Bikes for the World

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Another 700 Bike Weekend!

Hampton Fifth Graders
The weekend of May 21st marked another noteworthy weekend for Bikes for the World. Previously we bragged about our biggest weekend of the year, April 30-May 1, when we collected nearly 700 bikes. Well this past weekend, 20 days later, we topped that 2016 record!

We started the weekend with a rare Friday collection at a new partner school, Hampton Elementary in Lutherville MD. Turning over 40 bikes after a fun morning with the fifth graders and parents was a great start to this record weekend.

Saturday brought the rains and we braced ourselves for a lower turn out because of the weather. But a few rain drops wouldn't stop our supporters from coming out in force. That, and we had a little help from a new collection site in North Carolina where the sun was shining down brightly. Read more about our Carolina effort and this great collection at The Peak in Apex NC.
Also in our favor was a secret weapon in Glenwood MD...the Glenwood LEO Club. This club, seen here last fall, collected bikes throughout the year and stored them at the school. When their collection began Saturday morning they already had over 200 bikes donated! At the end of the day they had a personal best with 245 bikes collected in 2016.

Special thanks to Race Pace Bicycles in Ellicott City, Howard County's Clean Out Day, the Lions Club effort at the Alpha Ridge Recycling Center, and the police drop off at Glenwood for helping this crew collect so many bikes this year.

Matthew Dirndorfer and his crew of drivers
Less than 20 miles away our team was busy playing bike Tetris in a Penske truck. Eagle candidate Matthew Dirndorfer from troop 268 proved rain can't slow our efforts to change the world one bike at a time.

Matthew ended his long day at our warehouse after overflowing that Penske and our back up van and trailer dispatched from the Glenwood collection. He and his dad loaded a third van to transport his total 154 bikes to our Arlington VA warehouse. Matt lands a spot in our Eagle Project top five with this impressive turn out.

Phil Ruth
Not to be left out, our long time Cumberland area collection also played a little bike Tetris to fit all their collection bikes into our rented Penske.

For anyone wondering how many bikes fit in a 16 foot Penske we'll go with 121 assuming that last one is a very small bike that will fit in that left corner. For this load, the total bikes is 120 and BfW expert Phil Ruth has quite a few items riding up front with him to make that happen.

The Western Maryland effort is made up of the Rotary Club of Cumberland and the Western Maryland Wheelmen. Led by bike collection veterans Valerie Van Hollen, Larry Brock, Sue Moessinger, and Kate Kidwell this event always exceeds expectations.

This year we had a bit of a scare when Valerie called to say they were calling the ambulance because Phil didn't look so good. Turns out he had a bad reaction to a new medication and was fine, but needed to take a break...before the truck was loaded.

SO...the Cumberland area emergency response team offered to lend a hand in getting that job done. The crew got Phil a chair and he instructed them on how to properly load 120 bikes into a 16 foot Penske. No lie, without his guidance those bikes would have never fit in the truck!

Western MD Wheelmen and Rotarians brave rain
Many thanks to all our managers and volunteers who contributed to this huge success this weekend. Just last week we loaded two containers with corporate group CEB that involved donating 911 bikes. We carved out a hole in our warehouse supply of bikes that lasted all of eight days.

It's great to see those smiles in Cumberland despite the rain, cold, and emergency scare that threatened to damper the collection. This crew came out in force and got the job done.

They also gave Phil a fine send off as he likely packed up his last collection truck of bikes for us. We will sadly say goodbye to Phil at the end of the summer when he migrates west (once again) to be closer to his family.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

From The Peak To The Coast

The Peak bike collection May 2016
While the rain wasn't letting up in the DC area, the skies were shining down on our collection effort in Apex NC. This first time partnership with The Peak United Methodist Church brought in over 100 bikes that were diverted to our Carolinas project based out of Charleston SC.

Combining bikes collected last year at Cape Fear Academy on the coast, this past weekend's collection brings our total in Charleston to over a half a container's worth. Fingers crossed, we will be able to load our first full container of bikes from this warehouse in South Carolina by the end of the year.

Cape Fear Academy 2015 collection
Carolina area coordinator Paul Keefer is driving this effort in Charleston SC (literally). He has been up to visit our warehouse outside DC several times to monitor our operations to ensure a successful 'spoke' site along the coast.

After securing the warehouse location, Paul shifted gears to recruit area managers to host bike collections much like we do in the DC area. He has connected with several Rotary Clubs and faith communities to start the dialogue on the next steps.

Meanwhile, we helped hook him up with long time partner Cape Fear Academy who used to collect bikes and drive them all the way up to us in DC (or Richmond, where we met them to take the truck the rest of the way). Diverting these bikes down the coast generated some excitement over the Carolina effort that would keep donated bikes on the coast so they could load and ship a container from their area. Now all Paul needed was more bikes.

Courtesy The Peak
And when Pastor Kyle Meier contacted us last year from The Peak, we struggled to find the best way for them to get involved with Bikes for the World. Located a good distance from Charleston SC, we didn't immediately make the connection with Paul and our warehouse there. And we just couldn't find a way to support a collection so far from home and at such a busy time to boot.

Meanwhile Pastor Kyle really wanted to mobilize his bike ministry to do even more than they already were. The Peak's bike ministry accepts bike donations throughout the year which they fix up to give back to their community. In total, The Peak refurbishes and redistributes over 100 bikes a year (in addition to all the other great work the congregation does).

Courtesy The Bicycle Man
The Peak joined forces with Fayetteville's The Bicycle Man, a local organization that fixes up bikes and gives them to local families in need. The organization was started by Moses Mathis and after his passing, his widow Ann Mathis wanted to keep his spirit alive through this generous effort. In need of several hundred more bikes before Christmas 2015, Ann put out the plea for bikes and The Peak answered. Last November The Peak's bike ministry collected and donated 157 bikes to The Bicycle Man.

Fast forward to April 2016, when Kyle revisited his dream of collecting bikes to send around the world. He again contacted Bikes for the World and the stars aligned. With a little planning and coordination, BfW Director Keith Oberg worked with Paul Keefer, who was itching to really get this Carolina effort going. He agreed to drive all the way up to Apex NC, collecting bikes along the way to help support Kyle and The Peak.

Paul Keefer, Ann Mathis, Kyle Meier
And The Bicycle Man came back to help too. These two bike groups focused on donating bikes within their own communities saw a bigger cause they could contribute to and wanted to make that global difference.  Back in November during the local donation Kyle said, "This is just one of the ways in which we hope our church can be a blessing to our town and our community." After the outpouring of help, they saw there were more than enough bikes to go around and committed to collecting bikes for Bikes for the World.

The Peak joined some long running BfW partners as well as a few brand new ones from NC to Cumberland MD in what became our biggest collection weekend of the year. Despite the rain in our area, we collected over 700 donated bikes from half a dozen sites in just two days. This past weekend beat our previous biggest weekend, April 30, by over 50 bikes.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Prosper: Pass It On

Prosper Dzandu traded his weaving loom for a truing stand six years ago and he's been riding success ever since.

Originally chosen for a project with the UK bike project Re~Cycle, Prosper retrained as a bike mechanic after years of working as a kente weaver. As he worked his way around a bicycle, Prosper first honed his new skill as a bike mechanic preparing donated bikes for re-use in Ghana.

He eventually joined Village Bicycle Project (VBP) and became a trainer. He would travel along with the VBP team to remote areas in northern Ghana where they would introduce donated bikes into small rural villages. Prosper helped train new bike owners in basic maintenance skills and taught some participants how to ride a bike for the first time.

Prosper eventually started his own  permanent workshop called No Rush In Life. Prosper trains apprentices and shares his love and knowledge of bikes with these employees. His bike business helps provide income to his employees and their families as well as his own wife and their five children.

The shop, seen here, has been upgraded to a more secure metal structure. Previously Prosper had been operating out of a wooden shack that was insecure. To protect his business, Prosper had to sleep at the shop. He can now leave his workshop with peace of mind and return home to his family every night.

 Kente Weaver Courtesy Marie McC
Prosper couldn't have been given a better name. After a few short years he left his weaving position behind and excelled in the bike field. As a trained kente weaver, Prosper was good with his hands and had a meticulous eye for detail. Skills he would bring to his bike stand and eventually his workshop.

Kente cloth is a highly recognizable textile sometimes associated with royalty. The designs are quite intricate and often convey a message. Weavers work long hours sitting at a loom in an uncomfortable position. Weavers move fabric quickly with their fingers and even their toes when completing a kente cloth.

After becoming his own boss, Prosper found his new career as a bike mechanic liberating and rewarding. He is a great communicator and his enthusiasm to share his craft is evident in every workshop he runs with VBP. By training apprentices in his own shop he is helping to boost local economy while freeing himself up to continue working with VBP.

Just last month Prosper received his first ever container of bikes directly from Re~Cycle. He will sort these bikes, and pull out the ones suited for his workshops to help train new riders and mechanics through this work.

Way to go Prosper!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thumbs Up

This pretty much says it all: thumbs up! Bikes for the World put an end to April with a deluge of bikes. The weekend of April 30-May 1 was the best weekend of the season so far when our warehouse saw an influx of nearly 700 bikes.

It's no coincidence that the collection weekend began at Otterbein United Methodist Church. This faith-full BfW partner has been with us since the beginning and will likely see their 3,000th bike donated next season. This year brought in a near record 270 bikes, their biggest collection since 2009 when they packed up 400 in one day! Even though we had our biggest truck there, they still overflowed it causing us to make two trips just to get all the bikes into the warehouse.

Add to the mix three brand new partner schools and you have a recipe for a busy, busy weekend. Gunpowder Elementary in Baltimore County, Chesterbrook Elementary in McLean, and Travilah Elementary out in North Potomac all joined forces to help collect 350 bikes between these green focused schools.

Each school set out with the goal of collecting 50 bikes, a minimum we ask our managers to strive for when undertaking a collection. This motivates the team, but also rattles a little nerves. It's a bit like throwing a party and worrying if anyone will show up.

But they did show up, and they brought bikes! Even out at Travilah Elementary who combined the bike collection alongside Travilah Moves a school-wide activity day that happened to fall on a very soggy Sunday morning. But the clouds parted and the bikes rolled in- for four hours.

Teacher/organizer Carol Knoblach was thrilled with the outcome. She knew they had a very generous community and filling our truck with bikes was proof. Everyone stopped by to peek in our Penske just to see how many lives would be improved through their effort.

Kids brought their old bikes to donate after a presentation during lunch where Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess shared stories from beneficiaries, many kids who needed bikes to get to school. "I wanted to give my old bike to another kid who really needs it and can't afford to buy a new one," said one very young donor.

One young boy who doesn't even go to Travilah saw the sign out front to donate bikes today as his family was driving by. He told his mom he wanted to go home and get his bike to bring it back, so they did!

Another family pulled out a couple small bikes and the owners handed them over to the collection. Yvette put them to work and had them prep the bikes to be donated overseas. They were super excited to learn a little about pedal wrenches and how their bikes were going to help kids in El Salvador. "Cool!"

Back in Virginia, 6th graders at Chesterbrook Elementary were also learning how to prep bikes. During their in-school presentation a few weeks ago, the kids had so many questions about the program and how the bikes were changing lives we didn't even have a chance to practice on the bikes.

"Whenever I go into the classroom I'm often impressed by the thoughtful questions the students ask me," said Yvette. "They are genuinely interested in the program and excited to learn how they can help improve lives around the world."

"Working at the Elementary School level is one of the most rewarding parts of my job," continued Yvette. "Reaching these kids early and showing them the importance of recycling and helping others is something I hope they carry with them the rest of their lives. Finding those teachers who share this passion is really what makes this project a huge success.

"Working on the bikes is something kids of all ages can do and typically enjoy. It's good to get them working with tools and using their hands, and their heads. Learning about leverage by removing a rusty pedal is much better than reading about it in a book.

"Seeing bikes roll in hour after hour until they are spilling out of our truck really shows them the difference they can make. By partnering with BfW we can help bring their community effort into a grander scale and connect them to remote villages and small schools around the world." Bikes collected this past weekend will be loaded this week and shipped out to partners in El Salvador and Africa.

Teachers who bring this activity into their classrooms and embrace it school-wide can really engage students of all ages and creativity levels. This year we saw posters hanging in the schools made by some of the younger students in the school. Gunpowder advertised throughout the school and on social media by creating videos with the students asking for bike donations.

At the high school level, many teachers step aside and let the students drive the entire event. Environment-based clubs, SGA, Honor Society... will often take on a leadership role and organize and drive the collection effort.

"There really is something for everyone in this project and we at Bikes for the World are proud to be flexible to accommodate whatever creative idea these kids throw our way."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Featured Volunteer: Norm Birzer

Last year about this time Bikes for the World recognized Richard Foot for his tireless effort collecting bikes and leading the charge with the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek. But it takes a village to collect and deliver over 500 bikes in one event.

This month we are recognizing another Rotarian working just as hard to make that Frederick collection roll, Norm Birzer. And it's hard to get a photo of this guy head on because it's rare that he's standing still long enough!

Norm serves on the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek's Bikes for the World Committee, which last month earned the distinction of collecting 539 bicycles in the past year- the largest collection in the Rotary Club's eleven-year partnership with BfW.

 Norm was instrumental in not just reaching the 2016 Club goal, but in helping to shatter all previous Rotarian efforts. Norm was the one who suggested the motivational "A Bike-A-Day" theme that drove the Rotary Club throughout the year.

In order to meet that goal, the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek partnered up with several key partners to help collect bikes all year.

Norm is seen here at Reliable Recycling where he regularly picked up bikes and transported them to a nearby dairy barn for storage. It's unusual when Norm's blue van is not packed with used bicycles and bicycle accessories he has picked up at various locations, including north of the Mason-Dixon Line in PA.

The dairy barn serves as a temporary warehouse for the bikes picked up in Frederick and beyond from April to April. This group regularly made available these donated, stored bikes, whenever BfW partners overseas needed bikes throughout the winter. Norm often prepped bikes on site before loading them into his van so they were essentially ready to ship when they arrived at the barn.

On several occasions Norm joined other Rotarians at the barn to help load those bikes onto the BfW truck for transport back to our central warehouse in Arlington. They were then loaded and donated around the world. This made our operation possible throughout the winter during our slower collection period.

Norm also enlisted the the help of grandson Thomas Grenier from time to time when he was out picking up bikes. Thomas, who is working toward his Eagle Award, ended up choosing BfW for his Eagle Project, which he managed alongside the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek's annual bike collection.

Thomas ended up adding another 125 bikes through his own collection at the satellite New Market location held in the afternoon on the same day. Norm helped oversee this project and coordinate the transportation of many of those bikes which helped us cover a very busy weekend. BfW collected nearly enough bikes that weekend to fill two containers to be donated to our global partners.

Even before the sun set on that April 9th, both Dick and Norm were already plotting to beat their newly set record, barely seven hours old.