They are also surrounded by positive role models that help provide a community of learning and empowerment.

This initial container of bikes will serve to address two focuses in Darna's overall mission. First, boys enrolled in the Farm School will learn valuable mechanic skills while repairing bikes donated through Bikes for the World. Second, many youth, especially young girls, will receive a bicycle to help them get an education and travel quickly through the dangerous streets of Tangier.

Girls on the streets who are illiterate and uneducated often find themselves forced into a life of prostitution and eventually face drug abuse and AIDS. The Girls' Center at Darna provides girls with emergency, transitional, and long term housing; professional and civic training; and an education in not only reading, writing and arithmetic but also in their rights and duties as citizens.

Photos courtesy DARNA.