A Passion for Cycling Creates Free Bikes for the Needy
The shop door swings open moments after I arrive at Bicycle Re-Source of Bend (BRoB) and two well-used mountain bikes are wheeled in for donation. Rod Miller, BRoB board member and volunteer says this is just one way the volumes of used bikes and bike parts find their way to BRoB.
Others come from the landfills of Bend, Redmond, Madras and Prineville. And more arrive through the efforts of local businesses and sponsors. Jeff Schuler, BRoB’s media outreach spokesperson says “This business is on fire!”
The first year BRoB gave away 98 bikes, the second year 233, and the projected number for 2013 is over 400. Says Schuler, “What started with a desire to help people, two years later is turning into a rapidly growing non-profit organization. It’s huge!” But Bicycle Re-Source of Bend would be better represented with a name like Bicycle Re-Source of Central Oregon, as BRoB is also active in Prineville, LaPine and Madras.
Rod Miller says BRoB’s goals are three-fold: 1) Keep bikes out of landfills and peoples’ garages, 2) Fix bikes to pay rent and utilities, donating the rest to the needy and 3) Provide community education through classes and private instruction by qualified volunteers.
Bicycle Re-Source of Bend’s motto is: “Connecting Bikes with People who Need Wheels.” BRoB is the Central Oregon’s only community-supported bike shop, whose main goal is to reclaim and refurbish bikes and bike parts for donation to those in need. Receiving a free bike is literally life-changing for many of the recipients.
For Bend school children living .9 miles or less from school, there is no bus service. With the help of Kathy Bagley, Family Access Network advocate for Pilot Butte middle school, BRoB was able to provide a bike to an eighth grade student whose attendance and grades were severely affected due to lack of transportation to school. The bike made the difference, and attendance and grades went up. High school kids receiving bikes are able to get to and from school, work and extracurricular activities. A free bike and a trailer for the homeless can create tremendous positive change.
The bikes are distributed to individuals through organizations such as Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Latino Community Alliance, Bethlehem Inn, The Loft, and Family Access Network and Neighbor Impact. Every bike that leaves the shop is free and goes out with a helmet.
Rod Miller and Mike Martin, long-time Hutch’s Bicycle Shop employees, head up the all-volunteer staff at BRoB. They opened their community bike shop in the winter of 2010, receiving 501 (c) (3) nonprofit status in November of 2012.
The concept of a community bike shop began in the summer of 2007 when Bendite Bethany Brady started the Bend Bike Co-op. Though the co-op was short-lived, Brady’s idea attracted lots of interest, and donations were pouring in. In the fall of 2008, Marshall High School planned to build a portable bike shop/shed on wheels to provide career training for students as bike mechanics.
However the portable shed idea was stymied faced with the city’s costly operating requirements. Bend’s Community Center then offered a small space in their Franklin Ave. thrift store for Bend’s BikeShed. Further changes moved the BikeShed to the Old Mill District in 2010, where the workspace was enlarged and trained mechanics were on-hand during regularly scheduled hours. The BikeShed closed in the fall of 2012, however, due to financial problems. BROB now carries the torch, restoring and recycling bikes and bike parts to distribute at no cost, to the neediest of Bend.
Miller states that they don’t want to compete with bike shops; BRoB is mainly for the no-income residents of Central Oregon. Hutch’s Bike Shop, one of many great supporters of BRoB, donates cash as well as volunteering bike valet services at Munch ’n’ Music events. Even with the generous contributions they receive, BRoB struggles to keep up with the demand for bikes. Funding is the limiting factor for BRoB. The shop’s monthly expenses are minimal, but what is sorely needed is money to hire a full-time supervisor. Most of the qualified mechanics have full-time jobs, so they are not available to coordinate the ample volunteer force. As a result, the shop can only be open when qualified staff is available. BRoB is focusing on generating income through grants and plans to expand their services in the future.
Watch for upcoming BROB events:
May 4, 2013, Madras Bike Round-up
May 11, 2013, Crook County Connect
bicycleresourceof firstname.lastname@example.org, or 541-382-6977