Featured Volunteer: Ron Watts
This guy. What would we do without Ron Watts? Just look at him picking up and moving not one, not two, but three bikes...at a time!
It would be understating Ron's worth to focus on him moving bikes, but quite a bit of his time has been spent on just that, moving bikes for Bikes for the World's South Carolina spin off. Not just some bikes, but hundreds and hundreds of bikes.
In the 2017 collection season South Carolina was critical in supplying bikes to our overseas partners as we saw an increase in demand. The crew in Charleston actually loaded three containers of bikes in 2017, some of those bikes coming from collection points in NC as well.
As we prepared to move into our current semi-permanent warehouse in March of this past year we worked to deplete the number of bikes we had on hand in DC to make that move more efficiently. This could have delayed our ability to ship bikes to our partners who were in desperate need of affordable transportation. With the addition of bikes on hand in Charleston we were able to keep our shipments moving seamlessly.
In the spring of 2017, a community of Methodist churches spanning the state joined forces to help collect bikes for our partners around the world. Over a dozen churches set out to make a huge impact in our program with the goal of collecting 100 bikes in each of their communities. The results were staggering; one church actually collected nearly 300 bikes!
This creates a logistical challenge for our drivers...and in South Carolina, that was often Ron Watts. Just this past fall Ron drove over 400 miles ONE WAY to cover a couple collections as far north as Raleigh North Carolina. He had the biggest Penske truck we can legally rent, which we assumed could easily hold the 180 bikes we expected from both events. To our surprise 180 bikes is what ONE collection site ended up with; the other netted nearly 120.
Somehow, someway Ron squeezed those 300 bikes into the Penske for the long drive back to Charleston. Now we have to assume quite a few of those must have been kid sized bikes for them all to fit, but he even had an adult sized tricycle in there so we know it was no easy feat.
In addition to driving and assisting at collections Ron also managed the warehouse space in Charleston and supervised the Navy volunteers who came to help prep bikes on occasion. Ron assisted Paul Keefer, the area coordinator in SC doing anything asked of him: doing big pick ups, individual picks up, going by partner bike shops, mentoring young volunteers at collections, and helping with the loadings.
As we head into 2018 South Carolina will break off and operate independently from Bikes for the World, doing what they have been doing, collecting bikes in the community and changing lives around the world. BfW will continue to offer advice and support where possible but we are super proud to see this effort growing into something that can stand alone and better serve the community at the local level. We know Ron Watts is a huge part of the equation making this all possible.