Bikes for the World

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Canalete Beneficiaries


Aura is a little girl in Costa Rica who recently received a bike from Bikes for the World. She lives in poverty in a crime-plagued neighborhood. Despite losing her father recently, Aura excels in school and works hard to help her mother care for her four siblings.

Aura's bike allows her to go to the farm to collect lychee fruit for the family and she'll use her bike to travel to high school next year. Despite facing big challenges, Aura has big dreams and hopes to be an accountant.


Tonito lives in the same area as Aura. Both Tonito and Aura were given bikes by the community because of their hard work and dedication to the community and to their school studies.

Tonito's family struggles with poverty, so he was delighted to receive a free bike from the community. He helped unload bikes from the container when it came in from Bikes for the World.

Tonito was very shy and quiet when we first met him but once he hopped on his bike that all changed. He was smiling ear to ear and showing off his skills by popping wheelies for us in the driveway.

Tonito uses his bike for chores and clearly, for fun.


Senor Fabio is a member of EC Canelete. Each supply of bikes donated by Bikes for the World is used as a type of 'loan' to a community group known in Costa Rica as an Empresas de Credito Comunal or ECC. Each ECC is a community-run micro-credit group

Fabio is invested in EC Canalete. He also helps the community by looking over the bikes in the village and making sure they run smoothly. 

The kids in Tonito's school let the air out of his tires one day. Fabio makes sure Tonito and all the other kids in the neighborhood have properly inflated tires and that the bikes are safe to ride.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bikes Build Leadership From the Ground Up

Bikes for the World offers a great outlet to corporations looking for a rewarding team building experience for their employees. Whether the corporate group joins us for a loading or just a processing day in the warehouse, it's a fun activity for colleagues to connect with each other outside a cubicle.

A third way for a corporation to bring employees together for a team building activity to benefit the community is a bike build. Two companies recently donated two dozen bikes from these bike builds that we turned around and donated locally and overseas.

During a corporate event, Rockville based Apex Companies purchased and assembled seven Diamondback 24" mountain bikes. The event was held in Chantilly and involved employees from all over the country.

Teams were responsible for building the bikes from the box and ensuring that the wheels turned and the brakes stopped.

Apex Companies contacted us before the event to ensure the bikes would be useful to our program. We asked that they donate a larger size bike, which would be more beneficial, so they purchased the 24" size from DICK'S Sporting Goods.

Bikes for the World identified two local organizations who could use the bikes to support two school programs. During our 100k donation events in November, BfW donated two Apex built bikes to Gearin' Up Bicycles in DC and two to Phoenix Bikes in Arlington. We also included two in the container to Costa Rica that will be arriving just in time for Christmas.

DICK'S Sporting Goods also recently hosted a bike build (to experience what their mechanics in the bike shop do) at their headquarters in Pittsburgh. Those 16 20" bikes were donated to Bikes for the World and also shipped in the container heading to FINCA Costa Rica.

Student mechanics at Phoenix Bikes
Both local bike organizations that received these new bikes offer earn-a-bike programs to area youth where they can learn mechanics while earning a bike. Most bikes donated to the program are used and in need of repairs and tune ups which offer a great experience to these student mechanics.

The new bikes from Apex Companies will be used in two local school projects that promote cycling as a healthy lifestyle choice. The bikes will also be used to increase bicycle safety and awareness .

Phoenix Bikes identified a school in Alexandria that needed the Diamondbacks for a school project next spring. Cora Kelly Elementary School operates a program called Bike for your Brain that is turning students into safer cyclists and bike advocates.

Fifth graders will bike between elementary schools to learn safe bike routes while improving their riding and safety skills. Through their PE class they will learn how biking supports an active, healthy lifestyle. They will also improve leadership skills and become better bike advocates.

Over in DC, Gearin' Up Bicycles has identified a program designed to teach similar skills to students at Capital City Charter School. This winter, students will begin by learning the mechanics of a bike. The Apex Companies bikes donated to Gearin' Up Bicycles will actually be stripped down to the frame and rebuilt by students in this learning earn-a-bike experience.

Students will then learn safety and practice their riding skills as it starts to warm up next spring. The program ends with a 335 mile bike ride from DC to Pittsburgh....uphill!

Apex fall bike build
Team building activities can motivate the team create energy, and inspire enthusiasm amongst staff. It's a valuable tool in a company to increase productivity in the workplace...and can be used to make a huge impact in the community.

Apex Companies offers comprehensive professional and field services to assess, prevent and cure environmental issues related to water, ground, facilities and air quality. Blending superb technical skills with creativity and business savvy, they focus on how to reduce or eliminate environmental risks and liabilities economically and expediently.

Simply put, this partnership was a perfect fit!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Meet Brenda Geist: Featured Volunteer

If you look around in a crowd Brenda won't necessarily stand out. She's doesn't volunteer for recognition or to stand around. She's there to work. And good luck trying to slow her down.

The whole group is like that. Brenda is part of an over 40s Meet Up group out of Fairfax which regularly volunteers with Bikes for the World. Sometimes we see the same familiar faces time and time again and every now and again we see a new one.

Brenda organizes all of that for us. All we need to do is show up and keep them busy...which sometimes is hard enough. Just last year, the NOVA MeetUp group joined us maybe 4 or 5 times to help load, process, and sort bikes in the warehouse.

Some of them bring their own tools and they jump right in processing bikes as soon as they get there. They are quick to mentor others and do whatever is long as we keep them moving. You really couldn't ask for better volunteers.

Brenda is always looking to schedule the group to come back to the warehouse. If she hasn't heard from us in a while she'll reach out to us and offer to help in any way we need.

The MeetUp group exists as a community service volunteer group. They distribute food to those in need, help in thrift stores, work in the parks...really anything and everything. They socialize, meet new people, have some fun, and make a global impact in the process.

This group has joined us in Springfield, Lorton, and both warehouses in Arlington. In fact, they helped us clean out and close Springfield, Lorton, and 1200 Eads. They have impacted lives in Ghana, Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador. Below we tracked the same container they help load in Springfield VA to its arrival in Accra Ghana.

Brenda even helped us deliver a strider bike to a young boy in Springfield who left his too close to the curb on trash day. When we heard the story about how the trash truck took his bike away, we found one in the warehouse that we wanted the boy to have. Brenda delivered it for us and made his day.

Brenda had loaded bikes, turned a hundred handlebars, removed twice as many pedals, unloaded bikes, stacked bikes...she even hosted a collection in her neighborhood.

Most of all, Brenda has introduced many people to Bikes for the World: volunteers, donors, and more importantly supporters. Just this past year, the MeetUp group has helped us load about 20% of the containers we donated in 2014. They were with us when we loaded number 100,000 and we hope to see them a lot on our way to 200k!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bikes in Costa Rica

Taylor and Luis in container
America Recycles Day is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. This 'recycling celebration' occurs annually on November 15 and generates a huge amount of buzz over recycling...not to mention a huge pile of recyclables...somewhere in the vicinity of 3.7 million pounds of it!

To help us do our part, Bikes for the World was joined by FINCA Costa Rica Director Luis Jimenez last week. On November 15th, representatives from Keep America Beautiful and the US EPA were on hand in the Bikes for the World warehouse to help load the 100,000th donated bike from Bikes for the World. This milestone bike would be donated, along with over 500 others, to our long-standing partner FINCA Costa Rica.

Luis and Yvette at Microsoft
On November 14th at the Microsoft store in the Pentagon City Fashion Centre, Jimenez gave a presentation explaining how his organization is using our bikes to help transform lives in rural Costa Rica. Part of the importance of America Recycles Day is not only recycling, but creating an educational platform that helps raise the awareness about the value of recycling. At Bikes for the World we went one step further, and put a face on America's discarded recyclables.

BfW shared photos from our recent trip to Costa Rica while Jimenez explained how the program works.

 To date, Bikes for the World has donated over 20,500 bikes to Costa Rica since 2005. All of the donated bikes were brought into Costa Rica through our partner FINCA Costa Rica to help support smaller micro-finance organizations. The following was presented by Director Luis Jimenez during his visit to the Bikes for the World world headquarters.

The population of Costa Rica stands at about 4.94 million people. 38% of the population live in what is considered to be rural Costa Rica. Many communities tucked along the winding roads of mountainous countrysides consist of residents who make their livings farming, working construction, or running small local shops.

FINCA Costa Rica was established in 1984 to help communities help themselves. Today FINCA Costa Rica serves about 130 rural communities all around the country.

  • FINCA Costa Rica helps rural communities establish micro-finance organizations owned and operated by their members.
  • FINCA Costa Rica also teaches community members how to operate those micro-finance organizations set up to benefit their own communities.
Member groups operate with the equity raised by their own members, in many cases through FINCA Costa Rica supported projects. The Bike Project, also known as Mi Bici, was established in 2005 as a 'loan' project.

The Bike Project was introduced to bring clean, affordable transportation to rural Costa Ricans and also to help raise funds to support the Empresas (these local micro-finance groups).

In this way, one donated bike is in turn helping the new owner of the bike get to work or school, which is helping to support his or her family. It is also generating work for the individuals fixing up and maintaining the bicycle. Last but not least, it is supporting the entire community who benefits from the sale of that bicycle, which helps support a number of member operated businesses in the community.

We ended the evening taking questions about the program, the quality of our bikes, the condition of our containers based on how we pack the bikes, and what Costa Rica wants more of...answer: beach cruisers and sewing machines!

Jimenez reports that our bikes arrive in great condition and most if not all are put back to good use. His big request, just send more bikes!

If you want to see the slide presentation (without sound) you can check it out on YouTube.

Big thanks to Microsoft for letting us use their amazing space so close to our warehouse...and getting our presentation off with absolutely NO technical glitches.

Turns out the mall on a Friday a store that sells video gaming equipment...isn't the most ideal space for an intimate chat afterwards, so we all retired downstairs for dinner and continued conversation.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Give a Man A Bike...

Mauricio of Phoenix Bikes
Better yet...teach him (or her) how to fix one! There is a saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching a man to fish. That basic principle is exactly how our local bike organizations work in DC. It's also the foundation for how Bikes for the World operates and donates bikes around the world.

Mauricio came up through the earn-a-bike program established through Phoenix Bikes in Arlington. He learned the basics of a bike, and dove into more complex mechanics as he hung out in the tiny shed on the edge of Barcroft Park over the years. He is now a paid mechanic at Papillon Cycles.

Gearin' Up Bicycles
They are riding in the same gear over at Gearin' Up Bicycles in Northeast DC. This local group is creating career development opportunities and teaching essential workplace skills to teens from underserved communities through earn-a-bike programs that also promote cycling as a healthy lifestyle choice.

Phoenix Bikes has been "specializing in awesome" since 2007 and Gearin' Up has been up and running since 2012. Gearin' Up Bicycles just moved to a new permanent location at 314 Randolph Place NE. Phoenix Bikes is still operating in Barcoft Park, Arlington.

Both groups offer affordable bikes for sale reconditioned by trained youth enrolled in the program. Beginning in December Gearin' Up will open the shop to YOU on Tuesdays from 6-8pm for their BYOB (Build Your Own Bike) program.

Craig Annear helps load donated bike
Bikes for the World is proud to donate bikes to both of these local youth programs in the DC area. Bikes for the World's mission is to help provide affordable transportation to workers and students who need the bikes to better their lives. On November 15, 2014 BfW donated its 100,000th bicycle since 2005.

Because of the volume of bikes collected and donated at BfW, our main focus is partnering with other non-profit groups who have established programs in place that support our mission. This allows us to concentrate on moving a large number of bikes, therefore helping a greater number of people, without the distraction of fixing up bikes that are in need of repair.

Donation to Phoenix Bikes
The donations from BfW helps support programs locally and around the world, providing life skills that will improve the lives of beneficiaries enrolled in the programs. Our partners often teach mechanics and business skills that allow people to open and operate successful bike shops in rural Africa and the streets of inner city El Salvador.

Back here at home, Phoenix and Gearin' Up are doing similar work, teaching life skills to youth in the DC area. They are learning how to work as a team in a business setting and earning bikes in the process. Both groups offer valuable after school activities that engage and teach its members. They also do a lot of community outreach, offering group rides and participating in local events.

And the donating and support goes both ways. Phoenix Bikes organized a ride over to the BfW warehouse to help us celebrate donating our 100,000th bike this past weekend. As you can see, they weren't empty-handed when they arrived, toting a healthy supply of tires for our shipment.

Bikes for the World donates road bikes locally that aren't as suitable for the rural roads overseas. Both Phoenix and Gearin' Up also collect bikes on their own and often end up with bikes and/or parts in excess of what they need or can use. They then donate those items to BfW for use overseas. Our groups work together to provide the best bikes to the best areas around the world.

Waldorf Kiwanis will deliver 180 bikes to Pikeville KY
During our 100k event weekend, Bikes for the World donated over 200 bikes to three local bike organizations including a church group in Pikeville Kentucky.

In 2014, BfW donated more bikes locally than any other year, a testament to our growth pattern across the board. Over 1,000 bikes donated to BfW stayed here at home serving nine different local groups in 2014. Since our beginning in 2005, BfW has donated about 4% of all collected bikes to local groups.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

100,000 Bike Donated
On November 15, 2014 Bikes for the World loaded the 100,000th bike!

As part of America Recycles Day, Bikes for the World was joined by the US EPA and Keep America Beautiful, along with volunteers, some of whom have been with BfW since the beginning in 2005, for this milestone loading.

Thanks to the generosity of JetBlue we were able to fly in Luis Jimenez, director of FINCA Costa Rica for this monumental event. The 100,000th bike, along with over 500 others, will be donated to Costa Rica where it will be used to help an individual get to work.

A regular BfW Meet Up volunteer group from Northern Virginia joined us Saturday in the warehouse to help prep bikes for shipping. We also saw many new and veteran volunteers who came out to help us celebrate this event. Director, Keith Oberg thanked DICK'S Sporting Goods for donating over 15% of the total bikes we've donated over the years (and that's only been since our partnership began 3 years ago). He also recognized Vornado, who allows us to store bikes in this Metro accessible location and helps make the partnership with DICK'S possible.

Bikes for the World awarded Jim Mitchell with the annual Pedal Wrench award, which recognizes the outstanding effort of a single volunteer over the year. Jim continues to work with BfW as a collection manager through his church in Eldersburg MD where he's has helped collect over 1,300 bikes. Jim also joined us many nights at King Farm to help mentor youth in the Rockville Youth Bike Project. He regularly makes pick ups at partner shop Race Pace Bicycles to allow us to collect bikes year round as far away as Baltimore and occasionally Westminster. Race Pace is one of our largest bike shop partners.

Both Jim and Keith loaded the 100k bike into the container for Costa Rica. Keith addressed the 50 or so volunteers on hand to thank them for making this possible.

"It really is the work of all. Hundreds and hundreds...thousands of people...donors, volunteers, staff, people overseas... Just an incredible accomplishment after 10 years.

"I'm just overwhelmed. Thank you so much and thank you for being part of this for the past 10 years. And for what you'll be part of in the future. And thank you for being here today." Keith Oberg
You can see the video of the loading here.  We shared a ton of photos on Facebook, but  you can also view photos here.

FOX 5 was on hand during the entire event and captured the prepping, loading, and ceremony for a piece that aired on Saturday and Sunday. You can hear the story told by Keith Oberg and Luis Jimenez in this package that aired on FOX 5.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Special Guest Helps Load Container

Luis Jimenez Director FINCA Costa Rica
With just a little bit of planning, Bikes for the World is set to donate its 100,000th bike on November 15, 2014, which just happens to be America Recycles Day.

So that's making the loading this month for Costa Rica at the Bikes for the World warehouse fun...we are thrilled to be involved in this national event.

But that's not all! We are, after all, loading the 100,000th bike Saturday AND we also had the director of FINCA Costa Rica getting his hands dirty with us in the container!

JetBlue Crew
This was truly a special loading at Bikes for the World, working side by side with our partner, getting real time feedback on what we were loading and how we were packing it. And Luis assures us, it's much easier to load a container than unload one...don't we always say that every time we try to shut the container door?

This was all made possible thanks to JetBlue who offered a few travel vouchers to us earlier in the year. So we were able to fly Luis here couresty JetBlue. And what a treat...the JetBlue crew joined us Thursday night to help us get this container loaded and Set to Sail to Costa Rica!

Jeff, Taylor, and Paul look over rims
Quite a few of our veteran volunteers made the trek down to our Arlington warehouse for this milestone shipment. We say 'made the trek' because we saw a few King Farm regulars down there, like Jeff and Harvey. It's quite a trip around the beltway during rush hour...but these guys know how long the journey was to 100k. A trip around the beltway was totally worth it; they couldn't miss being part of the 100k load.

We flipped through our 10 year book, remembering old warehouses, standout collections, and the amazing volunteers we met along the way. By the end of the night we had half the container already loaded. Well on our way to 100k!

Yvette and Peyton practicing the jitterbug
Whether you just started with Bikes for the World last week or last decade, this is something you didn't want to miss. We got a lot of work done, but we had fun doing it...don't we always?

There was a little singing and of course dancing...there's always a little dancing every Thursday volunteer night! We processed bikes, rolled them across the warehouse, and packed them tightly into the container.

Everyone took a break to pose with the 100k bike. And to help celebrate America Recycles Day coming up that weekend, we even snapped a few #RecyclingSelfies to add to ARD social media sites. Pick your favorite site and search the hashtag...see if you can find all our #RecyclingSelfies.