Like so many small businesses and nonprofits, our finances were looking a bit shaky early this spring. The shop was closed for three weeks as we considered how to safely operate in COVID times. Even when the shop reopened, COVID had canceled classes and events like the Kids Bike Swap. Our bank account dropped $12,000 as expenses exceeded revenue. The Sharing Wheels Board took a deep breath.
That’s when many of you stepped up to GiveBIG. Thanks to matching contributions and 40 donors who gave from $20 to $1,000, we raised $8,511 during the statewide campaign. Another $2,200 came in the month following GiveBIG.
Your support bought helmets and new bike parts for our Kids Bike Giveaway program (see related article). It lets us loan tools for free to low income customers. We’re restarting classes – smaller for COVID reasons – without having to worry about the “break-even” point.
Even though bike shops have been considered “essential businesses” by the state and allowed to remain open (because bikes are transportation, not just toys), it’s been a difficult time. Knowing that you, too, think our work is essential has been a big boost – not just to the bank account, but also to our spirits.
Our board is fully committed to our mission – using bikes as vehicles for empowerment, affordability, sustainability and education. Thank you so much for supporting that vision.
Keeping people and bikes moving is what we do, and WOW we certainly have done it well this past month! As most everyone has noticed, there is no shortage of new and returning cyclists on our roads and trails. It is wonderful to see so many people enjoying their bikes for transportation and recreational activities. In May and June we saw record sales numbers with 81 bikes sold at an average price of $183 — keeping true to our mission of offering affordable bikes for everyone.
The Sharing Wheels staff/volunteers are having a great time helping people get introduced and/or reacquainted with the sport of cycling. Any idea what the best part of having all these new cyclists in our area could be? Most of them likely drive cars and may now have a newfound respect for the challenge and courage it sometimes takes to ride a bike on a shared road. When drivers become cyclists, it makes it safer for all of us to coexist. Perhaps less road rage? I’m hopeful.
Though our supply of bikes is shrinking, we still have many in our inventory and plenty of parts and gear to keep bikes rolling. Trying to keep up with demand has been a challenge, so PLEASE, think of Sharing Wheels if you have an adult bike in good condition that is not in use. Your donation helps us build a biking community, provide education and deliver the programs that benefit our low- and no-income residents. We are accepting donations of lightly-used, good quality bikes during shop open hours – if you’re not sure your bike is good enough for a new owner, email us a photo first. Keep riding and sharing the road with a smile on your face. Even if that smile is hidden behind a mask, it can still brighten someone’s day.
Even though our doors were closed to customers and all in-shop volunteer activity came to a screeching halt, it still seems to me that April came and went in a blink. Here we are in May already with the flowers in bloom and the sun shining bright – a perfect time for all of us to get out on our bikes! And is it just me, or are there many, many more people riding bikes these days?
Unfortunately, we had to cancel this year’s Kid Bike Swap, but instead we will work directly with local organizations that serve low income families to help us distribute kid bikes. On April 17th our storage room was full of used kid bikes piled in an organized (sort of) heap ready for cleaning and repairs. Every bike was pulled out, cataloged, and inventoried into our database. A “call for help” was made and our loyal volunteers immediately adapted to the change and carved out a mini Sharing Wheels shop space at home and got to work repairing all 50 bikes! We had 9 volunteers donate 95 hours of their time to Sharing Wheels in April. It’s the sweat labor and commitment to our organization that our volunteers give every day that makes Sharing Wheels such a special place in our community.
As an essential business, we are open to customers (one at a time) and have tried our best to provide the necessary services to low and no income people who rely on their bikes as a primary means of transportation. We will continue this model of service until it is safe for everyone. Until then, enjoy the month of May and stay well.
Every day we see new families and neighbors out riding – biking is a great way to stay healthy and get around during this stressful time. We have more faith than ever in the value of Sharing Wheels programs and services (like teaching people to lube those squeaky chains!). During this COVID pandemic, bike shops are considered “essential business.” Unfortunately, we basically had to close to the public for the past month while we figured out the best ways to keep our small shop, staff, customers, and volunteers safe. The good news is, the shop will be open Wednesdays through Saturdays again starting April 22 – with measures in place to maintain social distance and cleanliness. The bad news is we estimate lost revenue of $6,000 to $10,000 from COVID 19. This includes shop sales and reduced grant and in-kind donations, since local business and bike club supporters have had their own coronavirus impacts. We know many people and businesses are hurting during this time. But if you believe in our mission of “Keeping People and Bikes Moving” please consider donating to Sharing Wheels.
Executive Director: Volunteers make our wheels go round and round …
By Christy Cowley, Executive Director
Life has certainly gone sideways these past few weeks with the COVD-19 outbreak. Adjusting to our new norm has us all pausing and reflecting on our families, our friends, our health and our future.
At Sharing Wheels we are thinking a lot about how much our volunteers contribute to our organization. To date this year we’ve had 20 volunteers donate 460 hours, tracking well ahead of the same period last year. Eight of those 20 volunteers are brand new to Sharing Wheels!
In addition to refurbishing bikes, volunteers help us reorganize parts, price merchandise, remove trash and advise customers. We simply couldn’t exist without our volunteers!
Volunteering is limited due to social distance measures. Some regular volunteers are picking up bikes from the shop to repair at home. Others are helping to post bikes for sale online. Other jobs that can be done remotely include:
Data entry – such as keeping bike inventory updated
Graphic design – create posters and slides for our in-shop display
Marketing – help drum up customers.
If you’d like to learn more about volunteering now or in the future, contact me.
We are familiar with disruptions and have experience working through hiccups with limited resources. We also know from experience that expanding programs on stretched dollars works best when we all pull together. So please, stay well and when the at-home restrictions are lifted, stop by and consider joining the Sharing Wheels volunteer team.
Volunteer Profile: From books to bikes
Larry likes bikes. He also likes the people he meets through Sharing Wheels. It’s a combination that has made the retired librarian an essential part of the shop since 2012. That’s the year Larry Williamson, of Edmonds, took a bike maintenance class from then-shop manager Kristi Knodell. He’s been a constant presence in the shop ever since.
Technically, Larry is a volunteer. A SUPER volunteer. He is in the shop three full days a week, every other week (when he and his wife Jean aren’t babysitting their grandson). He enjoys fellow volunteers, staff, and the diverse customers.
“People want simple things,” he says. Like the guy who came in recently with a wrecked rear wheel and no money. “We got him back on the road,” Larry says with understated pride.
Larry always steps in whenever there is something that needs to be done in the shop, no matter how unglamorous the duty. He takes out the trash, sorts the recycling, and counts the tubes and tires for the kids bike programs. He’s helped manage both the Kids Bike Swap and the Christmas House projects for many years. “Families are very appreciative,” of the bikes that volunteers fix, he says.
Beyond bikes, Larry has also served on the Sharing Wheels Board and as a member of the Shop Operations Committee. “Larry’s experience in the shop and as a manager made him very valuable in those policy-making roles,” said Sharing Wheels Board President Kristin Kinnamon. “But the biggest quality he brings is generosity – of time, money, and especially of spirit. Larry really cares about our staff and the people we serve.”
Larry’s bike(s): Larry has one Sharing Wheels bike so far, a Specialized he keeps as a backup to his Marin San Rafael. “I need more bikes,” he says, eyeing the latest lightweight road bike on the Sharing Wheels sales floor.
Favorite rides: 7 Hills of Kirkland. Unlike many people, Larry prefers going up, not down.
Family bikers: One of Larry’s three daughters Jan also enjoys biking. They have done the Seattle to Portland and Kitsap Color Classic rides together, and other rides. His wife Jean doesn’t bike much, but contributes some wonderful homemade food to fuel Sharing Wheels volunteers.
Volunteer time in 2020: 18 days in the shop and 79 total hours.
Impact: A home for the homeless
“When I was on the streets, this was a safe place I could come.”
John was a heroin addict back then, but staff saw he was more than that. “When I came to the shop, I was looked at as a cyclist, never as a bum. I appreciated that.”
After getting clean, John worked his 8 hours of court-ordered service at the shop to start the year. He’s been a volunteer on his own time ever since. “I kinda just knew I wanted to be part of this place,” he said. Biking is a healthy habit John wants to take into his sobriety.
He appreciates the chance to learn more about bikes as a volunteer. “I’m really good at riding bikes. I just don’t know how to fix them yet,” he said.
John’s not the first volunteer to come in off the streets. Sharing Wheels has always been a refuge for homeless and low income people. One year a man living in a nearby hotel on a voucher happily spent Thursday nights working on kids bikes for Christmas House rather than sitting in his room alone. It was a win-win situation.
Volunteer time in 2020: 8 days in the shop and 34 total hours.
Sally lived in a tent when she first started coming to Sharing Wheels. She would come in frequently because parts of her cheap bike were always breaking – again. If she didn’t have the few bucks to pay for the part, she’d do some Work for Wheels* volunteer time to give back to the shop – and stay out of the cold for awhile.
She wrapped her bike in foil to make it look ugly, but it got stolen anyway. Finally, the shop manager got her a better quality bike that could stand up to daily riding. Sally has since gotten a folding bike (better for buses and apartments), and is able to fix it herself thanks to the bike maintenance class she took at Sharing Wheels. An outgoing and friendly person who now has a job and stable housing, Sally still volunteers at outreach events – happy to share the impact of Sharing Wheels.
*Work for Wheels allows people to trade volunteer time so they can purchase needed parts or a bicycle.
Annual Report for 2019
Sharing Wheels accomplished a lot last year:
Took in more than 300 donated bikes
Adopted a new mission statement and strategic goals
Had 50 volunteers give more than 1,800 hours in the shop
Our full Annual Report includes many more numbers, including a budget summary.
Every nonprofit should have a purpose, a problem you are trying to solve. Simply getting bikes is not the problem, for us or our customers. We had more than 300 bikes donated to us last year!
The problem is that bikes need maintenance and repairs. And people don’t have the tools or know-how to fix them. That’s the basis for our new mission statement:
Keeping People and Bikes Moving – with E.A.S.E.
Sharing Wheels Mission
We spell out how we achieve our mission below. To keep focused on it, we hired our first (part-time) executive director at the end of the year. A new shop manager starts in January 2020. But the most important work of Sharing Wheels could not be done without our volunteers.
We couldn’t repair all the bikes, help customers fix their own bikes, or make the impact that we do without dedicated volunteers giving us their time and talents. Volunteers keep bikes affordable, empower people with one-on-one mentoring, learn bike maintenance themselves, and make our nonprofit sustainable. 50 people gave 1,800 hours last year – equal to a full-time staff person.
Open Shop: The tools and bike stands at Sharing Wheels are available for anyone to use, no charge. Free advice is provided by Sharing Wheels staff or experienced volunteers. 4-10 people each week; 73% identify as low income.
Bike Lights: Low income customers who use their bikes for daily transportation can get free front and rear lights. 37 lights installed.
Bike & Parts Sales: Sales of refurbished bikes and used parts are the main source of income for Sharing Wheels. We make sure to have bikes at all price points, so everyone can afford a decent ride. 250 bikes sold.
Work for Wheels: Customers without cash can volunteer time in the shop to earn the parts or bike they need to get around. 10 work-tradeparticipants.
Kids Bikes: Volunteers fix used kids bikes each spring and fall for our Kids Bike Swap and Christmas House programs. We add the new parts and elbow grease needed to keep old bikes going for a new generation. 102 bikes went home with kids during our June Bike Swap. 108 bikes donated to Christmas House.
Bikes to Africa: Some bikes that would never sell still have value. We donate excess bicycles to the Village Bike Project and Vision 224. 111 bikes to Africa
Repair Classes: We had only a few formal bike maintenance classes in 2019, but have recommitted to this important part of our mission in 2020.
Events: County Earth Day, Bike Everywhere Day, WSU Repair Cafes, Family Rides in Arlington and Marysville. Riverside Neighborhood National Night Out.
WorkSource Intern: We hosted a young man for 90 hours of job training.
Grants & In-Kind Support
Nysether Family Foundation – $6,500 grant
BIKES Club of Snohomish County – $2,000 grant
Everett Port Gardner Rotary Club – $1,750 grant
Tulalip Tribes – $1,000 grant
Boeing Employee matching funds – $1,000
Sno-Isle Food CoOp – $917 “register round-up” donation, meeting space
Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Church – $500 donation, group work party
Snohomish Giving Circle – $400 donation
501 Commons – Satterberg Foundation – in-kind support
Like many businesses, Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop is currently closed. But the Everett nonprofit is taking this time to promote biking through the “Social Distance Challenge.”
Many families have taken the “stay home and stay healthy” orders as a chance to get outside with their kids and rediscover the joy of riding bicycles. Roads are less busy and many people are looking for new activities. Regular bicyclists have struggled with the cancellation of group rides and major bike events.
Enter the Sharing Wheels bike-riding challenge. “Keep your ‘social distance’ while going the distance” is the event’s motto. Participants are encouraged to bike 10 times or 250 miles during the month of April and to log the rides online. Prizes will be drawn randomly from everyone who completes the challenge by the end of the month. Special certificates will be awarded for most miles and most days ridden.
“It’s easy to get depressed and inactive when being told to stay away from people,” says Sharing Wheels Board President Kristin Kinnamon. “Riding a bike boosts your immune system, your heart rate and your mood.” The goal is healthy fun on your bike, not competition.
The Sharing Wheels shop is closed to the public, but basic bike tools are available in the shop garage for do-it-yourself fixes. Bikes are being sold online, and the shop manager is answering the phone.
“We’re looking forward to restarting maintenance classes, volunteer work parties, and in-person bike sales,” Kinnamon said. “Until then, we hope people pull their own bikes out of the garage and go for a ride.”
Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop supports essential transportation for many people who are at risk for severe illness should they contract coronavirus. We benefit from the time and talents of many senior-age volunteers, also considered vulnerable to the virus.
It’s hard to keep a bike shop clean. And it’s hard to help someone fix a bike without getting closer than public health recommends.
In light of these concerns, Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop will be closed to the public starting Wednesday, March 18.
Until then, only four people will be permitted in the shop at one time. That will allow staff, volunteers and customers to maintain social distancing, clean hands, and clean surfaces.
From mid-March to at least early April the shop will remain closed for most retail and DIY operations. Basic tools and a bike stand will be available in the shop garage for people who need to fix their own flat or make a minor adjustment. Customers who want to buy a bike in-person can call the shop to make an appointment at 425-252-6952. We also list higher end bikes and a variety of parts on our eBay store.
Sharing Wheels staff will remain at work: repairing bikes, organizing the shop, managing programs, and posting items for online sales.
Regular volunteers can schedule time to assist in the shop. We will be maintaining a 4-person maximum occupancy of our shop space.
The basic bike repair class scheduled for March 25 is rescheduled to May 13. A plan for the Kids Bike Work Parties scheduled to start in April will be announced at a later date.