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Wheel in the Sky 

Bicycle Re-Source of Bend keeps turning to provide bikes to Bend's neediest

click to enlarge 17.4_news_bike_resource1.jpg

Monday was a day of triage at the Bicycle Re-Source of Bend.

The all-volunteer staff was stripping parts from bikes rescued from the landfill and sorting them into two piles: reuse and recycle. The parts and frames that are salvaged will be turned into usable bikes and donated to those in need. The goal, according to volunteer and BROB board member Rod Miller, is simple: Get people on bikes and keep them rolling.

It's a noble plan. And BROB, now two years old, seems to have momentum on its side. In November, it received nonprofit status. In December, it gave needy youth nearly twice as many bikes as the Christmas before. And the board is working on several new initiatives that should allow BROB to boost its number of donated bikes and parts. But it hasn't been easy.

Despite generous contributions, BROB, like most nonprofits, remains on the hunt for more robust financing. To pay rent, the nonprofit sells refurbished bikes on Craigslist and eBay. No one there pulls a paycheck, and securing volunteer labor is an ongoing struggle. But BROB is making it work, and for that, Jesse Ledbetter is thankful.

Ledbetter, 18, is a resident at Living Options for Teens, a local shelter, and recently received a bike from BROB.

"Yesterday I used it for an appointment," said Ledbetter, of his white mountain bike, which came complete with a lock and rear fender. "It doesn't get neglected, that's for sure."

Ledbetter used the bike to apply for jobs and found one within biking distance of the LOFT. He said he enjoys the freedom and utility it affords him.

This is music to Miller's ears.

I met Miller at BROB on Monday, which happened to be volunteer day in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The small eastside Bend shop was a hive of activity when I got there. Miller, along with fellow board members and volunteers Mark Clark and Garry Zimmerman, was directing helpers from Heart of Oregon's Clean Energy Service Corps. While most of the volunteers checked old inner tubes for punctures, Clark helped a young girl inspect a crank.

This sort of volunteer boom happens about once a month, said Miller, a seven-year employee of Hutch's Bicycles. That's often enough to get bikes out the door to local agencies like LOFT, Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Family Access Network and NeighborImpact, but not often enough to keep regular shop hours or employ a part-time mechanic.

"This void that we're trying to fill is huge," Miller said.

Unlike other nonprofit bike shops in Oregon, such as Portland's Community Cycling center, BROB isn't open to low-income cycling enthusiasts. Instead, BROB is geared toward the no-income residents of Central Oregon.

"We want to keep bikes going," Miller said. "But we don't want to compete with other bike shops."

Plus, he said, BROB doesn't have the manpower to offer such regular service.

What the shop does offer, however, is emergency repairs to keep people rolling. The BROB also works to ensure bikes stay out of the landfill.

Miller said more than 90 percent of bikes sold in the U.S. come from warehouse-type retailers, like Walmart. The problem is, such bikes are largely unserviceable and after one mishap, they're often destined for the dump.

"Probably half of them don't get ridden after the first year," Miller said. "We rescue them."

Most of the parts rescued on MLK Day were sorted by the time I left Monday afternoon. And they'll soon be pulled from the blue Tupperware bins and bolted onto new bikes where they'll enjoy a second (or third) life, helping provide cheap, clean and efficient transportation for Bend's neediest population.

"It's a great resource, Ledbetter said of his new-to-him bike.

"I'm very grateful for it."

What Does Bicycle Re-Source of Bend Do?

- Refurbish bikes and bike parts and give them to those in need

- Bike valet, at events such as Munch and Music

- Bike maintenance and repair classes.

Call the shop at 541-382-6977 to schedule an appointment.

Bicycle Re-Source of Bend

2669 NE Twin Knolls Dr.


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