5 minutes reading time (916 words)

Grease Corps

From Hagerstown, Md to Accra, Ghana

May is the beginning of Bike Month, but at Bikes for the World we typically celebrate a month early, during Earth Month. This year was no exception. It was a record breaking month in April several times over. We hosted a dozen community led collections that netted over 2,000 bicycles and a record 54 sewing machines. In. One. Month. There were almost too many records to mention, but we are going to try.

First, congratulations to Trinity United Methodist Church in Alexandria, led by collection manager Gordon Johnson. Trinity UM has been collecting bikes with BfW for years now and while this year's haul wasn't record breaking in one sense, in another it most definitely was! Gordon's dedicated bike team brought in over 100 bikes this year, pushing their overall total beyond our 1,000 milestone mark! Congratulations and thank you Trinity- newly inducted BfW 1k Club Member!

Next, we welcomed a new church to the family, Otterbein United Methodist Church of Martinsburg West Virginia. This event was sponsored by their Sister ACTS group, who met with Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess over the winter to learn more about our mission and partners around the world. The women were so impressed by our impact they set out to make one of their own.

This initial effort exceeded any and all expectations. The crew over there collected 356 bikes and 34 sewing machines. In their first try. Too many for our truck to handle. They also hit the fundraising trail to nearly match our goal of $10 per bike.

The team, led by Sue Ann Palmer, coordinated with Otterbein United Methodist in Hagerstown and together they figured out a solution to help us bring all those bikes to our warehouse in only two trips, combined with Otterbein UM Hagerstown's annual collection at the end of April.

Speaking of Otterbein MD's annual collection....another record breaker! They turned in an impressive 410 bikes for 2018...their biggest year yet. This collection is led by co-managers Cindy Brown and Mike Johnston and it's their combined effort that makes this collection so successful year after year. Mike has gone above and beyond by adding to their single day total by collecting and storing bikes throughout the year at his business, MS Johnston. He also collaborated with Sister ACTS from Martinsburg to help transport and store the overflow bikes until we came back up to grab them.

Of course, we could never forget those grease monkeys with the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek who keep outdoing themselves each and every year. Do we dare say, they were disappointed this year when they fell short of their goal: ONE THOUSAND BIKES. They only collected 976 bikes in 2018, only? But they are off and running to outdo that total for 2019, covering four collections in one day this month (which they will add to next year's total).

Their list of partners is extensive, and in our book they did collect 1,000 bikes so yes, we are going to list them here: Bicycle Escape (Tom and Roger Rinker), Wheelbase (Tom Pepperone), Bike Dr. (Brian Wisawaty) Reliable Recycling (Eric Sclar), Brunswick P.D., Thurmont P.D., Thermo-Fisher Scientific: Shayne Boucher, Hood College Rotoract, FCC: Shane Sellers, Dan Warrenfelz (Carroll Valley, PA), Custom Imprints (Jean-Louis Lepage), Triangle Motors – Collection Site (Tom Meacham), Buzz Mackintosh –Barn, Frederick Bicycle Coalition (Tom Rinker), Audio Visual Group (Eric Johnson), YMCA Youth Leaders Club, Family members:Carol Birzer, Nia Delaney, Sam Clingman, Tom Grenier.

Finally, Irving Middle School in Springfield surprised us after postponing their collection event because of the threat of snow earlier in April. We were concerned the change in date may impact the turn out. Did it ever! They nearly doubled the number of bikes this year compared with last. The impact was positive. It was their collection that pushed us over 500 that last weekend in April, giving us three straight weekends of 500+ bikes....a container every week!

What does one do with all those bikes? We ship them of course, often. Over the past two months BfW has donated four containers to our partner Village Bicycle Project, three of those destined for Ghana. We also shipped a fifth container, to MiBici Costa Rica. And we have three slated for to go out in May. As long as we have the bikes.

Eben Somiah is the country coordinator for Village Bicycle Project- Ghana. He came on board in 2014 after working with VBP through the Cadbury program, where they trained students and issued bikes through the schools. Eben is determined to increase the number of bikes distributed to students, but he says, "we need bikes". In 2017 Eben and his team at  VBP expected 2,000 bikes, but they only received 1,200.

"For 2018 we would like to focus on getting 1,000 bicycles to school children.  Aside from that we will continue offering bicycles to farmers and other entrepreneurs."

Eben Somiah Village Bicycle Project coordinator Ghana

BfW is doing our part in answering that call, thanks to the dedication of our volunteer managers out there finding the bikes and donating them to the cause. With this past week's shipment, which is heading to Eben's program, we have now shipped 1,392 bikes to Ghana in 2018.

In fact, we have already donated more bikes to Ghana than we have in the past four years. As we continue to collect more bikes annually we are able to not only add new partners but increase the number of shipments to our established partners who are trying to expand their programs.

Because a Bike is More than JUST a Bike
Bike + Mechanic = Prosperous