Bikes for the World

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Larry Orwig

Larry Orwig is a Glenwood Lions member and extremely active in international service projects, including the BfW annual bike drive in Glenwood Maryland.

Larry is a huge cog in this finely tuned machine. And he's a key reason the Club celebrated reaching the 1,000 bikes collected mark this past spring.

"How many bikes  can one community give year-after-year. I keep thinking there must be a point when there are no more not-used bikes," ponders Mary Powers. Mary is the Glenwood Lions/Leos advisor that works closely with the Lions men and the students at Glenwood Middle School on this bike annual bike project.

Mary took over the role as advisor on this project a few years ago and both Larry and Harrison Morson (also from the Glenwood Lions Club) helped make that transition seamless.

While collecting bikes for reuse overseas is an important part of our program we cannot overlook the impact this project has on our environment and of course the students who participate year after year. Larry knows first hand how life changing a bike can be to a family in a poor, rural African community. And he also knows students here benefit greatly by being involved in the project.

Two years ago Jeff Dannis, Operations Division Chief, Bureau of Environmental Services, Department of Public Works, approached Bikes for the World about partnering up with the Alpha Ridge Waste Transfer Station in Howard County. This is an effort Director Keith Oberg really wanted to make work, but the distance from our warehouse in Arlington VA and the demands of the schedule were too much for the tiny staff at BfW to handle.

But the Glenwood Lions Club had eager volunteers, trucks, and even secured storage at the school for bikes...making this idea of collecting bikes at Alpha Ridge a real possibility. Without any introductions or support, the Glenwood Lions Club and the staff at Alpha Ridge entered into a pilot program to collect bikes at the transfer station on behalf of Bikes for the World.

Let's not underestimate the Leos either.  If you can't find Larry buried in a trailer full of bikes (see above), you'll likely find him smack dab in the middle of a group of budding bike mechanics at the school (see right).

And in 2015, the Glenwood bike collection netted 180 bikes, quite an impressive turn out. But after joining forces with Alpha Ridge, the 2016 collection topped 245 bikes.

This became an issue when the school's storage area overflowed. BfW had to make a special trip up last fall to help alleviate space, but Larry wanted to make sure the kids were still involved in the program. So we set up a special bike prepping session in the fall with the Leos club.

Representatives from BfW, Yvette Hess and Jim Mitchell met at the school to mentor the kids and load up bikes to take back to our warehouse in Virginia. Larry was a key force during that session helping to mentor the kids and teach them a little about bike mechanics and tool leverage, just as he does during the annual collection in May.

This year, 2017, the Glenwood collection surpassed our 1k bike marker with flying colors. Thanks to partnership with Alpha Ridge, this year's collection brought in 319 bikes, a school record.

Many Lion members participate in this event in May working side by side with the kids. But their commitment doesn't start and end there. They also supply a crew to work the waste transfer station several times a month. They accept bikes, monitor the quality, and transport them to the storage area at the school.

Without Larry's help at Alpha Ridge none of this would be possible.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Lion's Pride

Welcome to the 1k Club. This year Bikes for the World welcomes a new thousand bike partner... Glenwood Lions Club.

BfW now has 10 community partners whose collections have added more than 1,000 bikes to our program over the last 13 years. In fact between them, they have collected and donated over 18,000 bikes around the world. That's a lot of bikes and even more lives improved.

While our official partner is the Glenwood Lions Club, this project is quite popular among the Leos at Glenwood Middle School. What's a Leo? Lions Clubs sponsor their younger counterparts in an effort to instill great qualities in the youth of their community. Leadership, Experience, Opportunity defines what being a LEO is all about.

Throughout the year the Leos take part in several Lions led projects. Donating books is big. Glenwood Leos participated in bringing books to schools, seniors, and the community. But the bike collection is one of the most popular. Getting to use the tools and a little elbow grease (or getting grease on their elbows, as the case may be) is fun for kids of every age.

This is a project that really helps pair up the Lions and Leos and gets them working together toward a common goal. Lions Larry Orwig and Harrison Morson have been fixtures at this event held every May.

Larry works throughout the year collecting bikes in his truck and ferrying them over to the school for the kids to use their new mechanic skills. Both Harrison and Larry work with the kids mentoring them and showing them all the tricks to break a rusty bolt free.

Bikes for the World even made a special trip up there in the fall of 2015 to work with the Leos outside their spring event. They had collected so many bikes we had to make an early pick up. And we wanted to give the students a chance to work on the bikes.

"I think this is a great partnership between us, the Lions and the Leos. I really saw the girls in particular empowered when we handed them a pedal wrench and showed them how to use it. Getting all young people familiar with tools and using them is one of the aspects of my job I enjoy the most. If this work encourages them to learn more about bikes and makes them confident enough to tackle a flat tire on the road that's super!" says Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess who has worked directly with Glenwood since 2012.

And at Glenwood, they just keep upping their effort.
Way back in 2012 the crew donated about 50 bikes.
The following year they doubled that number. In 2015 they almost doubled it again, turning in 180 bikes. From then on they have been on a roll. In 2016 the Lions Club joined up with Alpha Ridge waste transfer station and that spring hit an all time high contributing 245 bikes. Many of those bikes last year were donated to our partner in Barbados Pinelands Creative Workshop.

This year their bikes will be split between Kenya and Barbados and were loaded the following week after their May 6th collection. During that collecting the bikes kept rolling in. Through the recycling effort, random pick ups, and drop offs at the school, Glenwood filled our truck with 319 bikes (in fact we made two pick ups there throughout the year!).

So yeah, we honored their cruise into our 1k realm. They actually crushed it. They are now moving on trying to catch our 3k leaders.

While their numbers continue to be impressive, it's really the impact they are having on our partners around the world, on the earth through recycling efforts, and in their communities and even families that really stand out.

A story that came out of the 2012 collection at Glenwood stays with us even today. Here Megan and Brandon Witt donated a brand new bicycle they bought with money they saved themselves. It was a lesson mom Robin, wanted to teach her kids about the importance of giving back. It's a lesson we continue to share today.

That blue BMX bike was loaded the same day and traveled all the way to Africa to a put a smile on a little boy's face in Ghana.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

6,000 Bikes. And Counting...

Paul Crawford
It seems like every year we are comparing someone with Otterbein United Methodist Church and this year is no different. It's because after a dozen bike collections with Bikes for the World,  this crew is a well oiled machine worthy of mention and comparison.

So last week we noted the amazing efforts of the Frederick based Rotary Club of Carroll Creek. After a year of collecting bikes for their 2017 annual bike drive, the Frederick County Rotarians turned in an impressive 902 bikes! This ramped up their overall collection total to 3,127 bikes, making them the BfW record holder since 2005.

Mike Johnston accepting the 1k Award
They knocked off Washington County's Otterbein United Methodist Church who held that title since....FOREVER. In fact, back in 2009 Otterbein UM broke records (which still hold today) by collecting 400 bikes in one day. This is the BfW record for a one day, one location bike donation drop off point by any of our partners.

It was that '09 effort that put Otterbein UM into a club they essentially created, our 1k Club. This distinction is for any BfW partner who has collected over 1,000 bikes donated on our behalf.  Today, there are 10 members. Two well on their way to earning a place in our 5k Club...Otterbein United Methodist Church and the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek.

Otterbein 2017 Crew
On April 29th, Otterbein UM reclaimed their title by collecting 268 bikes during their 2017 bike drive, taking their overall total to 3,136 bikes. Nine more than the neighboring Rotarians. Every year we hear the same thing from donors, volunteers, and even the organizers of this collection...there can't be that many bikes every year, but then there are. We joked about getting them wet like Gremlins, they just keep multiplying. (and yes the kids of today got that joke)

In fact, this year's total was only two bikes less than last year's total. In the thirteen years that Otterbein UM has been collecting bikes the last weekend of April, only three years fell below 200 bikes. And barely: 187, 188, and 189.

Otterbein UM is also the single biggest source of our donated sewing machines, many of which end up in Costa Rica to help tailors start sewing businesses that support their families. 

Ryliah Hill learns how to take off pedals for the first time
But it's not just about bike totals. Overseas, each bike on average affects four lives and at over 3,000 bikes donated, that's a lot of positive change. But the work Otterbein UM does just in their own community is worth so much more right here at home. Otterbein UM is known for their 'parking lot ministry'. What is that saying? Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. Yeah, that.

Otterbein UM works in the community, for the community. While the bikes they collect for BfW do not stay within the Hagerstown community, the commitment to service and outreach does. Over the years, we see many familiar faces wielding a wrench and slinging off pedals. But every year we also see new faces being mentored and trained by those dedicated volunteers who helped collect the very first bikes. This is important to us and our effort, but we also know that volunteering is a 'bug' that stays with you throughout your life.

According to Cindy Brown, one of the main collection managers of this successful effort, they had four generations out there working side by side. Every year she is impressed with the turn out both from donors and volunteers. Neighborhood kids even came over to lend a hand this year.

"When you first begin a partnership with Bikes for the World, it is rewarding to consider the local and global benefits. By now - after 13 collections - it is astounding to realize over 3,000 bikes have been pulled out of storage, kept out of the landfill, and put to good use," Cindy Brown.

And because this is just a friendly competition where everyone benefits, we'll go ahead and point out by Monday April 25th the Rotarians already had another dozen bikes toward their 2018 technically they are still leading the pack :)

Congratulations to both groups, and thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Sam Clingman and Dad

Sam's the man! Meet Sam Clingman of Frederick Maryland, our featured volunteer this month. Sam is the guy who kept all the volunteers in line this past month up at that monumental collection with the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek.

And when we say monumental, we mean it! This Rotarian effort brought over 900 bikes into our warehouse over the past year. Actually, that's not even true. Led by Rotarians Norm Birzer and Richard Foot, this bike collection took place over the past year and bikes were stored in an Adamstown barn as they were collected. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them.

And when we realized how many bikes they had on hand we had a genius idea. We decided to bring our container directly into their collection site at Triangle Motors in Frederick. And from there we would simply roll the bikes in from the collection to our shipment, eliminating the need to transport them to our warehouse in Rockville.

And Sam's the guy who kept us all on track. Seriously, while many volunteers were occupied loading the container in the rain, Sam managed the group of volunteers prepping bikes on the side and getting them to the loading crew in time for the next row of bikes. No short task; the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek ALSO collected over 100 bikes just that ONE day.

And Sam is no rookie when it comes to loading either. This is actually his second container loading with us in less than a month.

We only just met Sam personally back on April 8th during our warehouse warming party. Sam came down with his dad, Tom, to accept our 1k Club award on behalf of the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek. In case anyone is counting (and we know they are) they are now over 3,000 bikes! Stay tuned, we expect to be creating a 5k Club any day now.

Tom Clingman is a recent member of the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek after moving here from North Carolina. Getting involved with the Rotarians here really helped them settle into the community quickly and to feel welcomed.

"Working with Bikes for the World has been the best thing that has happened for Sam since we moved to Maryland in 2015. Norm did a great job teaching Sam to work on bikes and making him feel valued for his efforts. The recent volunteer opportunities and the connections he has made with other people has been so positive for him!" reports Dad.

It goes without saying this father-son team has been great for us too! Tom is the Chief Development Officer at the YMCA of Frederick County and he was quick to get the Y involved in the effort. In addition to helping collect and pick up bikes throughout the year, Tom recruited members of the Y Leaders Club to help before and during the collection. Some of them worked side by side with Sam to keep that bike processing line moving during a busy Saturday!