Bikes for the World

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bikes for Tykes, Teens, and Adults in Need

We recently brought you a post about our local impact and the challenges we face in donating bikes locally. Overall we have donated about 2,000 bikes in the United States and that number is growing significantly year to year. Last year we donated 634 bikes locally compared to just over 100 three years earlier.

As we mentioned in that earlier post Rockville's TERRIFIC program and Phoenix Bikes are two of the organizations we support most. Some of the challenges of donating bikes locally include storage, maintenance, safety and training.

BfW bikes donated locally
Many of the bikes we receive through donations are in need of parts or repair. They may need new tires, chains are rusty, brakes need adjusting...they are definitely not ride ready. And bike maintenance can be expensive, which is how we end up with some of our donations in the first place.

We do have a qualified mechanic on staff, which is helpful in determining which bikes to send overseas, which to keep locally, which ones to strip for parts, and which few aren't worth saving at all. But our focus is on collecting and shipping bikes in bulk, keeping us on target with helping the greatest number of people by donating about 14,000 bikes annually.

Courtesy Bikes for Tykes and Teens
 What we need is more individuals like Charles Jones. He recognized the global scale on which Bikes for the World operates and asked himself what he could do to help. He saw an awareness poster for Bikes for the World on a Spokes Etc bulletin board. It said, "Give us your bikes: They are needed in Africa."

Jones knew the power of the bicycle and he was aware that there was a need for them right in his own neighborhood. The idea of Bikes for Tykes, Teens, and Adults in Need was born.

"Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use." Charlie Brown

Team member Wolfgang Maier with refurbished bikes
 Charles Jones was on a 24-speed mountain bike and using every gear to get over every obstacle others couldn't. Taking on the responsibility of finding used bikes, fixing them up, and delivering them is a daunting task. One most people only think about and ask us why there isn't more being done locally. Simple answer: there aren't many Charles Jones out there.

Jones looked in his own community for help, and found it. With the sponsorship of Heritage Presbyterian Church and training from Spokes Etc. Bikes for Tykes, Teens, and Adults in Need came to fruition.
Courtesy Bikes for Tykes and Teens
Jones gets his bikes from neighborhood associations, Fairfax County Police, Spokes Etc., and Bikes for the World. Many of the unique 18" wheel sized bikes we receive are donated to local organizations such as Bikes for Tykes and Teens. These odd sized wheels are hard to find replacement parts for overseas and are typically not sent.

Sometimes folks ask us about the competition between similar bike organizations in the area. Our answer is simple, what competition? There are plenty of bikes and we are all working toward the same goal, recycling a valuable resource and getting it into the hands of someone who will use it to better their life.

Courtesy Bikes for Tykes and Teens
Bikes for Tykes, Teens, and Adults in need has donated over 1,100 refurbished bicycles in the seven years they existed. From our recent DICK'S shipment BfW donated 50 bikes to the organization.

After Jones fixes the bikes and performs a safety check the bikes are distributed to a number of welfare agencies in the DC area. Some of the bigger ones include: UCM, Mt. Eagle Elementary, Alexandria Salvation Army, Rising Hope Church, Hoffman-Boston Elementary, Malcolm X (DC), Homestretch in Falls Church, and New Hope Housing.

Jones tells us he once received a letter from a bike beneficiary who was affected by Hurricane Katrina who wrote, "p.s. You know kids need to ride a bicycle."  He instantly recognized the importance a bicycle brings to a young life. It's more than a toy, it's a teacher. A bicycle teaches us how to balance. It forces us to make decisions and encourages us to choose. It builds confidence and independence.

"Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." Einstein. And nothing is slowing this motivated, dedicated neighborhood mechanic.

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