BfW Expansion in NY

Helping young girl to ride in Sierra LeoneBfW shipped its first container from our new New York storage location earlier this month. Working closely with longtime partner Village Bicycle Project, BfW arranged to ship a mixed container of bikes and parts to Sierra Leone to help the program regroup after nearly a year's pause. View photos of this joint effort online.

Village Bicycle Project (VBP) operates in Ghana and Sierra Leone. About five years ago VBP set up a Learn 2 Ride program in Sierra Leone to help students stay in school. VBP focused on education to help rebuild this country after Civil War. But last year the project shut down during the worst of the Ebola outbreak.  VBP resumed this project this summer and our recent mixed parts container will help reboot this effort. Read more about who this project helps.

Larry SilvermanAfter a slow upstart to this BfW New York Chapter, with only two bike collections scheduled this past spring, finding a partner willing to take a container with only half as many bikes as we normally ship was key. Including 18 PALLETS of tires, tubes, saddles, and other assorted bike parts certainly sweetened the deal. And redirecting those rescued bike share parts we typically pick up from Citi Bike in New York to a shipment originating in New York is building excitement for our local partner there.

That 'partner' is really just one guy, Larry Silverman. Larry approached us last winter hoping to get more involved with our program in his hometown in Long Island. He scaled the biggest hurdle early by finding a storage location able to handle enough bikes for a shipment. Now we just had to find the bikes. Because his house and the storage area were so far apart, a regular drop off point wasn't going to work. It also wouldn't amass the needed 500 bikes for a shipment quickly. Next came the task of recruiting volunteers, which Larry continues to grow.

MarxOur first break came in April of last year when we worked with a father/son team who wanted to help collect bikes. Kenny and Zach Marx set up this initial effort to take place at a huge event called Port Fest in Port Washington NY. While they only collected around 40 bikes, this was a great first step to filling the container and making use of that storage area Larry secured.

Next we moved south across the island to Wantagh where a Boy Scout approached us about completing his Eagle project collecting bikes. "I wanted to do something different," said Nicholas Pierce with troop 96. "I like how my project helps worldwide." It was perfect timing, Nicholas approached us just as our efforts were ramping up in his area.

Nick eagle"Nick really took his Eagle project seriously. He understood the impact a donated bicycle could have in Africa, but he also appreciated how important raising funds to make it possible was too," said BfW Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess. BfW asks for $10 per bike to help offset the cost of transportation and storage. "This helps us give donors convenient drop off locations in their own neighborhoods and ultimately helps us deliver their bikes 4,000 miles away to a remote village of Africa. It helps us ensure the bike is delivered safely, properly maintained, and truly making a difference in several lives."

Nick ended up bringing in another 70 bikes to that NY storage facility, helping us reach a halfway point for this particular mixed parts container. But he didn't stop there. Nick continued working on his project, which included specific fundraising efforts to bring in individual donations online and at fundraising events in his community. Nick raised over $2,000 for his collection, the largest amount raised to date for a collection by a single individual.

Now we were back in DC brainstorming on how to make this shipment possible by the end of the year. That's when Director Keith Oberg and Operations Manager Taylor Jones  came up with the Citi Bikes parts ideas. And the Director of Village Bicycle Project married the idea to the Sierra Leone effort struggling to regroup after nearly a year hiatus. So we focused our attention up the I-95 Corridor.

Jack McCullough, Gene Carlough, Linda Silver, and Elisabeth KurzEarlier this summer, collection manager George Kurz, a longtime collection manager for Pennswood Village in Pennsylvania, started having reservations about holding their annual fall collection with us. In June the collection was a go, but we also got this message from George, "We are going to attempt to recruit two or three new volunteers with lots of energy who can take over future leadership here." Pennswood Village is a retirement community with a lot of spunk, but collecting over 100 bikes every fall can take a lot of work. George wants to find someone to follow in his footsteps to keep this valuable service project going.

Last year 40 Pennswood volunteers helped with advertising, picking up bikes, prepping the bikes, and loading the bikes on our truck. One volunteer offered this report, "I think the bike collection is the most significant and effective volunteer project that this community sponsors." And even though the collection didn't happen at Pennswood this past fall, they still collected and stored bikes from donors who had come to rely on the location from year to year. Despite not holding a 2015 event, Pennswood Village still collected nearly 40 bikes, which pushed them into our 1k Club, collecting over 1,000 bikes over the past decade.

Newtown Bicycles, the local bike shop that donates bikes every year to this collection, picked up where Pennswood Village paused this year. Harry Betz, owner of the shop, held his own collection at the bike shop. George pitched in to help and brought over some volunteers to help prep bikes. George also secured temporary storage of the bikes as well as transportation to George School where the bikes were held for a week and then picked up enroute to the New York loading this month.

RABWe now had about 200 bikes. Keith picked up a few more from Princeton University but the bulk came from a delivery from a community based bike shop in New York City, Recycle-A-Bicycle (RAB). Six students from Gregorio Liperon High School in Washington Heights joined forces with RAB to bring in the remaining bikes needed to make this a complete shipment. This isn't the first time we teamed up with RAB but it is the first time they got to be part of one of our container loadings.

One last mention for the entire loading crew, thank you. Larry rallied his troops, calling on his accountant and other friends to join Keith in this one day loading event. The Grover family, who collects bikes for us in New Jersey, drove up for the day and also lent a hand or two to make this long day possible. It was nearly a 12 hour day but the excitement in New York is growing and we are already looking forward to number two sometime next year.




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