It was just last year when Les approached us after reading about a friend of his who was a featured volunteer in 2020. Les had recently retired from NPR and loved bikes, so he looked for a volunteer gig where he might have the opportunity to improve his repair skills. When he heard that Walter (Mulbry) had also retired and was spending time in our warehouse he reached out and asked how he might join the crew.
We staged a mini reunion for the two dads who used to watch their kids play soccer together. "Walter eased my way in and taught me how to strip a bike of all its parts in, well, it still takes me 45 minutes, but that's not Walter's fault," jokes Les. Occasionally the two will carpool over to the warehouse and not often enough Les will bring his adorable corgi puppy to scour the floor while he works.
It seems like Les has been camped at our workbench much longer than he has, but that's because he no sooner got a cleat in the door when COVID-19 stopped us all in our tracks. When we moved to get our staff and then volunteers safely back in the warehouse Les was ready and willing to get back to work. We started by having one volunteer work at a time and then eventually got back to our regular rotations. Les was putting in 5-10 hours a week mostly stripping parts for upcoming shipments. We are so grateful for all the mechanics who came in throughout 2020 and helped us load the containers, rescue parts and really kept BfW rolling during such an uncertain time. 2020 felt a little like 'dog years' meaning even though Les has only been with us for a year and half it feels more like 10.
But Les isn't just a Bikes for the World volunteer, he's also a satisfied customer. Les picked up this sweet Specialized refurb just last month during our warehouse sale, which he was also working. Les knows the value of finding a good fit when it comes to a bike and he was on hand to help do just that for our sale. Many of our volunteers enjoy helping our bike shoppers find a bike that's right for them knowing the happier you are on a frame the more likely you are to ride it!
Come to think of it we haven't seen much of Les these last few weeks. Maybe it's because we've been offering up less hours in the warehouse for our volunteers OR maybe it's because Les found a good fit! He is definitely enjoying his commute to the warehouse when he does come for as long as the weather holds anyway.
Les and Walter joined forces to help bring a new local partner to Bikes for the World this past year. Les explains, "we are working with "Free Minds," a DC based non profit to get bikes in the hands of former prisoners to make the transition to a new life a little easier." The program is a perfect fit for them both. Les had been exploring options to help bring a bike program to the prison system and Walter was already delivering books to prisons during the pandemic. So far they have only delivered six bikes, but they are still working to make this relationship stick.
I like working here because it's so different from anything I've done before and it's a great crew. I never thought I would enjoy cramming 527 bikes into a shipping container headed for Costa Rica, but I do. Early on, as I looked out over the mountain of bikes that had accumulated in the warehouse, I said to Yvette that it was good to remember that each one, at some point, had made someone really happy. And she said, "and they can do that again." I think that sums it up nicely.Leslie Cook, volunteer mechanic