Featured Volunteer: Thom McKinney
Thom McKinney is one of those hard working volunteers you may never have seen even if you hang out in the Bikes for the World warehouse every day. In fact, he's only been to the warehouse once. BUT he logs volunteer hours almost every single week.
Thom volunteers at the I-66 waste transfer station in Fairfax, for Bikes for the World of course. He joins fellow cyclist and friend, Jeff Saxe to help us sort through all the donations that are left in the corral for Bikes for the World. It should come as no surprise that not everything left at the transfer station is a functional, usable bike. Between 85-95% are, depending on the day, but weeding through the junk is a time consuming endeavor.
If you have ever volunteered in the warehouse and complained about the heat or cold, think about Thom. He's out there in the elements standing on asphalt that heats like an oven in the summer. If you've never been out to a waste transfer station, we can assure you it doesn't smell like freshly baked cookies either.
Thom and Jeff (and Eric at the I-95 transfer station) provide a valuable service and helping hand to our drivers who arrive to remove the bikes that our donors leave at these sites. It can take a few hours to untangle, sort, and save usable bikes, parts, and accessories. Having someone like Thom, who used to be an avid biker before health reasons forced him off his wheels, sorting through the bikes is incredibly helpful since he knows so much about bikes. And it's a way for him to stay involved in the cycling community and make a difference.
Thom works most with Glenn, one of our Operations gurus, and between them, they are really able to save what's important for the program. Because of the work Thom does, Glenn has more time to evaluate the donated bikes and remove the parts that are usable while leaving behind what's not to be recycled. It also gets Glenn back to the warehouse before the sun sets, something the rest of the team is thankful for!
Just to give you an idea of how many bikes we are talking...Just this year we have rescued 1,680 bikes from the I-66 location where Thom works. That's not including parts, handlebars, wheels, etc. In the three years that Thom has been volunteering out there, Bikes for the World has brought back 5,053 bikes to be redistributed to our partners around the world.
Glenn provided a taste of what it's like out there at the transfer station. FYI, it definitely doesn't smell like freshly baked bread, although in July it may be hot enough to make some!
The donated bikes are frequently tossed into a jumbled pile with other items such as lawn furniture or car parts. Thom works to untangle the pile and sort the bikes into rows by size. The transfer station has acres of asphalt partitioned into areas for disposing or recycling different types of material. Trucks rumble through dumping land while loaders fill trailers with scrap metal. It is dusty and loud, and the wind blows dirt and trash around. It is freezing cold in the winter and sweltering in the summer, but Thom shows up every week to help sort and load bicycles. I can always depend on his help.Glen Martin, BfW Ops Driver and Parts Manager