Bikes for the World

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Featured Volunteer: One Planet, One People, One Message

St Mary of Sorrows
This month Bikes for the World recognizes the effort of a congregation of volunteers for their dedication and hard work over the past two decades. St. Mary of Sorrows out of Fairfax has collected 2,183 bikes over the years and enlisted the help from countless volunteers, young and old.

It all began back in 1997 when a woman by the name of Muriel Grim approached Linda Hansen with an idea. Muriel, an environmentalist, enlisted the help of Linda, a cycling enthusiast, to collect bikes for a local recycling group known then as Pedals for Progress. They met with Keith Oberg, now Director of Bikes for the World, and the St. Mary of Sorrows annual bike collection was born.

"We sat on a truck bed discussing the concept of bicycle recycling, how a bike collection could be run, etc. They loved it and went off and organized a spring collection. I went with a 24' Budget truck and they filled it- with 265 bikes!!! We were blown away," recalls Oberg.

Linda, Brian, Earl, Jackie
What was unique about this collection right from the start was the reach across denominations. St. Mary's collection was not ONE church merely collecting bikes for an organization. Linda Hansen reached out to the faith community in the area and invited everyone to join hands in this global effort.

Over the years St. Mary of Sorrows has worked with Burke Presbyterian, Accotink Unitarian Universalist, Lord of Life Lutheran, and St. George's Methodist. The efforts of these faith communities coming together for one common cause made life simpler for Bikes for the World. Instead of five or six smaller collections spread across the county, this one combined collection point made for a more rewarding community service project and made it much simpler logistically for BfW. St. Peter's in the Woods does have one smaller collection point the same day, but it's right around the corner making for an easy pick up point.

Brian Keith and Earl Smith
After a 15 year run, Linda handed the reins over to Jackie Colonna who now manages the collection for Bikes for the World. Linda still remains heavily involved with the collection, however.

The transition was seamless not only because Jackie had been working on the collection for several years but because key volunteers like Brian Keith and Earl Smith have been working side by side with Linda from the early years.

"If Linda and Jackie are the cogs in this well oiled machine, Brian and Earl are the muscle behind it. From what I could see they 'own' the physical part of the collection and really get the job done. By outsmarting stuck pedals, mentoring youth and newer volunteers, and removing locks with the biggest bolt cutters I've ever seen," Yvette Hess, BfW Outreach Coordinator

Jackie has also taken on the responsibility of requesting tithing funds (with Brian's help) on behalf of Bikes for the World.  St. Mary's has a very large Parish Life and active Social Ministry. Securing space for any one event begins early in the year and you can find something going on on site almost every weekend. Likewise, financial donations range from housing projects, to feeding the hungry, or providing medical assistance to those in needs.

It truly is the work of all groups involved that keeps this drive so successful. But Linda says it best when she credits what's behind the effort. The mission of St. Mary's is ultimately to spread the word of the Gospel whether that be by word, or in this case by bike. She says the bike is a gift. Everyone involved is Spirit driven. We are driven to make this happen. It is the work of God, Linda Hansen.

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