Bikes for the World

Friday, October 3, 2014

Featured Volunteer: George Kurz

From our photo vault
"I think the bike collection is the most significant and effective volunteer project that this community sponsors."

Now that's the kind of feedback we love to hear at Bikes for the World! That quote came from a volunteer at the 2014 annual bike collection at Pennswood Village in Newtown Pennsylvania. And brings us to introduce this month's featured volunteer, George Kurz, who has managed that collection for the last eight years.

Pennswood is a unique and distinct collection point for BfW that broadens our reach and supports the community involvement set forth in our mission. Having a dedicated manager such as George overseeing the project has not only defined the success in terms of number of bikes but also in bringing together a community.

Nancy Worthington mentors student
Pennswood Village is a Quaker retirement community in Pennsylvania where George and his wife Elisabeth live. Each year the community teams up with George School and Newtown Friends School to host an annual bike drive with BfW.

Working together, students and members of the retirement community collect and prep bikes that will be donated overseas. It is one of many events at Pennswood Village, and judging by the number of participants (42, this year!) it appears to be a popular one.

"I know George going back almost two decades, when he served on the board of the non-profit I worked for at the time. We lost touch when he left the board. But two years after I founded Bikes for the World, George "found" me, and since that time has been an energetic and conscientious part of Bikes for the World, " Director Keith Oberg.

Over the years, Pennswood Village has had incredible success with the collection in Newtown. Since 2007 George has overseen the collection and processing of just under 1,000 bikes that have been donated to Bikes for the World. Many of this year's bikes will be loaded next week in a container heading to our partner in Ghana, Africa, Village Bicycle Project.

But it is not George alone contributing to the success of this collection. As mentioned, in 2014, the Pennswood collection had 42 volunteers, many of whom were residents of the community. Volunteers distributed publicity, picked up bikes beforehand, and prepared the tax receipts for donors. They put in over 200 hours on this project alone.

George is a retired ophthalmologist who practiced in New Jersey and was a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. He has taught in Africa, China, Ecuador, and the Philippines and knows very well how important an affordable bike can be to rural communities in developing countries.

"I have come to know, and enjoy working with, the individuals recruited by George to the the Pennswood organizing committee, given the consistent and high degree of organization and commitment, " Oberg reflects.

Looking ahead, "the Pennswood collection has allowed us to 'wave the Bikes for the World flag' in the greater Philadelphia metro area and lay the groundwork for more work in the future. We will be participating in the Philly Bike Expo on November 8-9, 2014 and hope to build on this foundation. We have also had bikes coming in to Pennswood from volunteers, such as Keith and Andrew (and now younger brother Luke) Grover, and donors in central NJ."

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