Bikes for the World

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Honoring Craig Annear and Nick Griffin

Jerry Rogers, Keith Oberg, Craig Annear, Nick Griffin
The long awaited tale of "How it Began"...

When Executive Director Keith Oberg (kneeling with bike in the photo to the right) made the decision to establish Bikes for the World, identifying storage and enlisting community groups to collect bikes, he did not do it alone. Craig Annear and Nick Griffin, pictured to the right of the bike at this Bikes for the World collection at Herndon High School in 2005, have been with Bikes for the World since the beginning of time, or at least since Bikes for the World formed.

Craig, who had recently retired from a career as a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency and who had a life-long interest in Africa (and whose son had recently served in the Peace Corps in Zambia), came to an event featuring a speaker from Ghana, discussing bikes in Ghana.

Nick had recently relocated from his home town of New York City to work in international assistance with a Northern VA-based agency, and knew about Keith's efforts through his brother, who had done a field survey and report on bicycles in Nicaragua.

Both saw the potential for Bikes for the World to grow, and quickly became active, spending countless hours driving trucks, mentoring new bike processors, and loading shipments. It helped that both enjoyed physical exercise and wanted to stay in shape. Both took the lead in loading 40' shipping containers, frequently tackling the infamous 'third level.' As Keith often joked to first-timers, "now you know why [we] quit our membership at Sport & Health".

This past year, Bikes for the World recognized both men with the Starley Award for leadership in our ascent. Both Craig and Nick served as Chairpersons throughout Bikes for the World's climb. Tom Tepper is the current Bikes for the World Chair.

Bikes for the World began as a "sponsored project" of a supportive Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). In essence, Keith was given free rein to manage Bikes for the World's finances and operations. Craig contributed his legal knowledge, helping to prepare a standard "memorandum of understanding" which BfW used in establishing relationships with overseas receiving partners. Nick contributed his contacts and expertise in identifying several early partners.

Over its first three years, the program grew rapidly, from 5,000 bikes handled to over 10,000 in 2008. But it was taking its toll on Keith, and on volunteers. Nick was particularly assertive in urging Keith to hire help and broaden the base of support.

Bike use in Africa
In 2008, Nick traveled to Senegal on Bikes for the World's behalf, along with the Village Bicycle Project's David Peckham, to prepare an innovative complementary effort to a USAID secondary school construction project. Nick's international development expertise and contacts, and strong French skills, paired with Peckham's West African field and bicycle technology knowledge, enabled the duo to prepare a proposal to bring in a container of 500 bicycles to enable students walking long miles to school, to get there more quickly via bicycle. The project quickly won USAID and Ministry of Education approval, only to flounder on irrational Ministry of Finance import restrictions.

Finally, in the fall of 2009, Craig and Nick, along with Jerry Rogers (all pictured at top with Keith), convened a meeting in a Rosslyn sports bar--convenient to Nick's office and Jerry's bike commuter route. There, the three prevailed upon Keith to hire office help and begin considering other ways to build Bikes for the World into a permanent organization. It would be the first step toward moving out from under WABA's sponsorship and becoming an independent non-profit agency.

Bikes for the World hopes to ship its 100,000th bike this fall. With over a dozen global partners and increasing corporate partnerships, BfW collects and donates over 14,000 bikes annually, affecting lives from Rockville communities to remote villages in Africa to small schools in Bohol, Philippines.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Featured Volunteer: James Branscome

Jim Branscome finally found his way over to King Farm during a very cold March volunteer night after years of telling himself he wanted to get more involved. It was his first time volunteering with us even though he had been a long time supporter of Bikes for the World.

He came into the dark, unheated barn and got to work processing bikes, knocking back the big stack by the time we closed up that evening.

The following week he was back. It was a little warmer and we were loading a container for Barbados. But instead of jumping up on the dock to help load bikes, Jim stuck with processing and even more importantly, mentoring. Jim patiently worked with students there earning student service learning hours required for graduation.

Bikes for the World helps many students graduate by providing rewarding volunteer opportunities at collections, loadings, and regular volunteer nights. We also host school groups, both local and visiting DC, for service projects. The latest group came to us from Georgia and included over 20 students.

Because we recently took in over 4,000 bikes from the DICK'S Sporting Goods promotion we had plenty of work in our warehouse. However, in order to properly mentor that many students at once, we need good 'lieutenants' on hand. Again, Jim stepped up and worked with students processing bikes, many of them never holding a pedal wrench or hex wrench before.

When you bring in 1,000 bikes a day you need help! And we found that help in some unlikely places. Jim Branscome, and better yet, Jim Mitchell (who we've already told you is a BfW superstar) braved the beltway traffic during rush hour to come down to our Pentagon City warehouse not just once, but several times, to help us take in the donated bikes from DICK'S.

Jim says he didn't mean to come as often as he did to help. In fact, I think he was there 4 times, to the tune of about 4,000 bikes! He was in the trailer every time helping Nick untangle and offload truckload after truckload of DICK'S bikes. And you don't accidentally end up in Crystal City when you live on the far side of the beltway, I can assure you.

Kaila, Karen, Carol, Jim, Harvey, Nick, and Kim
Jim will humbly tell you, it wasn't just him, and he's right. Randy Swart, of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, Harvey Sachs, Jim Mitchell, Kim Sanderhoff of FreeBike Project (all the way from LA), Carol Goodloe, and Karen, Rich, and George (all BfW board members) came out to several DICK'S unloads and moved thousands of bikes with us.

Oh, and we can't forget Phil Ruth, long, long time, dedicated volunteer, who drove from OK a little early just to be part of this effort (and has now relocated to NOVA). And he'll tell you he didn't pull us through either, but with his help processing hundreds of bikes that first weekend, picking up bikes, and delivering ply board to us to stack bikes...he played a big part in our successes receiving so many bikes in such a short time.

Thank you to everyone who helped the past few weeks in Arlington. This year's DICK'S promotion was even bigger than the first two years. We are still receiving bikes from the promotion and expect our final totals to be well over 5,000 bikes. Add to that the hundreds of bikes we took in locally over the past two months and you'll find about 6,300 bikes currently sitting in our warehouse. To put that in perspective: Bikes for the World donated a total of 5,823 bikes in our first year.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

From a Rockville Student to a Student in Bohol

King Farm

This year Bikes for the World reconditioned and donated 33 bikes to the TERRIFIC citizens of Rockville on May 18, 2014.

New helmets, donated by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, and BfW bicycles were awarded to 33 children ages 5-12 who participated in the Rockville Recreation and Parks Department’s “Terrific Bikes” program.
Kommy, 2014 Terrific bike earner
Bikes for the World collects unwanted bikes in the community and fixes them up at our King Farm warehouse. Some of these bikes are then given back to the community through the city's earn-a-bike program.  The majority of our bikes are donated to a dozen partner programs around the globe.
Children earned the bikes by completing at least six responsible acts, such as perfect school attendance for one month or volunteering at a charitable organization for an hour. Many did much more, including one 9-year-old who earned a bike for his younger brother so he could learn to ride.

Gabrielle, 2013 Terrific bike earner AND donor
Every year we find stories such as these where a young bike earner turns around and gives that bike to someone else. The last two years, in fact, several students brought us their old bikes that they had outgrown to donate to our program.

In 2013 we told you about Gabrielle, who earned a bike even though she had just received a new one for her birthday. She wanted to help another young person find the joys of riding a bike. This year we have an update on that bike Gabrielle donated.

Crea Ocdenaria
Crea Ocdenaria is a Junior at Pagnitoan National High School in Maribojoc, Bohol Philippines. Thanks to Gabrielle's efforts, Crea is now one of about 50 new bike beneficiaries in our latest school project in the Philippines.

Crea lives in the Barangay of Dipatlong which is about 3 kilometers from school. That's almost a four mile round trip walking everyday. Crea was chosen for the bike program based on her family's distance from school as well, as their financial situation. Her father, Edwin, is a laborer and earns about $100 a month for their family. Crea's mom, Marita is a housewife. Crea has three siblings, one brother and two sisters.
Pagnitoan HS beneficiaries practice riding skills
The bike Gabielle donated, a blue and silver Power Climber, is now helping Crea get to and from school faster, allowing her more time to study and help her mother with the house and her siblings. Crea is an honor student with a 90.6 average.

Many students are in danger of dropping out of school because of their lengthy commutes. Bicycles are helping entire families by keeping kids in school and getting them home faster to help with errands or family chores.

Pagnitoan National High School is the second school to take part in the Bikes for Education program established by Bikes for the Philippines and supported by Bikes for the World. Our newest beneficiaries just received their bikes after about a six month delay. The devastation last fall caused by the earthquake damaged much of Maribojoc, including the school (you can still see the rubble of a school building behind the bike beneficiaries in the photo above).