[Hpn] Bike enthusiasts' mission goes beyond sport, embraces community betterment

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Sat, 19 Jan 2008 04:20:55 -0500


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ikeCenter.html


    =20
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Bike enthusiasts' mission goes beyond sport, embraces community =
betterment


Saturday, January 19, 2008

By Van Darden

Tribune-Herald staff writer

Tucked away behind a green house in the Sanger Heights neighborhood, the =
Waco Volunteer Bike Center has been quietly building and repairing =
bicycles and educating amateur mechanics and cyclists for more than a =
year.

To volunteers working there, it's not just rusted spokes and frozen =
gears they're servicing - it's the community at large.

"When you're driving around, you don't notice how many bikers are out =
there commuting to work every day on a bike," says David Heddy, one of =
the center's co-founders. "We're trying to reach out to them. Somebody's =
got to look after them."

For Heddy and other volunteers who keep the center operating, cycling is =
more than an extreme sports hobby or a leisurely pastime. It's a =
community mission, especially in a historic neighborhood as ethnically =
and economically diverse as Sanger Heights in north-central Waco.

"It started with us being in love with bikes," Heddy says. "And then we =
started to look more at the ideas of simplicity and sustainability and =
how that relates to biking. For us, it's not just something fun to do in =
Cameron Park. It's an efficient, money-saving alternative to using =
fossil fuels."

Yet for many people in Waco, getting around town on a bicycle isn't a =
philosophical or alternative lifestyle choice; it's a necessity, he =
says.

Although Heddy can't quantify the number of people who commute on bikes, =
he says it's higher than some people might think.

"Some people have no other choice but to ride a bike to work," he says. =
"Sometimes, it's all they have."

Heddy works with Habitat for Humanity International. Other volunteers =
attend Baylor University, work with Mission Waco or teach in area =
schools, among other occupations.

Eric Reeves, a junior at Baylor and a volunteer at the center, says he's =
seen how vital bikes are for some in Waco.

"We have some homeless guys who come in here and the only thing of any =
value to their name is their bike," he says. "We'll put air in their =
tires and make sure their bike is working. It feels good to help the =
real Waco community, the people who need it most."

Inspired by Austin

Community bicycle programs have been around in various forms for years, =
says Jared Himstedt, another of WVBC's co-founders.

"We modeled ours after the Yellow Bike program in Austin," he says. "We =
wanted a place where people could come use some tools to fix their own =
bike or have somebody show them how to do it."

The Austin Yellow Bike Project, which bills itself "a =
community-supported, all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to =
providing human-powered transportation for the people of Austin," has =
been operating continually for 11 years.

Jennifer Schaffer, a volunteer with the Austin project, says bicycles =
provide a simple solution for many problems in the United States, =
ranging from obesity to noise and air pollution to community isolation =
and stress relief.

"All of these problems are ameliorated when you ride a bike," she says. =
"It's a win-win situation for everyone: reducing traffic congestion for =
those who continue driving and keeping the planet healthier for =
everyone."

Dane Cooper, a senior at Baylor, has been volunteering at the Waco bike =
center since it opened and sees the shop as more than just a mechanic's =
garage.

"We like to help people and teach people to fix their own bikes," Cooper =
says. "If people want to come in and look through our inventory, we let =
them. If they want us to do all the work, we're glad to let them watch. =
If they want us to show them how to do it, we will."

Heddy calls it empowering people to "do their own thing."

The shop, open from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays, =
operates with four main volunteers and four come-and-go volunteers.

Cooper says the shop accepts anybody and any bike, regardless of its - =
or its owner's - condition.

"It makes for a really great dynamic," Cooper says. "Because of its =
location and purpose, we never know who will come up."

Cooper says some people, especially the homeless and transient, can only =
pay what they can, when they can.

"We charge a bare minimum for parts and our labor is donated," Cooper =
says. "We're totally run on donations."

Himstedt says the center is not a nonprofit organization, meaning that =
monetary donations aren't tax-deductible. However, they still accept =
donations of any kind. Volunteers are, for the most part, self-taught =
and none claim to be master mechanics or engineers.

Responding to need

It was Himstedt and a few other like-minded bike enthusiasts who =
formulated the center's initial concept.

"I was doing some bike repairs on my back porch for people in the =
neighborhood," says Himstedt, a Sanger Heights resident. "At the same =
time, I was also spending a lot of time working with the World Hunger =
Relief Farm on their Bikes for Haiti program."

That program collects abandoned bikes and stolen bicycles recovered by =
Waco police, refurbishes them and sends them to Haiti, where they're =
later sold at deep discounts to raise money for World Hunger Relief =
Inc.'s satellite farm and elementary school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

Himstedt says the Haitian bike program was partially supported by =
Bicycles Outback, a local bike retail shop.

"We donated unrepairable bikes for the farm to fix up," says Ian Moore, =
manager at Bicycles Outback. "We donated what we could and certainly =
trained and educated people in bike maintenance and repair."

Moore says Bicycles Outback sees a lot of homeless and low-income =
people, many of whom come to shop but cannot afford pricey new parts or =
expensive maintenance.

"I saw there was a real need in Waco for a program that could help these =
people," he says. "A lot of these people have no other way of getting to =
work, and I felt like there was a gap in aid for these people. So I =
called Jared and David and asked them what we could do about it."

Result: Moore not only donated spare parts and some specialized tools =
but taught the volunteers how to effectively utilize them in their =
unique mission.

Help from a church

Especially pivotal are Nancy Gatlin and the Hope Fellowship Comunidad =
Day Esperanza.

The little community church has called the green house at 1721 Sanger =
Ave. home for quite some time.

In December 2006, Heddy recalls approaching Gatlin - his pastor at Hope =
Fellowship - and asking if he and some friends could use the empty =
garage behind the house/church to repair some bicycles.

"We just felt like it was a good use of space," Gatlin says. "The church =
has no staff. Everybody has other jobs. Some of us work with Habitat for =
Humanity and Mission Waco and choose to live in this neighborhood.

"We felt that the richness and diversity of this neighborhood puts us in =
a good position to be in a relationship with the community. And it's our =
duty to do so."

Gatlin says the bike center helps the church fulfill its mission to =
reach out to and relate to the community, including the disadvantaged, =
in new and dynamic ways.

Ruth Boardman-Alexander, a member of Hope Fellowship, recently brought =
her bike into the shop for repairs.

"I work less than a mile from where we live," the Sanger Heights =
resident says. "I just started to think about how stupid it is to start =
the car up for that."

James White, another Sanger Heights resident, works at the Department of =
Veterans Affairs and says he used to ride a bike to work but hasn't in a =
year.

"My first bike got stolen and I just never got around to getting another =
one," he says. "I missed riding to work so I decided to come over and =
have this old one looked at. I just like the idea that (biking) has less =
impact on the pocketbook and the environment."

Volunteers wanted

Himstedt says he doesn't know exactly what's in store for the shop in =
2008, but he does know one thing.

"We need more people," he says, referencing the center's on-call =
volunteer roster. "Anyone who wants to come volunteer is welcome, =
regardless of their skill level."

Himstedt says he'd also like to see the center offer more workshops and =
community training.

"We'd like to continue to show the community how to fix and sustain =
their own bike culture," Himstedt says. "We'd like to get more involved =
with city advocacy, (rallying) the city behind bike lanes and bike =
education, safety and laws."

The year 2008 will be about community, not money, he says.

"This isn't a group that can be dependent on one, two or even three =
people," he says. "This is truly a community effort."

vdarden@wacotrib.com

757-5743












William Charles Tinker, Sr.
New Hampshire Homeless=20
Founded 11-28-99
25 Granite Street=20
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 USA=20
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.=20
1-603-286-2492=20
http://www.missingkids.com=20
http://www.nationalhomeless.org=20
http://www.newhampshirehomeless.org=20
http://www.newhampshirehomeless-subscribe@topica.com 
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<!--begintext--><STRONG><FONT size=3D4><SPAN class=3Dheadline>Bike =
enthusiasts'=20
mission goes beyond sport, embraces community =
betterment</SPAN><BR><BR><!-- newsworthy --><!--endtext-->
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<P class=3Dnpodate>Saturday, January 19, 2008</P><SPAN class=3Dbody>
<P><B>By Van Darden</B></P>
<P>Tribune-Herald staff writer</P><!--endtext--><!--begintext-->
<P>Tucked away behind a green house in the Sanger Heights neighborhood, =
the Waco=20
Volunteer Bike Center has been quietly building and repairing bicycles =
and=20
educating amateur mechanics and cyclists for more than a year.</P>
<P>To volunteers working there, it=92s not just rusted spokes and frozen =
gears=20
they=92re servicing =97 it=92s the community at large.</P>
<P>=93When you=92re driving around, you don=92t notice how many bikers =
are out there=20
commuting to work every day on a bike,=94 says David Heddy, one of the =
center=92s=20
co-founders. =93We=92re trying to reach out to them. Somebody=92s got to =
look after=20
them.=94</P>
<P>For Heddy and other volunteers who keep the center operating, cycling =
is more=20
than an extreme sports hobby or a leisurely pastime. It=92s a community =
mission,=20
especially in a historic neighborhood as ethnically and economically =
diverse as=20
Sanger Heights in north-central Waco.</P>
<P>=93It started with us being in love with bikes,=94 Heddy says. =93And =
then we=20
started to look more at the ideas of simplicity and sustainability and =
how that=20
relates to biking. For us, it=92s not just something fun to do in =
Cameron Park.=20
It=92s an efficient, money-saving alternative to using fossil =
fuels.=94</P>
<P>Yet for many people in Waco, getting around town on a bicycle isn=92t =
a=20
philosophical or alternative lifestyle choice; it=92s a necessity, he =
says.</P>
<P>Although Heddy can=92t quantify the number of people who commute on =
bikes, he=20
says it=92s higher than some people might think.</P>
<P>=93Some people have no other choice but to ride a bike to work,=94 he =
says.=20
=93Sometimes, it=92s all they have.=94</P>
<P>Heddy works with Habitat for Humanity International. Other volunteers =
attend=20
Baylor University, work with Mission Waco or teach in area schools, =
among other=20
occupations.</P>
<P>Eric Reeves, a junior at Baylor and a volunteer at the center, says =
he=92s seen=20
how vital bikes are for some in Waco.</P>
<P>=93We have some homeless guys who come in here and the only thing of =
any value=20
to their name is their bike,=94 he says. =93We=92ll put air in their =
tires and make=20
sure their bike is working. It feels good to help the real Waco =
community, the=20
people who need it most.=94</P>
<P><B>Inspired by Austin</B></P>
<P>Community bicycle programs have been around in various forms for =
years, says=20
Jared Himstedt, another of WVBC=92s co-founders.</P>
<P>=93We modeled ours after the Yellow Bike program in Austin,=94 he =
says. =93We=20
wanted a place where people could come use some tools to fix their own =
bike or=20
have somebody show them how to do it.=94</P>
<P>The Austin Yellow Bike Project, which bills itself =93a =
community-supported,=20
all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing =
human-powered=20
transportation for the people of Austin,=94 has been operating =
continually for 11=20
years.</P>
<P>Jennifer Schaffer, a volunteer with the Austin project, says bicycles =
provide=20
a simple solution for many problems in the United States, ranging from =
obesity=20
to noise and air pollution to community isolation and stress relief.</P>
<P>=93All of these problems are ameliorated when you ride a bike,=94 she =
says. =93It=92s=20
a win-win situation for everyone: reducing traffic congestion for those =
who=20
continue driving and keeping the planet healthier for everyone.=94</P>
<P>Dane Cooper, a senior at Baylor, has been volunteering at the Waco =
bike=20
center since it opened and sees the shop as more than just a =
mechanic=92s=20
garage.</P>
<P>=93We like to help people and teach people to fix their own bikes,=94 =
Cooper=20
says. =93If people want to come in and look through our inventory, we =
let them. If=20
they want us to do all the work, we=92re glad to let them watch. If they =
want us=20
to show them how to do it, we will.=94</P>
<P>Heddy calls it empowering people to =93do their own thing.=94</P>
<P>The shop, open from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and noon to 5 p.m. =
Saturdays,=20
operates with four main volunteers and four come-and-go volunteers.</P>
<P>Cooper says the shop accepts anybody and any bike, regardless of its =
=97 or its=20
owner=92s =97 condition.</P>
<P>=93It makes for a really great dynamic,=94 Cooper says. =93Because of =
its location=20
and purpose, we never know who will come up.=94</P>
<P>Cooper says some people, especially the homeless and transient, can =
only pay=20
what they can, when they can.</P>
<P>=93We charge a bare minimum for parts and our labor is donated,=94 =
Cooper says.=20
=93We=92re totally run on donations.=94</P>
<P>Himstedt says the center is not a nonprofit organization, meaning =
that=20
monetary donations aren=92t tax-deductible. However, they still accept =
donations=20
of any kind. Volunteers are, for the most part, self-taught and none =
claim to be=20
master mechanics or engineers.</P>
<P><B>Responding to need</B></P>
<P>It was Himstedt and a few other like-minded bike enthusiasts who =
formulated=20
the center=92s initial concept.</P>
<P>=93I was doing some bike repairs on my back porch for people in the=20
neighborhood,=94 says Himstedt, a Sanger Heights resident. =93At the =
same time, I=20
was also spending a lot of time working with the World Hunger Relief =
Farm on=20
their Bikes for Haiti program.=94</P>
<P>That program collects abandoned bikes and stolen bicycles recovered =
by Waco=20
police, refurbishes them and sends them to Haiti, where they=92re later =
sold at=20
deep discounts to raise money for World Hunger Relief Inc.=92s satellite =
farm and=20
elementary school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.</P>
<P>Himstedt says the Haitian bike program was partially supported by =
Bicycles=20
Outback, a local bike retail shop.</P>
<P>=93We donated unrepairable bikes for the farm to fix up,=94 says Ian =
Moore,=20
manager at Bicycles Outback. =93We donated what we could and certainly =
trained and=20
educated people in bike maintenance and repair.=94</P>
<P>Moore says Bicycles Outback sees a lot of homeless and low-income =
people,=20
many of whom come to shop but cannot afford pricey new parts or =
expensive=20
maintenance.</P>
<P>=93I saw there was a real need in Waco for a program that could help =
these=20
people,=94 he says. =93A lot of these people have no other way of =
getting to work,=20
and I felt like there was a gap in aid for these people. So I called =
Jared and=20
David and asked them what we could do about it.=94</P>
<P>Result: Moore not only donated spare parts and some specialized tools =
but=20
taught the volunteers how to effectively utilize them in their unique=20
mission.</P>
<P><B>Help from a church</B></P>
<P>Especially pivotal are Nancy Gatlin and the Hope Fellowship Comunidad =
Day=20
Esperanza.</P>
<P>The little community church has called the green house at 1721 Sanger =
Ave.=20
home for quite some time.</P>
<P>In December 2006, Heddy recalls approaching Gatlin =97 his pastor at =
Hope=20
Fellowship =97 and asking if he and some friends could use the empty =
garage behind=20
the house/church to repair some bicycles.</P>
<P>=93We just felt like it was a good use of space,=94 Gatlin says. =
=93The church has=20
no staff. Everybody has other jobs. Some of us work with Habitat for =
Humanity=20
and Mission Waco and choose to live in this neighborhood.</P>
<P>=93We felt that the richness and diversity of this neighborhood puts =
us in a=20
good position to be in a relationship with the community. And it=92s our =
duty to=20
do so.=94</P>
<P>Gatlin says the bike center helps the church fulfill its mission to =
reach out=20
to and relate to the community, including the disadvantaged, in new and =
dynamic=20
ways.</P>
<P>Ruth Boardman-Alexander, a member of Hope Fellowship, recently =
brought her=20
bike into the shop for repairs.</P>
<P>=93I work less than a mile from where we live,=94 the Sanger Heights =
resident=20
says. =93I just started to think about how stupid it is to start the car =
up for=20
that.=94</P>
<P>James White, another Sanger Heights resident, works at the Department =
of=20
Veterans Affairs and says he used to ride a bike to work but hasn=92t in =
a=20
year.</P>
<P>=93My first bike got stolen and I just never got around to getting =
another=20
one,=94 he says. =93I missed riding to work so I decided to come over =
and have this=20
old one looked at. I just like the idea that (biking) has less impact on =
the=20
pocketbook and the environment.=94</P>
<P><B>Volunteers wanted</B></P>
<P>Himstedt says he doesn=92t know exactly what=92s in store for the =
shop in 2008,=20
but he does know one thing.</P>
<P>=93We need more people,=94 he says, referencing the center=92s =
on-call volunteer=20
roster. =93Anyone who wants to come volunteer is welcome, regardless of =
their=20
skill level.=94</P>
<P>Himstedt says he=92d also like to see the center offer more workshops =
and=20
community training.</P>
<P>=93We=92d like to continue to show the community how to fix and =
sustain their own=20
bike culture,=94 Himstedt says. =93We=92d like to get more involved with =
city=20
advocacy, (rallying) the city behind bike lanes and bike education, =
safety and=20
laws.=94</P>
<P>The year 2008 will be about community, not money, he says.</P>
<P>=93This isn=92t a group that can be dependent on one, two or even =
three people,=94=20
he says. =93This is truly a community effort.=94</P>
<P><B>vdarden@wacotrib.com</B></P>
<P><B>757-5743</B></P>
<P></P><!--endtext--></SPAN></SPAN><!-- // END OF CONTENT  // =
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<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><BR>William Charles Tinker, Sr.<BR>New =
Hampshire=20
Homeless <BR>Founded 11-28-99<BR>25 Granite Street <BR>Northfield,N.H.=20
03276-1640 USA <BR>Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human =
rights.=20
<BR>1-603-286-2492 <BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.missingkids.com">http://www.missingkids.com</A> =
<BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.nationalhomeless.org">http://www.nationalhomeless.org<=
/A>=20
<BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.newhampshirehomeless.org">http://www.newhampshirehomel=
ess.org</A>=20
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