Featured Volunteer(s): Earl and Brian
Before the pandemic hit, Linda Hansen came to us and said, I don't think we can continue the bike collection at St. Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax. Linda had been the manager of this event for years before handing it off to another volunteer to manage. And another and another. And even though collections pretty much run themselves- you say, do you have a bike to donate and someone brings it by and we pick it up...it's really not that simple. That's honestly just the frame. There's a lot of other parts that get the wheels turning.
But that's also where Brian Keith and Earl Smith come in. Turns out, Linda (now a Great-Grandma) had one more collection in her and as we made our comeback after coronavirus sidelined all of us, she realized what an impact St. Mary's could have on our beneficiaries. And so did we. And so we were back at St. Mary's last month. When we saw Linda at the event, we asked her, do you have a volunteer that really makes a difference at your collection, someone we could feature on our blog? Both fingers went up and she said without pause, these two!
And it's true. Brian and Earl have been involved with the St. Mary's collection from the beginning. And with this year's collection, without the proper fanfare, they celebrated their silver anniversary with us. Yes, yes, Bikes for the World is technically only 17 years old, but this partnership goes back to Pedals for Progress. For 25 years, this trio has been working to bring a successful bike collection to the back parking lot of St. Mary's.
What makes these two stand out? You mean besides their oversized tool kit? Their willingness to help and figure things out. Back at the warehouse we often have a pile of bikes from a collection that need a tweak here or there before they are ready for a container. It might be a seat that wasn't lowered, a rusty pedal left on, or a lock that needs cut. Not from St. Mary's! This year Brian asked, do you leave those cable locks on? We said, do you have something to take it off (silly question)? Out came the giant bolt cutters. And his cheater bar for stuck pedals...puts ours to shame.
But it's really more than just their 'fix-it' skills that makes this duo dynamic. They are the glue that holds the entire volunteer team together. They are super supportive of Linda who has led this effort for decades. They are both patient, willing, and cheerful when working with volunteers, many of whom have never used a pedal wrench before. And they come ready to work, rain or shine...usually with their own tool box.
It's reassuring to us back in the warehouse (and I'm sure to Linda circling the parking lot) to have these guys overseeing this part of the collection every year. They know the tricks and tools to coerce even the rustiest bike part into submission. This makes loading the truck and unloading at the warehouse seamless and uneventful...something we all welcome at 3pm after a long Saturday.
We also have to mention that Earl doesn't even attend St. Mary's. He is a member of Burke Presbyterian Church which has also been involved and supportive of Bikes for the World from the start. St. Mary's has often partnered up with other community groups and schools to bring in youth volunteers who learn the value of service AND have the coolest mentors to boot!