Bikes for the World

Friday, February 10, 2017

From Carolina to Costa Rica, With Love

Ralph and Kitty Echenique
While Bikes for the World folks up north trained an eye on a groundhog hole waiting to hear if spring was near or far, our South Carolina crew was busy as a beaver preparing for their first ever container loading.

February 3 & 4 our newest BfW chapter saw their hard work pay off. After more than a year of collecting bikes, this motley crew set out to move 500 or so bikes from a roomy warehouse to a cramped shipping container. And just in time, as they were asked to vacate that warehouse this month.

Cape Fear Academy crew led by Becky Copenhaver
This effort really started back in the fall of 2015 with BfW partner Cape Fear Academy. This school effort brought 133 bikes from North Carolina to South Carolina to jump start the Carolina chapter of BfW.

To be honest, the 'effort' really started with Navy retiree Paul Keefer, who we honored last month. Paul is the area coordinator who secured free warehouse space and coordinated pick ups of loads of bikes from two to two hundred. He has also worked tirelessly to bring the BfW name and mission to hundreds of Carolinians who had only wondered before, "what can I do with this old bike?"

Paige and Jaime Stacy
With the help of Bikes for the World, the answer became simple...DONATE IT! But Paul quickly found getting the word out is practically a full time job. Thankfully he found Jaime Stacy who has been leading much of the communication outreach effort down there (not to mention providing some of the muscle too).

Paul also spent most of last year reaching out to clubs and groups introducing our idea of collecting bikes as a rewarding service project. "What I love most about Bikes for the World is the simplicity and power of the concept. Collections are an exciting, uplifting event for all," said Paul in a recent newspaper article. And in waves, the bikes started pouring in.

Paul with Tom Lawrence
There was the collection we connected him on at The Peak Church in Apex, North Carolina. Another 100 bikes. Collections at Coastal Carolina University, Carolina Youth Development Center and Sow Seasonal Urban Farm in South Carolina- 25 more...

A truckload of bikes came in late last year from Tom Lawrence of Sumter. Another big donation from Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Brand new bikes from Union United Methodist...

Those of you who are familiar with our operation in DC know it's much more than just finding bikes, storing them, and then throwing them on a container. In order to fit the maximum number of bikes in a shipment there is a lot of hands on prep work required.

Navy crew regular volunteers
And Paul turned to the hardest working crew he knew...the Navy. Borrowing muscle from the Nuclear Power School not far away, Paul had much of the work done prior to this weekend.

But there were still parts to be stripped off bikes, boxes of parts to pack, and OSB to cut (to stack the bikes in the trailer). And with the Navy crew unavailable this weekend Paul found himself short on help.

Or so he thought. Sow Seasonal Farm had a few volunteers on hand for the event and so did Premier Logistics. Premier Logistics is the company who loaned Paul the use of the warehouse. And as it turns out loaned us much of the muscle for the load!

Bob Leftwich sharing loading tips with new crew
So with the guidance of Operations Manager Bob Leftwich, who we sent down there to assist, this inexperienced crew knocked out this task effortlessly. And they even maximized the load by surpassing the average 500 bikes mark!

This container will set sail this week heading to Costa Rica. The donated bikes are expected to arrive in Upala at the end of the month. You'll remember we told you about Upala last November when we had a container sitting in port waiting to be delivered to this same community. And then Hurricane Otto hit and efforts to clean and rebuild the town redirected focus. You can read more about that on the blog.

Ron Watts and Christina Russell
But now Upala is back and in need of that transportation our bikes deliver. We were thrilled to have this container ready to go out of South Carolina just as Upala was ready to resume the bike program.

We are even more thrilled to hear a report back from Paul that Carolina is cruising ahead to collect even more bikes. Not needing a groundhog to confirm warmer weather down south, this SC chapter already has its first collection of the year on the calendar for March. We expect another 1,000 bikes before summer from a commitment through the SC United Methodist Annual Conference. We are actively adding new locations to our calendar in SC...so keep your eye on our schedule for something near you!

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