Bikes for the World

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bikes in Costa Rica

Taylor and Luis in container
America Recycles Day is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. This 'recycling celebration' occurs annually on November 15 and generates a huge amount of buzz over recycling...not to mention a huge pile of recyclables...somewhere in the vicinity of 3.7 million pounds of it!

To help us do our part, Bikes for the World was joined by FINCA Costa Rica Director Luis Jimenez last week. On November 15th, representatives from Keep America Beautiful and the US EPA were on hand in the Bikes for the World warehouse to help load the 100,000th donated bike from Bikes for the World. This milestone bike would be donated, along with over 500 others, to our long-standing partner FINCA Costa Rica.

Luis and Yvette at Microsoft
On November 14th at the Microsoft store in the Pentagon City Fashion Centre, Jimenez gave a presentation explaining how his organization is using our bikes to help transform lives in rural Costa Rica. Part of the importance of America Recycles Day is not only recycling, but creating an educational platform that helps raise the awareness about the value of recycling. At Bikes for the World we went one step further, and put a face on America's discarded recyclables.

BfW shared photos from our recent trip to Costa Rica while Jimenez explained how the program works.

 To date, Bikes for the World has donated over 20,500 bikes to Costa Rica since 2005. All of the donated bikes were brought into Costa Rica through our partner FINCA Costa Rica to help support smaller micro-finance organizations. The following was presented by Director Luis Jimenez during his visit to the Bikes for the World world headquarters.

The population of Costa Rica stands at about 4.94 million people. 38% of the population live in what is considered to be rural Costa Rica. Many communities tucked along the winding roads of mountainous countrysides consist of residents who make their livings farming, working construction, or running small local shops.

FINCA Costa Rica was established in 1984 to help communities help themselves. Today FINCA Costa Rica serves about 130 rural communities all around the country.

  • FINCA Costa Rica helps rural communities establish micro-finance organizations owned and operated by their members.
  • FINCA Costa Rica also teaches community members how to operate those micro-finance organizations set up to benefit their own communities.
Member groups operate with the equity raised by their own members, in many cases through FINCA Costa Rica supported projects. The Bike Project, also known as Mi Bici, was established in 2005 as a 'loan' project.

The Bike Project was introduced to bring clean, affordable transportation to rural Costa Ricans and also to help raise funds to support the Empresas (these local micro-finance groups).

In this way, one donated bike is in turn helping the new owner of the bike get to work or school, which is helping to support his or her family. It is also generating work for the individuals fixing up and maintaining the bicycle. Last but not least, it is supporting the entire community who benefits from the sale of that bicycle, which helps support a number of member operated businesses in the community.

We ended the evening taking questions about the program, the quality of our bikes, the condition of our containers based on how we pack the bikes, and what Costa Rica wants more of...answer: beach cruisers and sewing machines!

Jimenez reports that our bikes arrive in great condition and most if not all are put back to good use. His big request, just send more bikes!

If you want to see the slide presentation (without sound) you can check it out on YouTube.

Big thanks to Microsoft for letting us use their amazing space so close to our warehouse...and getting our presentation off with absolutely NO technical glitches.

Turns out the mall on a Friday a store that sells video gaming equipment...isn't the most ideal space for an intimate chat afterwards, so we all retired downstairs for dinner and continued conversation.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Give a Man A Bike...

Mauricio of Phoenix Bikes
Better yet...teach him (or her) how to fix one! There is a saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching a man to fish. That basic principle is exactly how our local bike organizations work in DC. It's also the foundation for how Bikes for the World operates and donates bikes around the world.

Mauricio came up through the earn-a-bike program established through Phoenix Bikes in Arlington. He learned the basics of a bike, and dove into more complex mechanics as he hung out in the tiny shed on the edge of Barcroft Park over the years. He is now a paid mechanic at Papillon Cycles.

Gearin' Up Bicycles
They are riding in the same gear over at Gearin' Up Bicycles in Northeast DC. This local group is creating career development opportunities and teaching essential workplace skills to teens from underserved communities through earn-a-bike programs that also promote cycling as a healthy lifestyle choice.

Phoenix Bikes has been "specializing in awesome" since 2007 and Gearin' Up has been up and running since 2012. Gearin' Up Bicycles just moved to a new permanent location at 314 Randolph Place NE. Phoenix Bikes is still operating in Barcoft Park, Arlington.

Both groups offer affordable bikes for sale reconditioned by trained youth enrolled in the program. Beginning in December Gearin' Up will open the shop to YOU on Tuesdays from 6-8pm for their BYOB (Build Your Own Bike) program.

Craig Annear helps load donated bike
Bikes for the World is proud to donate bikes to both of these local youth programs in the DC area. Bikes for the World's mission is to help provide affordable transportation to workers and students who need the bikes to better their lives. On November 15, 2014 BfW donated its 100,000th bicycle since 2005.

Because of the volume of bikes collected and donated at BfW, our main focus is partnering with other non-profit groups who have established programs in place that support our mission. This allows us to concentrate on moving a large number of bikes, therefore helping a greater number of people, without the distraction of fixing up bikes that are in need of repair.

Donation to Phoenix Bikes
The donations from BfW helps support programs locally and around the world, providing life skills that will improve the lives of beneficiaries enrolled in the programs. Our partners often teach mechanics and business skills that allow people to open and operate successful bike shops in rural Africa and the streets of inner city El Salvador.

Back here at home, Phoenix and Gearin' Up are doing similar work, teaching life skills to youth in the DC area. They are learning how to work as a team in a business setting and earning bikes in the process. Both groups offer valuable after school activities that engage and teach its members. They also do a lot of community outreach, offering group rides and participating in local events.

And the donating and support goes both ways. Phoenix Bikes organized a ride over to the BfW warehouse to help us celebrate donating our 100,000th bike this past weekend. As you can see, they weren't empty-handed when they arrived, toting a healthy supply of tires for our shipment.

Bikes for the World donates road bikes locally that aren't as suitable for the rural roads overseas. Both Phoenix and Gearin' Up also collect bikes on their own and often end up with bikes and/or parts in excess of what they need or can use. They then donate those items to BfW for use overseas. Our groups work together to provide the best bikes to the best areas around the world.

Waldorf Kiwanis will deliver 180 bikes to Pikeville KY
During our 100k event weekend, Bikes for the World donated over 200 bikes to three local bike organizations including a church group in Pikeville Kentucky.

In 2014, BfW donated more bikes locally than any other year, a testament to our growth pattern across the board. Over 1,000 bikes donated to BfW stayed here at home serving nine different local groups in 2014. Since our beginning in 2005, BfW has donated about 4% of all collected bikes to local groups.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

100,000 Bike Donated
On November 15, 2014 Bikes for the World loaded the 100,000th bike!

As part of America Recycles Day, Bikes for the World was joined by the US EPA and Keep America Beautiful, along with volunteers, some of whom have been with BfW since the beginning in 2005, for this milestone loading.

Thanks to the generosity of JetBlue we were able to fly in Luis Jimenez, director of FINCA Costa Rica for this monumental event. The 100,000th bike, along with over 500 others, will be donated to Costa Rica where it will be used to help an individual get to work.

A regular BfW Meet Up volunteer group from Northern Virginia joined us Saturday in the warehouse to help prep bikes for shipping. We also saw many new and veteran volunteers who came out to help us celebrate this event. Director, Keith Oberg thanked DICK'S Sporting Goods for donating over 15% of the total bikes we've donated over the years (and that's only been since our partnership began 3 years ago). He also recognized Vornado, who allows us to store bikes in this Metro accessible location and helps make the partnership with DICK'S possible.

Bikes for the World awarded Jim Mitchell with the annual Pedal Wrench award, which recognizes the outstanding effort of a single volunteer over the year. Jim continues to work with BfW as a collection manager through his church in Eldersburg MD where he's has helped collect over 1,300 bikes. Jim also joined us many nights at King Farm to help mentor youth in the Rockville Youth Bike Project. He regularly makes pick ups at partner shop Race Pace Bicycles to allow us to collect bikes year round as far away as Baltimore and occasionally Westminster. Race Pace is one of our largest bike shop partners.

Both Jim and Keith loaded the 100k bike into the container for Costa Rica. Keith addressed the 50 or so volunteers on hand to thank them for making this possible.

"It really is the work of all. Hundreds and hundreds...thousands of people...donors, volunteers, staff, people overseas... Just an incredible accomplishment after 10 years.

"I'm just overwhelmed. Thank you so much and thank you for being part of this for the past 10 years. And for what you'll be part of in the future. And thank you for being here today." Keith Oberg
You can see the video of the loading here.  We shared a ton of photos on Facebook, but  you can also view photos here.

FOX 5 was on hand during the entire event and captured the prepping, loading, and ceremony for a piece that aired on Saturday and Sunday. You can hear the story told by Keith Oberg and Luis Jimenez in this package that aired on FOX 5.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Special Guest Helps Load Container

Luis Jimenez Director FINCA Costa Rica
With just a little bit of planning, Bikes for the World is set to donate its 100,000th bike on November 15, 2014, which just happens to be America Recycles Day.

So that's making the loading this month for Costa Rica at the Bikes for the World warehouse fun...we are thrilled to be involved in this national event.

But that's not all! We are, after all, loading the 100,000th bike Saturday AND we also had the director of FINCA Costa Rica getting his hands dirty with us in the container!

JetBlue Crew
This was truly a special loading at Bikes for the World, working side by side with our partner, getting real time feedback on what we were loading and how we were packing it. And Luis assures us, it's much easier to load a container than unload one...don't we always say that every time we try to shut the container door?

This was all made possible thanks to JetBlue who offered a few travel vouchers to us earlier in the year. So we were able to fly Luis here couresty JetBlue. And what a treat...the JetBlue crew joined us Thursday night to help us get this container loaded and Set to Sail to Costa Rica!

Jeff, Taylor, and Paul look over rims
Quite a few of our veteran volunteers made the trek down to our Arlington warehouse for this milestone shipment. We say 'made the trek' because we saw a few King Farm regulars down there, like Jeff and Harvey. It's quite a trip around the beltway during rush hour...but these guys know how long the journey was to 100k. A trip around the beltway was totally worth it; they couldn't miss being part of the 100k load.

We flipped through our 10 year book, remembering old warehouses, standout collections, and the amazing volunteers we met along the way. By the end of the night we had half the container already loaded. Well on our way to 100k!

Yvette and Peyton practicing the jitterbug
Whether you just started with Bikes for the World last week or last decade, this is something you didn't want to miss. We got a lot of work done, but we had fun doing it...don't we always?

There was a little singing and of course dancing...there's always a little dancing every Thursday volunteer night! We processed bikes, rolled them across the warehouse, and packed them tightly into the container.

Everyone took a break to pose with the 100k bike. And to help celebrate America Recycles Day coming up that weekend, we even snapped a few #RecyclingSelfies to add to ARD social media sites. Pick your favorite site and search the hashtag...see if you can find all our #RecyclingSelfies.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Set To Jet

A special THANK YOU to JetBlue who issued Bikes for the World a couple travel vouchers that allowed us to visit Costa Rica and helped us bring FINCA Costa Rica's executive director, Luis Jimenez, to DC last week.

Luis Jimenez joined us in DC this week to help us celebrate our 100,000th donated bike to be loaded  on November 15th. Luis will join us for the loading as well as give a presentation about how our bikes are changing lives in Costa Rica.

The 100,000th bike will be donated to FINCA Costa Rica, arriving just in time for Christmas.

When we offered the option of touring the city by bike Luis was all for it. The temperature the day before he arrived was in the 70s. By Thursday it had dipped into the 40s.

Luis came armed with a winter coat and hat but still needed to borrow some warmer gloves for the ride. The typical average temperature in Costa Rica stays above 70 degrees.

Yvette and Taylor were joined by board member Rich Robinson for the bike tour of DC. We hit many of the Washington DC landmarks and Rich added interesting facts about the city along the way.

 The ride was a big contrast to the one we did just two months earlier when Yvette met Keith and Kaila in Costa Rica courtesy JetBlue. Then, Yvette and Luis joined some of the BfW beneficiaries for a ride through the community in sweltering humid temperatures.

Back in DC, Luis had asked Taylor about the first snowfall. It was THAT cold. And sure enough when we arrived back at the warehouse a few flakes actually fell.

 Having Luis on hand for the 100k celebration is certainly a treat. Even better, guess who showed up for the first night loading of the container....the JetBlue Crew!

Recruited by loyal BfW volunteer Phil Loar, who works at JetBlue, four JetBlue employees showed up to help us start this milestone container.

Both Yvette and Luis were on hand to personally thank the crew for helping us visit DC and Costa Rica. The travel vouchers allowed us to see how the container is packed and how the bikes are received overseas. This will help us improve our shipments in the future.

And we are looking forward to learning more about the program tomorrow when Microsoft hosts us in Fashion Centre just behind our warehouse.

You can see all the photos from Luis's bike tour of DC on Facebook.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Featured Volunteer: Becky Copenhaver

This month we are featuring the efforts of Becky Copenhaver who is taking Bikes for the World's mission AND vision and making it happen.

Becky, along with husband Danny, who is just as worthy of mention, live along the coast in North Carolina. They knew of and admired our work at a distance.

But in 2010 Becky wanted to change that. She approached Director Keith Oberg and said, how about we do a collection with the Beta Club at my school? Oh by the way, we are located in North Carolina.

With a little cajoling and a lot of effort on their part, Becky and Danny made this partnership work. And in 2014 they held their third bike collection at Cape Fear Academy.

Bikes for the World has been pushing to expand our operations nationally and although we haven't established a hub in NC, Becky and Danny have been a supporting 'spoke' of our DC hub.

How do they do it? By going the extra miles, literally. BfW supports the collection from afar, but Becky really oversees its success. With the help of the school's Beta Club, Becky and her team of students DO the outreach.

They hand out flyers, give interviews to media, and spread the mission of Bikes for the World. The students know what we are about, what we do, and who we help. And on collection day everyone takes part, collecting and processing the bikes to be donated overseas.

But that's not the end of the day, like it often is here in the DC area.

Let's rewind back to the day before the collection. Becky and Danny actually go pick up a truck rented by BfW to help support the collection. Then they drive to Home Depot and pick up OSB to help stack bikes they collect in the truck. Oh, and they cut the board to fit.

Then, after the collection, they finish loading up the bikes, get in the truck, and drive all the way to Richmond where they meet our Operations Manager Taylor who has taken a bus down there to meet them. It's about a 4 hour drive. After a 4 hour collection. And let's not forget the 4 hour drive home.

We love working with Cape Fear Academy and we love expanding down the coast. With Becky and Danny doing half the driving for us, how could we possibly not do this collection?

Seeing the teamwork among the students alone is worth the effort. But being able to bridge the gap, and in a sense bring the world closer to make it possible for them to reach and affect lives around the globe, is priceless.

And this year, with us donating the next container to Costa Rica where they love beach cruisers...well, let's just say we saw a lot of them unloaded last weekend from this coastal community in NC.