Bikes for the World

Monday, March 18, 2013

Featured Volunteer: Freestylin'

"One man's trash that's another man's come up..." Okay, fair enough, maybe all of our followers aren't up to speed on the latest rap lyrics, don't know Macklemore, and have never heard of Thrift Shop or 'poppin tags'...but surely everyone can appreciate a good find when you see one.

Paul Schulwitz
And I won't pretend to know much about vintage BMX bikes, but thankfully here at Bikes for the World we have Paul Schulwitz for that! This guy has been with us since 2007, helping at collections, loading bikes, and in his spare time, rescuing valuable BMX frames that are discarded or unknowingly donated to BfW.

We often get bikes donated to us that have been in garages or sheds for decades. These bikes may have been forgotten toys or valued best friends of years past that are left in parents' and grown kids' valuable storage spaces. They almost always come with stories. And donors often find it hard to part with the physical reminder of a very dear memory.
This classic Schwinn came to us last spring, the owner shedding tears as she handed it over to us. She shared the story of how her father taught her how to ride, and how she had recently lost him. She had been holding on to his old bike as well as her childhood one unable to shake the emotional tie.

We hear many stories like this one. Donors often find the strength to part with these bikes, but certainly not the memories, when they hear about Bikes for the World. Knowing that these bikes can bring similar memories to another family or better yet, improve their lives often is the final nudge they need to 'let go'.

Part of our mission is to make quality used bicycles and parts affordable and available to lower income people and select institutions in developing countries to enhance their lives and livelihoods through better transport.

In select cases, it makes more sense to sell a valuable bike here locally and use the money to help us meet that mission, rather than send a single bike overseas.

For example, this old Schwinn, we called Larry's bike (because of the attached plate) was donated by a WUSA employee at a collection there in 2011. Although kids bikes can help get a child to school overseas, quite frankly we get a ton of them. They are often used as 'filler' in our containers to help pack spaces tight and keep the valuable mountain bikes from shifting too much in transport and getting damaged.
Since Paul was volunteering with us both at collections and loadings, he was starting to find a lot of cool bikes in the stacks of donations we got in. Bikes that would better the organization more if they were sold here instead of shipped overseas.

"Before I got involved finds like these were being shipped to third world regions. All of these bikes have either been donated or we pulled them from a landfill transfer station metal scrap pile in Maryland,"
Paul Schulwitz.

It may not seem like much and look like even less to you or me, but some of these bikes, if you have the right one can go for thousands of dollars to a BMX collector. It could be the frame itself, the brake pads, crank arms, or even the overlooked foam pad across the handlebar.

The fact is, our Director Keith Oberg wasn't much of a BMXer in his day, so he had no idea what these gems passing through his fingers were worth.

Once Paul got involved, these bikes got set aside for him to inspect and later sell. All of the money raised through these sales goes back into Bikes for the World to help support our mission. Paul has sold hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of vintage BMX 'stuff' for BfW. Instead of providing enjoyment for ONE child, these sales have in turn helped HUNDREDS.

If you are into these cool vintage finds you should totally check out a recent posting by Paul. In fact, you should check it out regardless...it may bring back some childhood memories. Vintage BMX finds in the BfW warehouse.

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