Bikes for the World

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."

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