3 minutes reading time (503 words)

Featured Volunteer: Valerie Van Hollen

Valerie Van Hollen is the creative muscle behind the pen motivating Cumberland area donors to let go of their old bikes. Here she is accepting our coveted 1k award given to groups who have collected over 1,000 bikes for our organization (this was a few years ago). Don't count now, but her crew is set to break 2,000 by next year! 

Her 'crew'  is a combined force of Rotarians, bikers from the Western Maryland Wheelmen, and maybe a few other local residents sprinkled in. If you've ever seen this event in full swing you'd understand the excitement to join the fun. It's finely tuned and strictly run, as in everyone has a job. But it's huge great fun too! We've heard rumors of trike races and competitions to see who can prep a bike the fastest. 

While the volunteers are a huge part of this successful collection, we really can't overlook the reason they are all there...the donated bikes from generous donors. Who maybe found out about the collection after reading the latest story submitted to the local newspaper, no doubt by Valerie herself. Sometimes they are real life stories about beneficiaries who have received a bike, maybe a Marylander who donated a bike, or one time she even wrote the piece in the voice of the donated bike itself. "I love our trips into the market where I see so much cocoa and sometimes see bikes I've met before..."

It's part passion, part charm. But it's not all Valerie. She has a team of volunteers behind her forming the Western Maryland BfW bike committee. They meet over the winter and start planning then for the spring collection in May. This year they wanted to focus on collecting more money along with the bikes. They saw this as a vital part of our organization and set a goal of explaining that to potential donors. 

Valerie hit the papers, sharing her stories and ours. The bike committee reorganized the drop off point in an effort to increase financial donations. And you know what, it all worked! They were thrilled, and so were we.  Compared to last year they doubled the money coming in with bikes. This really helps offset our costs of supporting a collection that is so far away from our warehouse location in Rockville. 

This year they brought in over 200 bikes, bringing their overall total to 1,896 bikes donated. With combined grants from the Rotary Club of Cumberland they have also generated over $10,000 over 17 years in support of Bikes for the World and our partners around the globe. 

The real credit goes to Valerie, who's media blitz focused on donating repairable bikes, the need for $10 to offset the cost of shipping and how the bikes change lives. [During the collection,] we had people handing us money before we even got the bikes out of the car or before we even had to ask. I think Valerie's articles spoke to them. Valerie really reached the community this year and the response was overwhelming.

Kate Kidwell, Cumberland BfW bike committee member
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