This month in lieu of our Featured Volunteer piece we are reserving this honored corner to say thank you to outgoing Operations Manager Bob Leftwich. Bob joined the Bikes for the World team in the summer of 2016 and guided our operation through two pivotal years. He jumped right into our fall season that year and before even getting grease on his brand new red BfW 'staff' shirt we were scrambling to find a new warehouse to stash bikes.
Everyone who has ever held the Operations Manager position has felt the angst of not knowing where we might end up next as we bounced around to free space to discounted space. It's no easy feat making the transition between locations as you clear out the old warehouse by shipping and tossing and moving bikes, tools, and equipment. You lose your reliable volunteer base as you move from neighborhood, county, even state. And even your day to day routine is jostled around as you forced to regroup and replan pick ups and general organization practices.
Bob saw us through the move from our Pentagon City location, to a cramped temporary space in the back of a small bike shop in Falls Church, to our new semi-permanent home in North Bethesda. He also helped us transition from our separate office space in Arlington to our current combo warehouse/office location.
With our move to a leased warehouse, came the comfort of knowing we'd be there for a fixed period of time. Bob helped organize a professional and comfortable space for our volunteers to work in, helping us load, prepare bikes for shipments, and strip parts for our overseas mechanics. Bob helped expand our volunteer program, training many new people in the complex job of stripping usable parts from frames and even supporting a small team of volunteers who rebuild those high end bikes we sell from time to time.
Bob's experience in the bike industry, running his own bike shop, and working with volunteers during race events was a powerful combination in helping us expand and grow our operation at Bikes for the World. Under Bob's management, the intake of bikes from pick up locations around the DC area nearly doubled, making his time on the road behind the wheel seem unending.
He often worked long hours and six day weeks just to accommodate all the pick ups, loadings, and volunteer events he helped us cover over the past couple years. He absolutely holds the record in container loadings...sometimes completing this task in just over five hours (previously we did four hour-two day loadings). He was loved by his loading team, the collection volunteers, volunteers at pick up locations, like the Glenwood Lions up at the Alpha Ridge transfer station, and all the individual volunteers coming through our warehouse.
Bob was quick to involve our volunteers in every aspect of the operation, pulling them into the container, getting them up on the second levels and having them throw bikes onto the third levels no matter what their skill or strength level. He had no problem stepping back and letting volunteers own as much of the opportunity as they wished, lending a hand or advice when warranted. This empowered them, saved his strength, and really energized everyone involved!
His unique use of space in the new warehouse wowed anyone coming through whether to volunteer or donate a bike. Maintaining workable space in the new smaller warehouse proved to be a challenge and required us to reorganize several times before finding a workable solution. Above you can see (and maybe remember) when we were stacking mountain bikes three rows high!
Bob's dedication to a routine pick up schedule allowed Taylor to better plan our loadings (and helped avoid the need to triple stack adult bikes in the warehouse). Bob promised we'd have the bikes we needed to maintain a regular every other week loading schedule throughout the year- and he delivered. Knowing this schedule in advance also helped us work with overseas partners and communicate to our collection managers, volunteers, donors, and supporters where bikes would ultimately be donated.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn't consider Bob to be a class act. He will definitely be missed around the warehouse. Despite dealing with personal and business challenges over the past month, Bob stayed on with Bikes for the World a couple times a week even after he turned in his resignation in May of this year. He made the stressful transition between Operation Managers easier on staff and volunteers. To our donors and partners...this transition was invisible with us never missing a beat...or a bike.