Saturday I donated about half a day to Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles for their pre-holiday Bike Blitz. Between this and the Walk For/Against Hunger, I am off to a pretty good start on my recent plans for redemption.
For those that don't know about Mr. Michael, it's worth your time to follow the link. Mike and his wife Benita operate a not-for-profit company (in their spare time, I might add) that salvages cast-off bicycles, fixes them up, and basically gives them away to anyone that wants one. They tell their story better than I could, so here it is. Here's another article from TwinCities.Com that gives a feel for how they do things.
They operate a used bike and parts shop on Prior Ave. in St. Paul (on the same block as the first office of Natural Resource Group, interestingly) that is open only a few hours per week because they both work full time. Proceeds from the shop go to cover the cost of the bike donation business. They are supplemented when possible by volunteers to help get the bikes back on the road. I forget the exact number, but I think Mike told me that they have place something like 480 bikes with people this year alone.
This was my first time helping out with a Bike Blitz, so I had no idea what to expect. It was pretty much what I expected - Saturday morning bluegrass on the radio, plenty of coffee and a cluttered but comfortable shop. They have a couple of repair stands, a truing stand and plenty of tools and parts at hand, and the company was great. We seemed to have plenty of volunteers, including a few Bike Lovers and one very qualified bike mechanic. We were also offered plenty of food - tasty vegetarian soup, nachos, veggies, and homemade apple pie, which was delicious.
The Bike Blitz effort goes to fulfill wish lists for people that are hoping for a bike but maybe can't afford one. I ended up working on a bunch of 20-inch BMX bikes for the most part, as well as a snazzy pink princess bike or two. We were able, in the time I was there, to get through their entire holiday order, which felt good. As I was packing up a few other volunteers came to help out, so I am sure they will be able to work ahead. It helped that all of the volunteers were pretty knowledgeable about things, so it was an efficient operation.
All in all, this was a great thing to do with a Saturday, and I plan to head back for another Bike Blitz in the future. They need to have a few more of these because I got a peek in one of the storage buildings and it's pretty much full to the roof with bikes waiting to be repaired.