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Keith Oberg Honored by Bethesda Green

Our own Keith Oberg was recognized last month by Bethesda Magazine and Bethesda Green for his tire-FULL work creating, growing, and maintaining Bikes for the World for over a decade. We of course knew Keith created something special so it's very satisfying to see someone else noticing too. On October 17, Keith accepted the Individual Leadership Award at the annual Green Awards Gala held in Bethesda.

We wanted to recognize Keith's effort and continued support of what we do at Bikes for the World and this month's featured volunteer spot seemed like a good place to do it. Since Keith stepped down as Executive Director earlier this year, we realized, he is just a volunteer these days. A volunteer who regularly checks in on daily operations, serves on our board, and is still very much involved with ensuring we stay true to our vision. So for all you faithful supporters, donors, and volunteers who regularly ask, "do you see much of Keith around the warehouse these days?" We absolutely do. 

Many of you likely remember when Bikes for the World was just a one man show operating out of a line of trailers under what is now the Silver Line Metro. We've come a long way since then, adding staff members, settling into a more permanent warehouse, and of course increasing supply. Continuing to expand on his initial goal of getting bikes overseas is what helped Keith create such a successful and impactful program.

In Bethesda Magazine Keith is quoted as saying, "I saw so much potential. It was exciting to do something new and grow it."

Bikes for the World now collects and ships over 12,000 bikes annually to over a dozen different partners around the world. By increasing the number of bikes we collect locally, we have been able to expand our program to include at least one new partner every year since 2010. 

Since moving into our new location in Northern Bethesda, we have also been able to expand our volunteer opportunities which in turn helps us become a better (greener) organization. We now have a regular volunteer crew of mechanics who help us rescue valuable bike parts from marginal frames. This has allowed us to improve the value of our shipments by including necessary parts and decreasing broken and unusable bikes that we recycle here.

Mark Winn-Ritzenberg is a long time volunteer with Bikes for the World who now joins us regularly in the warehouse as our head volunteer mechanic. Mark met Keith after contacting him to do a collection at Alice Deal where Mark was a teacher.

The dedication and tenacity with which Keith has created, nurtured and grown Bikes for the World into an extremely impactful organization is truly amazing. He has masterfully developed invaluable relationships with individual donors, donor organizations and volunteers locally as well as with partner organizations abroad. BfW touches many lives by offering meaningful volunteer opportunities here and bicycles and support to people in need and non-profit partners on other continents.

Mark Winn-Ritzenberg -BfW Volunteer Mechanic 

One of Keith's proudest accomplishments with Bikes for the World has been expanding the partnership with Stone Ridge's Social Action Program, now in its eighth year with BfW. This pairing started with two students at our King Farm warehouse where the duo mostly loaded containers to be shipped to our partners. Now we have a dozen students in our warehouse twice a month who can use every specialized tool on our peg board to remove every single part on the bike.

It was important to Keith, to not just get people comfortable around their bikes, but to empower women to feel confident enough to tackle a flat tire or messed up chain. These are skills being taught to our beneficiaries around the world and it was important to Keith that folks here at home learn this too. You never know when you might need to fix your bike out on a ride, far from home.

I love the extent to which you support volunteers' growth, particularly the introducing tool use to girls who might never otherwise touch a wrench. I also really appreciate his commitment to Bikes for the World helping people in the United States. I know that in the past we've made bikes available to local laborers in need of transportation.

Keith's professional experience influences his approach to sending bikes abroad. Aid, done badly, can have surprisingly bad unintended consequences,but Keith seems to bring to bear the lessons of work with US Aid to ensure that our bikes enter communities on terms that are good to the local community and economy.  Keith's enthusiasm of bikes and his belief that they could save the world continue to animate him and the non-profit he founded. 

Ken Woodward, Faculty Advisor for Stone Ridge Social Action Program
Sew Empowering
Featured Volunteer: Noah and Sam