Featured Volunteer: Jeff Colaianni
In reality volunteer Jeff Colaianni has only been with Bikes for the World for a little over a year. No, really, we've checked multiple times. It only feels like much longer because it was a covid year. And everything seems much longer during a pandemic. It goes without saying, Jeff's contribution to Bikes for the World couldn't have been more critical because of the pandemic.
When Jeff came on board last January we put his mechanic skills to work immediately. When we found out he worked on his own bikes we recruited him to help get bikes ready for our Big Bear sale coming up in March. With only a few weeks tucked into his Park Tool apron, our first cases of coronavirus were identified in Montgomery County.
Within a month our 2020 calendar imploded. We parked our truck, cancelled events, put down our wrenches and retreated to our homes. All the once abandoned bikes destined for new ownership would again be temporarily abandoned while we figured out how to keep safe and healthy and still operate during a world health crisis.
Our volunteers, including Jeff, were anxious to get back into the warehouse. Swinging wrenches is an enjoyable stress relief for many of our regular volunteers and we've come to rely on their help to keep our operation rolling. We abruptly shifted from an organization with hundreds of volunteers, including dozens of groups, to a core group of about six volunteers working individually in the warehouse. Fortunately, this crew kept us cruising seamlessly. Jeff took the lead on repairing bikes for our sale, which we rescheduled at the warehouse for July.
While we waited to load our first container, we sat on piles of bikes at a time when bikes became an essential means of transportation not only overseas, but right here on the streets of DC. Public transportation was operating on a limited schedule and concerned passengers were skeptical of sharing small enclosed spaces. Bikes for the World responded by teaming up with BikeMatch DC to provide bikes to frontline and essential workers in the city. Jeff helped refurbish those bikes donated to local essential workers.
Throughout 2020 Jeff helped us strip parts off bikes, repair bikes for our sale and local donations, and even helped load containers once ports started reopening. Then we lost our Operations Manager at the end of year and Taylor stepped up to pull double duty. He turned to Jeff to repair and prepare all the bikes donated locally so far this year to the BikeMatch DC effort which continues to find bikes for essential workers as the pandemic stretches on into another year. Since April of last year we have donated 60 bikes to BikeMatch DC.
Jeff has spent a lot of time overseas and has seen firsthand the difference a bike can make in the developing world. Last year we were all reminded of the benefits a bike can offer and found a new appreciation for this once thought of summer pastime. If you came out to the sale last week, Jeff may have been the one who helped you find that new-to-you ride that you'll soon be enjoying again once the nice weather returns.