Changes: New Mission, Same Goals

By Kristin Kinnamon, Board President

Every nonprofit should have a purpose, a problem we are trying to solve. At Sharing Wheels, our tagline for years has been “Connecting unused bikes to people who need wheels.” People donate bike they don’t use to us, we fix them and pass them on.

But we’ve realized recently that getting a bike is really not the biggest problem for our friends and customers. You can find bikes at thrift stores, garage sales, on Craigslist, and in front of many a homeless camp.

The problem is that bikes break. And people don’t know how to fix them.  So people can’t count on their wheels to get around, and bikes get dusty and rusty.

We knew that was something we wanted to help with back in 2002, when we wrote our Articles of Incorporation as a nonprofit. The document describes our purpose as:

  • To provide information and education about bicycles and their maintenance and use
  • To encourage adults and youth to maintain and use bicycles, and
  • To encourage the use of bicycles in Snohomish County as a means of building community and alternative transportation.

If you’ve visited our shop lately, you’ve seen that we have kept true to our purpose all these years. There’s always someone fixing a flat with our tools, getting a bolt for their rack, learning how to adjust their gears.

Each fall and winter dozens of volunteers help us refurbish kids bikes. And while we haven’t successfully hosted any adult repair classes this year, we have a few classes on the schedule this fall and more coming.

A mission statement can be used to help the public understand what an organization does. But it’s also used by the board to judge what we should do. We need to focus our limited resources, staff and volunteers on the things that matter and make the most difference.

That’s why the Sharing Wheels board has spent many hours over the past year discussing and debating our mission. We thought about our current programs, how our shop is used today and how we want it to be used, about the small things we do, and the big picture.

We wanted something simple, that we could remember and recite when we are promoting our work. What our mission boils down to is:

Keeping People and Bikes Moving

To explain how we do that, it’s EASE:

Empowerment: giving people access to tools, shop, and advice

Affordability: A bike for every budget

Sustainability: Reusing and recycling donated bikes

Education: Repair classes for customers, volunteers and community

Our new mission statement is inspiring us to make changes (see Parts 1 and 3), but also to recommit to what we do best: helping people ride bikes.

You can contribute to our mission: By donating a bike, giving money, volunteering at a work party, taking a class, or coming in to see what cool bikes we have fixed up this week.

Advance your bike skills, help Sharing Wheels

Would you like to practice and improve your bike mechanic skills? Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop is starting a series of Sunday work parties for volunteers to learn bike maintenance while helping to refurbish donated bicycles. The first work party and training is 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. Volunteers will get oriented and give input on best times for future class sessions to complement the work parties. Pizza will be provided.

Attendees should have basic bike knowledge – such as fixing flats and lubing chains, or past experience helping with our kids bike programs. More experienced home and shop bike mechanics are also encouraged to attend – to learn more or help teach others.

Each session will cover a new bike maintenance skill which will be practiced while fixing up Sharing Wheels bicycles.

Ultimately, volunteers who attend all sessions will receive training equivalent to an advanced mechanics class – a $100 value. Space is limited, so volunteers are asked to sign up in advance on the Sharing Wheels website.

Additional adult bike work parties are scheduled for Sundays, Feb. 24 through March 24, except no work party March 10. Volunteers who put in at least 10 hours will be invited to a special Advanced Mechanics course in April.

Space is limited, so advance signup is required.

Register Now

Classes wrench in the New Year!

We are hosting mechanics classes in the new year! Basic Maintenance Classes are $35 and will be held on Saturday January 19th, from 4:30 – 7:30 pm and Thursday February 7th, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. 
The Advanced Mechanics Class is 4 consecutive Saturdays from January 26th through February 16th from 4:30 – 7:30 pm, with a cost of $100. 
We have a limit of 6 spots per class so sign up early and tell your friends! To reserve your spot or for more information contact the shop at 425-252-6952 or visit http://sharingwheels.org/classes/

2018 Programs Summary

Volunteer Program

We have some dedicated volunteers who come in every week, and regulars who come to work parties and special events.  We wouldn’t exist without your help. To keep in touch, we have 509 emails on our contact list (up 10% from 2017).

Bike & Parts Sales

Sales of refurbished bikes and used parts are the main source of income for Sharing Wheels. Sharing Wheels also has bike accessories and some new parts for sale. Most donated bikes are fixed as needed, but some are sold “as-is.” High-end bikes may be sold on eBay or Craigslist. 250+ bikes sold in shop; 30 online sales transactions

Community Bike Shop

The tools and bike stands at Sharing Wheels are available for anyone to use for free during shop hours. People come in to fix their own bikes, often getting a little guidance from Sharing Wheels staff or volunteers. Low-income people, DIY-tinkerers, and basic bike geeks benefit from this service. 4-20 people use our shop each week, depending on weather and time of year

Kids Bike Swap

Eleven volunteer work parties kicked off in March, and 14 people helped the day of the event. Hundreds of dollars of new parts went into preparing 75 bikes in advance. Another 100 bikes were traded in, some swapped for immediately, the rest stored for Christmas House. Event was promoted with a flyer and coupon at 4 local schools that have large low-income populations. 100+ bikes home with kids; 50 helmets fitted for new owners

Christmas House Bikes

Each fall, Sharing Wheels contributes refurbished children’s bicycles to another non-profit, Christmas House, which serves thousands of low-income families in greater Everett. 50 volunteers attended work parties starting in September, adding new parts as needed thanks to a $1,000 grant from BIKES Club of Snohomish County. Repeat volunteers earned shop credit, Starbucks card or t-shirt. A. The Gyro Shack provided food for two work parties. 125 bikes donated in 2018

Dark Nights, Bright Lights

In 2017, Sharing Wheels began offering low income clients who did not have legally required bike lighting basic front and rear lights. Donations support the cost of this program. 45 lights installed; 67% for extremely low income people; 70% have been stopped by police; 100% use their bicycle for daily transportation

Valet Bike Parking

Sharing Wheels has a tent, bike corral and racks that can be setup at events to provide secure bike parking and outreach. For the second year, a $500 City of Everett grant paid for parking at Sorticulture (71 bikes), BIKES Club covered a month of parking at the Everett Farmers Market (39 bikes; $300). We also provided parking at BIKES event the McClinchy Mile (53) and loaned our setup to the Delta Neighborhood for their National Night Out event in August. 164 bikes parked over 8 event days.

Mechanics Classes

Basic and Advance Classes were offered in the first half of the year. We did not have sufficient signups for later classes (offered in fall), however there remains strong interest.
14 paid students in 2018

Work for Wheels

Work for Wheels allows people to volunteer time at the shop in exchange for credit towards a refurbished bike or major purchase (up to $250). Time is valued at $10 per hour. The program is open to all, but we ask for optional employment and income information. New (revived from the past) program with outcomes still pending.

WSU Repair Cafes

Our volunteers provided bike repair and other services at quarterly WSU Extension Repair Cafe events. Participants bring in broken stuff and hope to have it fixed for free.