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Bikes Still Mean Freedom

Older man stands with his bike at bus station
Gary loves his “new” Univega Range Rover.

By Kristin Kinnamon, Board President

Remember the joy of riding a bicycle as a child? Your whole world expanded because you could coast on two wheels.

2020 has been a year of limitations for all of us – where we go, who we see, how close we can get. Being on a bicycle still feels freeing, though.

Despite major changes to our usual kids bike events this year, Sharing Wheels volunteers refurbished about 150 bikes matched with low income families. While many volunteers stayed home due to COVID, you took bikes home to repair and bring back.

Affordable bikes were sold out at retail bike shops, but we still had – and have – a great variety to choose from. We’ve been able to keep up with record demand thanks to hundreds of bicycle donations (prompted by COVID-inspired cleaning).

I helped many people pick out their first bike in years. Customers bought bikes to use for transportation, to make up for closed gyms, to have a healthy way for families to be together outside. Biking has been an important escape for so many of us, myself included. Riding into the shop across the tidally-influenced Snohomish River reminds me that the world is still out there, ebbing and flowing.

An 80-year-old with a tear in his eye told me: “This is the best bike I’ve ever had in my life.” Gary got his refurbished Univega Range Rover from Sharing Wheels as part of a grant program funded by the City of Everett. The bike had fenders, a rack, and a bag full of tools to fix a flat tire – a skill participants learned as part of the program. Gary and I were at Everett Station, practicing how to put his new, lightweight bike on the bus.

Gary described his son as his caretaker, but the bike means Gary can get around on his own. Next year, riding 200 miles from Seattle to Portland is on Gary’s bucket list.

Bikes mean freedom, no matter your age.

Support our work with a year-end donation.

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Donations News

Learn & Earn-A-Bike 2020

This year, despite COVID challenges, we managed a City of Everett grant-funded program that provided bikes and bike training to low income adults. Most will be using the bikes for everyday transportation, including Traci, a mom of 4 kids.

After a difficult marriage to a veteran with PTSD, Traci is now divorced, living with her mom, and back at school to become a pastry chef. She doesn’t own a car. “Now I know how I’m going to get to class,” she said. It’s the first bike she’s had since growing up in Montana. Here in Washington, she’ll combine her bike with a bus ride to get from south Everett to Edmonds Community College.

Traci’s 17-year-old daughter hopes to come in to Sharing Wheels to earn her own bike, and to help fix bikes for the littler kids. The Sharing Wheels shop is now a resource for the whole family.

We had 11 people complete the program, all low income Everett residents. Most were referred by partners such as HopeWorks or Domestic Violence Services.

Participants started by meeting the Shop Manager Alain to select a suitable bike. Then they got a one-on-one “fix a flat” and basic maintenance class from Alain. Finally, when their bike was tuned up and fully equipped with fenders, rack and other accessories, we took people on a practice ride around Everett.

An 80-year-old with a tear in his eye told us: “This is the best bike I’ve ever had in my life.” Gary and I were at Everett Station, practicing how to put his refurbished Univega Range Rover on the bus.

Gary described his son as his caretaker, but the bike means Gary can get around on his own. Next year, riding 200 miles from Seattle to Portland is on Gary’s bucket list. Bikes mean freedom, no matter your age.

While our “Earn-A-Bike” grant is over, Sharing Wheels has always found ways to make bikes affordable for people who need them. Donors – of bikes and cash – support programs such as Work for Wheels and free access to the shop for do-it-yourself repairs and advice.

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Home Page Post kids bikes News

Holiday Bike Update

By Christy Cowley, Executive Director

It has been a tsunami of activity in the shop this past month with all of the volunteers helping us meet our goal of restoring 75+ kid bikes for the upcoming holiday season. Since October we have had nine work parties with seven more scheduled – so the job will get done! 

The work parties are full, but we’ll need help Dec. 12-13 distributing bikes.

To date we have 400 hours logged in volunteer time, a 100% increase in productivity compared to a ‘normal’ month at Sharing Wheels. COVID adjustments were made (reduced number of people at each work party and allowed volunteers to take bikes home to fix) and they appear to be working just fine.

So, thank you to all of you who have answered the call to help get bikes ready for kids in need this holiday season. There are so many community members to thank for all the recent efforts.

A special shout out to the following:

Everett Sail & Power Squadron who kindly donated 14 brand new kid bikes to our Holiday Give Away program. Our volunteers will get those bikes built and ready for holiday distribution to low/no income families. 

Officer Robert Peterson of the Redmond Police Department who picked up our most challenging kid bikes for the Redmond Officer Bike Team to repair.

Mike D. and Greg M. for storing all of our finished kid bikes. If you have been to the shop lately, you know we are buried in bikes so having the finished bikes stored safely and securely off site has been a huge relief.

And thank you Larry W. and Mike D. for transporting bikes to our off-site storage!

Bruce M. and Tony S. for hosting our Tuesday/Thursday night work parties. Thank you both for taking the lead and mentoring the volunteers of all skill levels.

And finally…thank you to Alain Cansino, our shop manager, and our only in-shop paid employee. In addition to managing the everyday operations at Sharing Wheels, he has done an outstanding job of quality checking every kid bike and ensuring we have all the parts in stock to keep this important community project moving forward. 

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News Volunteers

New Incentives for Volunteers

Join us for a work party or organize your own

By Christy Cowley, Executive Director

We all know volunteers are the foundation of Sharing Wheels’ mission of Keeping People and Bikes Moving. We simply couldn’t accomplish our goals without our volunteers. What you may not know is that we no longer have our volunteers simply cleaning and wrenching bikes. 

Volunteer roles have expanded to include Customer Service Representative, Bike Maintenance Instructor, New Volunteer Mentor, and Newsletter CoEditor.

This year 73 volunteers donated 1600 hours of service to our organization and 4 Super Volunteers have donated more than 200 hours each.

Sharing Wheels loves to recognize the efforts of volunteers and for many years offered shop discounts and wholesaler special order pricing. Now, we would like to expand our volunteer rewards program and offer additional incentives to show our continued appreciation. These include:

  • 10 hours/month allows you to make special orders through our wholesaler at cost plus 20%
  • 3 bike work parties earns you $20 credit on anything at the shop.
  • 15 hours you receive a 50% discount off any Sharing Wheels bike maintenance class, plus NEW free classes just for volunteers to build skills.
  • 50 hours, you earn a Sharing Wheels soft and comfy t-shirt.  
  • 60 hours, you will receive a 50% discount off any used parts or bike in the shop.
  • 200 hours, you earn a bike multitool
  • 500 hours, you earn a Sharing Wheels fleece vest. 

We are always looking to grow our volunteer base so we can continue to provide such an important resource to Snohomish County. If you’d like to get started volunteering with Sharing Wheels, email me.

Fix Kids Bikes – with friends or at home

Speaking of Volunteers – the holidays are just around the corner and we could use lots of help getting 50+ kid bikes in tip-top shape for the low-income families in our community. Work parties are scheduled 5:30-8:30pm every Tuesday and Thursday in October and November. To comply with the public health guidelines, work parties will be limited to 5 volunteers and masks are required. 

Reserve your spot and meet new friends, or request your own private work party with friends and/or family! 

Prefer to avoid the ‘party’ and work on bikes in your own garage? Not a problem, just contact Alain at the shop and he will get you set up to take a bike (or two) home for repair.

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News

Join Our Nonprofit Board

By Kristin Kinnamon, Board President

Board Application (PDF)

Do you care about sustainable transportation, serving diverse people in need, and making a difference in your community? Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop is seeking volunteers for our nonprofit board of directors. For the past few years, Sharing Wheels has been in a period of change and growth. To help guide our nonprofit into the future, one of our greatest needs right now is having a mission-focused board that can strategize and prioritize, with members who will ask important questions, help find answers, and reach out into the community. The board meets the third Wednesday of each month from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Elections to 1-year terms are held in January at our annual meeting. Board appointments to fill vacancies or expand the board (up to 9 members) can happen anytime. Right now, we are hoping to appoint some new members willing to serve through at least the end of next year (December 2021). The Board Responsibilities (PDF) document describes the basic expectations of our board, along with links to background documents such as our Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation, Annual Report, Budget, and Board Member Agreement. After you’ve reviewed some of our board expectations, I would be happy to answer any questions via email, phone, Zoom or by meeting at the shop.

We seek Board members who bring a diversity of age, race, cultural background, economic background, and experience, such as:

  • Business or retail management
  • Nonprofit and community connections
  • Finance or fundraising
  • Homeless and social services

Here’s the board_application (PDF) – mail or bring to shop anytime.

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News

Remembering board member Scott Schmitz

Scott with his van and a kids bike
Scott Schmitz delivers bikes to Christmas House last year.

By Kristin Kinnamon, Board President

On Aug. 27 Executive Director Christy Cowley shared this message with our board: “It is with deep sadness that I write to each of you this morning to let you know that our friend and fellow board member, Scott Schmitz, has passed away. “

His family ran an obituary for Scott in the Everett Herald, his hometown newspaper. They suggest memorial donations to Sharing Wheels, or to a scholarship in Scott’s name at Washington State University, his alma mater.

Scott was an extremely dedicated volunteer for Sharing Wheels. At age 29, he was our youngest board member by far, and brought that youthful energy and ideas matched with great intelligence and wisdom.

The son of Everett residents Nick and Debbie Schmitz, he brought 8 years industry experience working for companies like Gregg’s Cycles, B&L Bicycles and Specialized Bicycle Components. He had a strong appreciation for all things mechanical and studied mechanical engineering at Washington State University. He loved living and mountain biking in Bellingham, WA, but spent much of the past year living and traveling around the West in a van he customized for that purpose. Even so, he never missed a board meeting and remained engaged in envisioning a bright future for Sharing Wheels.

Scott cared a lot about Sharing Wheels as an organization because he loved bikes. But he also cared because he saw – and knew in his own life – how important our community space can be for people who need comfort, a sense of competence, something to hold onto that is real (a bike) but that also represents freedom and the feelings you can exorcise while riding a bicycle.

Scott served as our Shop Operations Chair, and worked diligently to develop tools and systems to help both board and staff manage the bike shop. He planned and led our major shop clean-up and reorganization that started last fall and was completed in early 2020. The way the shop works now – better set up for everyone we serve – is to his credit.

Scott wrote several grant applications for us. In 2018 we got $6,500 from the Nysether Family Foundation for organizational development work thanks to his eloquent description of what we do, who we serve and why it matters:

“As the only non-profit bike shop in Snohomish County, we at Sharing Wheels believe bicycles are the fundamental link in the cogs which drive our everyday life. .. Just as bikes are more than just children’s toys, Sharing Wheels is more than just a bike shop. Bicycles serve a diverse purpose for people of all ages; offering freedom from disabling conditions, opportunity for self-reliance, and the ability to connect with and grow respect for our environment. One visit to the shop and it’s easy to see how fundamental our services are to not just the community but, specifically, the underrepresented population.”

His brother made a sketch that illustrates Scott’s free spirit, which we plan to frame and post in the shop in Scott’s memory – and to inspire the many adventures possible by bike. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the sketch, the family will donate all proceeds to Sharing Wheels. Look for more information about this in our September newsletter (you can “Join Our Email List” at the bottom of this page).

 

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Donations News

Donors GaveBIG

Kristin Kinnamon, Board President

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.