Bikes for the World

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.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Carroll Creek Rotary Club Gets a Jump On Collecting Bikes

Norm Birzer, Dick Foot, Pat Gunnin, Greg Light, and Phil Ruth

Bikes for the World is proud to partner again with the Carroll Creek Rotary Club for their annual bike collection in Frederick Maryland. So far this year, they have already collected 100 bikes in this effort....and the collection isn't until April 11th!  

at Triangle Motors
Address:  1790 North Market St, Frederick MD 21701
Time: 9am - 1pm
Richard: or 203.505.7088

Rotarians Norm Birzer, Dick Foot, Pat Gunnin, and Greg Light joined with Bikes for the World volunteer Phil Ruth to load 80 bicycles on the Bikes for the World truck and trailer (an impressive load!). These bikes were collected over the winter in anticipation of the annual community bicycle collection to be conducted on Saturday April 11th.

The bicycles have been stored in Buzz Macintosh's vacant dairy barn, where Rotarians prepared bikes for shipment. We collected the bikes from the Carroll Creek Rotary Club early for two reasons: one is for space. In anticipation of a record setting collection next month, BfW needed to make sure we could get all the bikes in the truck on April 11th. Picking up early allows us to make two trips, ensuring we can easily transport over 200 bikes.

Beneficiary students in Bohol Philippines
More importantly, we are sending a shipment of bikes to a new potential partner called Darna in Morocco the first week in April. We wanted to include some of the bikes collected in Frederick for this container. Getting them into our warehouse now will allow us to send some to Africa before April 11th. Our second donated container in April will be heading to our education project in the Philippines where the remainder of bikes collected through the Carroll Creek Rotary Club's efforts will be sent. These bikes will help students in need get to and from school on time and eventually graduate.

Rotarian and BfW collection manager Dick Foot has pulled together an entire community network of volunteers to contribute to this bike collecting effort. The Visitation Academy, Mount Saint Mary's University, Frederick Community College, Hood College, the Bicycle Escape, Wheelbase, and Triangle Motors, where the collection will take place on April 11th are all currently collecting items to be donated to BfW.

Already Rotarian Tom Meacham, principal of Triangle Motors, reports that a dozen additional bikes have been dropped off at Triangle Motors, in anticipation of the Saturday April 11th community collection.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Turning Grease Into Bronze

Bikes for the World works with dozens of Boy Scouts throughout the year on Eagle projects where they collect bikes to be donated overseas. And we've found the girls LOVE working with us too. So we've made an effort to reach out to area Girl Scout troops to partner with them on collections and in the warehouse.

When asked about volunteering with us, the girls are usually very enthusiastic and that doesn't die down once we put a tool in their hands. The experience is valuable to these young girls who often work alongside Dad, get experience working with a team and following instruction, and actually learn a thing or two about how a bike works and how to use a few basic tools. Gaining mechanical confidence around their bikes is something these girls will take on the road with them for years to come.

The following is an article from Girl Scout Troop 5740, who worked with us in the warehouse:
On Saturday, February 28, 2015 we volunteered with Bikes for the World to fulfill community service requirements to earn the Girl Scout Bronze Award. 
We met at the Bikes for the World warehouse on Eads Street in Arlington, Virginia and volunteered for four hours.We used tools to take apart bikes to ship to Kenya in large containers.We made the bikes smaller by taking off the pedals, lowering the seat and turning the handlebars.
Bikes for the World collects bikes of all models in repairable condition (no tricycles), bike accessories and tools.They partner with non-profits globally to provide affordable used bikes to low-income recipients for access to school, work and healthcare.
We learned a new skill, we got to ride unicycles and bikes with motorcycle wheels.We watched them load 478 bikes into one big shipping container.
We had fun, we worked hard and we helped others in need.We even got dirty! If you want to get involved, check out their website

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Volunteer: Phil Ruth

This month we honor and recognize Phil Ruth who has been with Bikes for the World since 2006. Phil received our five-year volunteer pedal wrench award back in 2011 when we loaded our 50,000th bike. Phil is responsible for collecting and loading thousands and thousands of bikes for Bikes for the World. After Keith, Phil has probably had a hand on more bikes than anyone at BfW.

In 2012 Phil left the area to be closer to family and his absence left a hole around the BfW warehouse. Fortunately for us, Phil returned last year just as the entire BfW team was tuckering out from taking in over 5,000 bikes from our partnership with DICK'S Sporting Goods.  Phil brought energy and spunk back to our effort and we managed to successfully pack our warehouse full of bikes (so much so you could barely walk without sidestepping a bike).

Looking back, Director Keith Oberg recalls the first contact with Phil, who lived all the way out in Hagerstown Maryland. At that time, BfW operated out of our five trailers at Tysons Corner, were in transition out of a site in SW DC, and had just signed the lease at King Farm. "Initially, I was skeptical that Phil would do all that driving to participate. But he did and became not only our most dependable and hard-working volunteer colleague, he ranged furthest afield, looking for bikes!" Keith Oberg

One of his first volunteer tasks back in the beginning was to help Keith clean out the newly acquired warehouse space in the old hay barn at King Farm. Ironically, Phil was also the last one to turn out the light when we vacated the space last year.

Phil leaves a lasting impression on everyone he works with, whether it's a young volunteer struggling to process a bike in the warehouse, a collection manager impressed with his knowledge and passion, or board and staff members who can call on Phil for anything. Phil believes in the importance of recycling/reuse and the value a bike can bring someone overseas....and it shows in everything he does.

Even before Phil returned to the area last year he was in touch with BfW planning his return and filling his dance card (literally, Phil is an avid  round dancer). He immediately committed himself to driving and picking up bikes, prepping bikes for shipping, mentoring volunteers, recycling scrap metal, cutting wood for our containers, and tackling the most-challenging bikes to process (which we always leave for him to fight). Phil works tirelessly and endlessly...sometimes calling Keith as late as 11pm with a report or idea.

Keith credits Phil's yeoman's efforts for making it possible for BfW to survive our largest weekend ever, when we netted more than 700 bikes at four collections on the last Saturday of April in 2009.

Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess would argue our busiest weekend (or really DAY) occurred last year when we took in about 1,000 bikes in one day from DICK'S after just taking in close to 1,000 earlier in the week. "You honestly couldn't walk through the warehouse end to end. The bikes stacked against opposing walls were closing in on the middle. Phil jumped in that weekend to help process bikes when staff was absolutely tired of looking at them! Not only that, but he took the initiative to get more OSB ready so we could stack bikes and create more room in the warehouse. It was a critical time in our operation and Phil saved the day."