Bikes for the World

Monday, July 14, 2014

Local Bike Donations

Courtesy St. Louis Bicycle Works
Yesterday we told you about how bikes donated by Bikes for the World are helping youth programs across the United States. We also explained why it's challenging to find new partners, something we are committed to working on continually.

Because BfW is the nation's largest bicycle reuse organization and we are handling over 15,000 bikes annually, we typically donate bikes in full containers (500 at a time). Locally, we sometimes donate as little as 30-100, but only when we know the bikes can be repaired with the recipient. This is why many of our domestic projects are earn-a-bike programs.

Family, originally from Ghana, earns bikes through Rockville
Five weeks ago Bikes for the World had shipped around 5,000 bikes for the year. That number is now close to 10,000. In the past two months, we have seen around 6,000 bikes come into our Arlington warehouse and we loaded containers every week. Needless to say, we don't have time to repair bikes coming through our warehouse; most of that is done through the partners we hand select.

But there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, in exchange for our use of the King Farm barn in Rockville we partner with the Parks and Rec department to pair Rockville youth with refurbished bikes through their TERRIFIC bike program. Our Operations Manager repairs about 50 bikes a year from our donated bikes to supply this program.

Takoma Park Middle School student
Right around the time we were working on the TERRIFIC bikes, we got word that a homeless student from Hyattsville needed a bike. We were able to find one in our Rockville supply that would work and delivered it to him last month.

The student was introduced to us through a teacher at Takoma Park Middle School and the Safe Routes to School program. His family is originally from The Gambia and relocated here from New York in hopes of better working prospects.

The family is currently homeless and staying in Hyattsville Maryland. During the school year, MCPS provides bus service to get kids to and from school, but the arrangement is difficult and makes his commute time consuming. The bike donated by Bikes for the World helped him finish out his school year and saved a ton of time.

St Augustine's Episcopal Church DC
 A few other donations materialized this spring through the hard work of some long time BfW collection partners. Finding a mechanic to get our donations in good working order is often the hardest part.

The West Springfield Rotary worked with The Bike Lane in Springfield to ready bikes for Kristi's Christmas, which donates bikes in June to Fairfax students in need.

The Waldorf Kiwanis has been doing an annual collection with Bikes for the World at Calvary Gospel in Waldorf for years. They approached us this spring and brought to our attention another church in Pikesville Kentucky who had a large number of poorer families who wanted bikes for their children.

During a recent loading in Arlington, the Kiwanis Club sent a truck and trailer to pick up 100 18 inch bikes that were donated by Bikes for the World. These kids bikes were taken to Kentucky where they will be refurbished and donated to the kids in the community.

St Augustine's Episcopal Church in DC (photo above), received a donation of seven bikes through our first Board Chairman Nick Griffin.

Every fall we also donate bikes to the Baltimore Christmas Bike Project.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Youth Programs, Learning and Earning

Courtesy Phoenix Bikes
So far this year Bikes for the World has donated over 9,500 bikes to other organizations worldwide.  While a majority of our bikes are donated overseas, many also stay right here in America. In 2014, BfW has donated bikes to eight organizations overseas. We have also donated just under 1,000 bikes to eight domestic projects
as well.

It is often more difficult to find local groups who support our mission, can accept bike donations in the larger quantities that we typically donate, AND have the workforce to fix up the bikes that are often in need of major repairs.  Nearly 100% of our donations locally are working to benefit young people, either by getting them a bike or teaching them a valuable skill.

Bikes donated to BfW FROM Phoenix Bikes
One of our favorite groups we work with is right here in Arlington, Phoenix Bikes. Phoenix Bikes is a youth program that teaches kids how to fix up bikes, but it doesn't stop there. Check out this recent article from the Washington Post to see how great this program is for yourself.

What you may not know about Phoenix Bikes, and many other groups like them, is that they also turn around and donate right back to groups like Bikes for the World. Just last month Phoenix delivered a couple truckloads of bikes to BfW that have already been shipped overseas. In turn, we donated some road bikes back to them to help support the youth program.

Courtesy BWorks: More DICK'S bikes
Back in May, BfW partnered for a third year with DICK'S Sporting Goods to offer a trade-in trade-up promotion to their customers. During this one week event, customers brought in an old bike to receive money off a new bike. DICK'S then donated all of those bikes, over 5,500!, to BfW.

Two trailers of bikes coming from DICK'S warehouses were diverted to another non-profit in St. Louis, St. Louis Bicycle Works (BWorks). This is another local youth program which can benefit from some of our donated bikes that are less suitable for use on rural village roads overseas.

Courtesy St. Louis Bicycle Works
St. Louis works with Bikes for the World to help ship bikes overseas to our same partners. Many of these youth programs, like BWorks, are based in the city and make use of more road bikes than mountain frames for their programs. They either donate the unwanted bikes to us, or ship them directly from their warehouses.

This shipment (seen left) was loaded in June and is on its way to BfW partner CESTA in El Salvador. Back in Arlington, we just finished loading a container this past weekend, that will also soon be on its way to CESTA, to support their youth program in El Salvador.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Featured Volunteer: Karen Hendrixson

It was just last year when Karen sent an email offering to help unload bikes from DICK'S Sporting Goods in our old Arlington warehouse. Karen was no stranger to BfW, she is a very active member of our board so of course we wanted her help in the warehouse.Now we can't keep her away.

Bikes for the World is always proud to boast about our active board members. They are all very passionate about the work we do and are always looking for ways to improve on that.

In addition to the behind the scenes strategic planning, almost every single member has an article of clothing, or two or three, stained with the unmistakable BfW trademark....GREASE. Dr. Karen Hendrixson is no exception, in fact she likely has some on her knee brace.

This year, Karen is a go-to pro. Last year she would offer to come out to collections, loadings...whatever we needed, but she always cautioned, I'm not sure how much help I will be...

Karen could often be found riding her bike, perhaps on the canal, or with one of her kids, but she didn't usually take it apart. It wasn't long before she knew the ropes at BfW and was spinning pedals off with the rest of us. Now she has her own trademark maneuvers. If you have a saddle that won't go down...take it to Karen, she will show you an unorthodox trick!

Karen joined our board in 2012, but she's been involved a lot longer than that. Her son did a collection with us quite a while ago. But it's her extensive knowledge of Africa that is a valuable asset to our team. She has lived in Ghana and Liberia and is currently helping to explore options of expanding BfW to Liberia. She currently serves as the board secretary.

The bonus to having Karen around the warehouse isn't just the fact that she brings us cookies and brownies...she truly understands how Bikes for the World works. She isn't just wrestling rusty bike parts, she is mentoring volunteers and checking in with staff. With Karen working side by side with staff and volunteers, she sees where we excel and where we could use improvement. This is something you can't fully appreciate sitting in a board meeting.

In fact, all of our board members have either done their own collections, mentored others at collections, picked up bikes, or even packed bikes at a loading. They have all processed a bike and had grease under their fingernails on one or more occasion.

Keeping our board members active in our program is keeping Bikes for the World strong. They understand our limitations and see our potential first hand. They are interacting with our donors, our volunteers, and even our beneficiaries.

The next time you are out at a loading make sure you say hi to Karen...and thank her for the baked treats!