Bikes for the World

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Featured Volunteer: Keith Whitaker

Collecting bikes in South Carolina
Summer 2012. "I live in Charleston, SC and am interested in helping out." It was a simply stated, common email that came into Bikes for the World about two years ago. We had no idea then, how serious Keith Whitaker was.

Keith is the marketing director at Gildan's Branded Apparel Division headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. He heard about Bikes for the World and he wanted to get involved. But he also had a vision: he wanted to take advantage of the containers his company was sending back to their operation in Honduras. Let's fill them with bikes!

This was no ordinary volunteer fulfilling community service hours. Keith was in a position to expand our vision to create Bikes for the World 'chapters' outside the DC area. Bikes for the World was about to pop up in South Carolina. We were stoked!

Fast forward a year. Summer 2013. Coordinating an effort at a distance between a corporation and a new non-profit partner overseas doesn't happen overnight. While BfW Director Keith Oberg was working out the details with the potential partner, Fundacion Adelante, Gildan's Director of Marketing Keith Whitaker was speaking with the company's CEO.

Finally, everyone came to an agreement. Keith Whitaker would host several bike collections in the community, collect bikes and store them at Gildan. Adelante agreed to take an initial shipment of 100 bikes to get a feel for how the program would work.

First BfW container loading in SC
So Whitaker recruited the help from fellow co-workers Sarah Stafford and Chuck Jones to help advertise the collections, prep the bikes, and ultimately load the container themselves, right there in South Carolina. To supplement the shipment Keith Oberg arranged to have bikes collected earlier in 2013 at Reagan High School in NC transported to Gildan in SC. In fact, Whitaker also coordinated the effort to pick up and deliver these bikes to Gildan's warehouse in SC.

Fast forward one more year. Summer 2014. Adelante recently reported back to Bikes for the World on the how the program was going. Our donated bikes were received in February 2014. They were then refurbished so that they could be sold at a low cost to rural Hondurans in need of affordable transportation to get to work and school.

Jose Matute, bike mechanic and shop owner
Jose Matute, a local bicycle shop owner, was responsible for getting the donated bikes back in working order. His bike business is booming by supplying parts to the new bike owners as well as continuing further maintenance on the bikes.

Profits from the bike program are helping to fund a new initiative Adelante is currently establishing, the Secondary Education Loan. This loan will help clients with the high cost of sending a child to school, to help pay for things such as textbooks and school uniforms.

Interested in helping out. A powerful and understated phrase that led to one man flanked by two dedicated friends joining forces with the nation's leading bicycle re-use program to deliver hope to rural Honduras. Featured Volunteer? Yeah, that's an understatement.


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