Featured Volunteer: A Tribute
We ended 2022 on a sad note, as we said goodbye to three huge champions of the cycling community, the environment, and the Bikes for the World family- Jack Koczela, Ann Jackson, and Art Wittig.
Ann Jackson has a deep connection to Bikes for the World and our founder Keith Oberg, their families often exploring vacations together by bike. Ann created her own bike collecting group going back to before we were known as Bikes for the World. Ann Jackson and Friends was more than just that, they were family, many literally. Ann worked with her local bike shop, Pedal Pushers and surrounding businesses to host this annual collection event, often offering incentives to donors like free coffee coupons, which also promoted small businesses.
Every year Ann would hesitate to organize her collection thinking she just wouldn't find the bikes. It baffled us at Bikes for the World, because every year she did. The smallest collection they had was 46 bikes, but the last event was over 100! Since 2005 Ann Jackson and Friends collected 805 bikes and together with Rod at Pedal Pushers, this location has added 1,966 bikes to our mission.
Ann's passion was protecting our environment and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. She was very active in the Anne Arundel County Watershed Steward Academy. In addition to her work with Bikes for the World, Ann more recently became involved with Wheels of Hope, a bike organization working directly with folks in Anne Arundel County. Ann was quite a force that brought energy and joy to those around her. It was hard to sit still with Ann beside you, she made you want to get up and grab life and live it to the fullest.
Jack Koczela brought that same enthusiasm most notably to the cycling community in and around DC. Jack was a tireless advocate for trails in the area and was crucial in building the Capital Trails Coalition. He stayed committed to the cause and in tune with news to get a jump on any new possibilities to make new trails and roads safer for cyclists of every age. He was a devoted community activist and a true catalyst for change. He brought the most powerful tools to the advocacy table: awareness, support, and appreciation. Jack not only fought a good fight, he empowered others to follow in his footsteps.
"Jack was a wonderfully special human being with an enormous amount of integrity, kindness, empathy, humor, generosity, and thoughtfulness." Liz Thorstensen, VP Trail Development Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. " I feel incredibly lucky to have known him and forever grateful for the gifts he gave me in growing as a professional, as a leader, as a father, and as a person." Greg Billing, former WABA ED.
Jack and Ann were more than friends, they were like family. Ann's husband, Mike, and Jack were roommates in college and they remained close. Jack's family decided to donate Jack's bike, his only bike if you can believe it, to Bikes for the World. His wife Julie loaded it in the container in December. Ann's sister Ellen and her husband Pete were also there for that loading. Ann passed away that night, less than one month after being diagnosed with cancer. Jack's bike arrived in Kenya last week. We hope to bring you an update on its new owner later this month.
Art Wittig was a biker of another sort, his brand was Harley. If you were ever in Calvert County and saw Santa on Harley, that was Art. Art was a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy. He was a pilot. A flight instructor. A teacher. A mentor. A blood donor. A recycler. While he was a teacher at Mill Creek High School in Calvert County, Art initiated a recycle awareness program at the Middle School. Art was often found scavenging around the local landfill looking for discarded items to fix and repurpose. It is not surprising that Art would find his way to Bikes for the World.
We never actually met Art at Bikes for the World. He worked directly with Ted Haynie who started collecting bikes at the landfill in Calvert County a few years ago. It quickly became a job bigger than Ted could do alone. Art help manage that location, going through discarded bikes and pulling out what could be reused and what was simply junk. Together they rescued and donated more than 400 bikes to Bikes for the World.
As we start 2023 without Ann, Jack, and Art, we ask you to step up and honor them by respecting our environment. They have left a huge hole in their families, their communities, and in our world. Pick a cause and do your part. Be a volunteer. Be a donor. Be a supporter. Give the planet a hug for them, and hug your family a little tighter tonight. Help us keep their memories alive and active and maybe we can continue to impact the environment for them and for us. "Have a great Navy day, Art."