Making the best of a difficult situation
As the pandemic bike boom continues, bicycles remain a hot commodity and that applies to children’s bikes as well. That hasn’t stopped bicycle advocacy organizations from continuing annual programs aimed a making sure children in their communities are able to experience the joy of receiving a bicycle. It’s definitely been more difficult this year, though, according to BikeAthens Executive Director Scott Long.
“Each year the BikeAthens Holiday Bikes for Kids (HB4K) program donates refurbished kid bikes to our service partner organizations. The major recipients in years past have been Project Safe, Children First and the Athens Land Trust,” he said. “This year, due to COVID-19, we will be doing a smaller batch since we still don’t have our regular volunteer sessions in our shop. In addition to the lack of volunteers, the supply chain for bike parts is still straining due to massive demand for bikes during the pandemic. It’s been hard to get basic stuff like tubes and chains.”
Still, Long said he and his volunteers are, “giving it our best shot.” He said they’ve also modified the way they work to keep their volunteers safe.
“Our normal sessions after Thanksgiving would usually have nearly a dozen of our regular volunteers cranking out bikes for us to donate. This year that has been replaced with volunteers picking up bikes to work on at home and bringing back the ones that are ready to go,” he said. “Each bike that we donate will also come with a brand new helmet and a pocket guide on how to ride safe.”
“This is the seventh year we will be working with Blessings in a Book Bag, an organization that provides food, uniforms, supplies and mentoring to kids in our Title I schools. Our volunteer driven program collects bikes from around the community, fixes them up, and works with BiBB to identify kids of all ages who have put in hard work — especially during a tumultuous year of virtual learning — and may not receive many presents otherwise.”
Brown said economic pressures faced by struggling families are even worse this year, and she hopes that will motivate people to dust off bikes that have been outgrown so they can be enjoyed by children who wouldn’t be likely to receive a bike of their own.
“We all remember the first bike that was all ours, and the feeling of freedom and power that came with it. But for some kids in our community, they won’t see a bike shaped wrapper under the tree — and may not see any presents this year. Many families in our community have already faced employment, housing and food crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are going to feel the impacts tenfold this holiday season.”
Brown’s organization has also taken steps to protect the health of her volunteers, by reducing the number who are participating in the program this year. They also move their workstations into the parking lot and limit their time inside the building.
“These volunteers work outside, increasing the amount of space available to distance,” she said.
In Middle Georgia, Charise Stephens of U Create Macon said her organization is holding an end of the year bike drive to supply bikes, “not only for the bike teams (Middle Georgia Composite, Major Taylor Middle Georgia, Trips for Kids Middle GA, and We Bike GA) but to give out to underprivileged youths, including some of the kids on the team so they can have their own bike.”
Stephens said U Create is receiving bikes through a contactless, curbside drop-off system designed to keep volunteers and donors safe. She has a list of children she’s trying to find bikes for before Christmas and has been pleased with the generosity of donors, who she follows up with to report on how the bikes are changing children’s lives. And she’s detected another factor at work.
Elsewhere Around the State
Bike Alpharetta is in the midst of its 14th Annual Bikes for Kids. At its Annual Domestique Day on Dec. 5, volunteers will be busy, “cleaning and repairing 250+ previously-loved bicycles, tricycles and scooters” to get them “Santa Ready” for North Fulton Community Charities. Last year Bike Alpharetta distributed 274 bikes and trikes, while recycling more than 1,632 pounds of steel and rubber.
Atlanta’s Free Bikes 4 Kidz is also seeking volunteers to help on Dec. 5 to prepare bikes for its giveaway event. Experienced mechanics are especially needed. Last year 600 Atlanta children received free bicycle and helmets.