Don began volunteering with Sharing Wheels in November 2020 and has already donated nearly 100 hours of his time! He has personally repaired, in the comfort and safety of his home garage, many of the ‘classics’ we have currently listed for sale in our shop. We wanted to get to know a little more about him, so we asked him a few questions…
How did you first hear about Sharing Wheels? In October 2020, my neighbor saw Sharing Wheels featured on the evening news. He emailed me “this sounds like it is right up your alley”. He could not have been more spot-on!
What is it about the Sharing Wheels mission that connects with you and why? The bicycle is such an affordable tool for transportation and recreation. Many of the bikes donated are from the 1970-90s and are simply in need of basic maintenance and replacement of consumable parts. Volunteer labor makes them affordable. The uneven distribution of resources in the world limits opportunity for many. We help level that a bit.
Do you have a good “bike story” to share? My romance with the bicycle goes back to riding a too big coaster brake bike, as many of us did. My first “project bike” came from the city dump, a 3-speed in need of much repair. I could not afford the prices at Chuck Dann’s Sporting Goods or the local Schwinn Shop so I ordered my white wall tires from the Montgomery Ward Store. I could not get everything from mail order, and since I was walking, I brazenly walked into the Schwinn Shop with my new tires to buy what I needed. Apparently, Chuck did not hold it against me because later he offered me a job. Years later, that helped me get a job at Parkland Cycle doing repairs in the evening, while I attended vocational school.
Taking a break from my vocation I dropped into Fulton’s Bike and Mower in 1974 and spoke with Phyllis Fulton seeking employment as a bicycle mechanic. During our conversation her daughter Karolyn, stopped in and we were introduced. She left and went across the street to the pay phone, called her mom, and encouraged her to hire me. I worked there for two years and earned enough money to get married.
In August 1977, Karolyn and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary in the San Juan Islands at a primitive campground with our Ford Falcon, our REI “Pup Tent” and our bicycles. We were camped right off the beach where the Washington State Ferries passed through the channel between us and the nearby island. We watched an eagle swoop down and catch a salmon, it was a wonderful spot. The book, Bicycling the Back Roads of Washington, had a nice ride starting from our campsite. After riding for what seemed like forever, we reached an undisclosed “No Trespassing” sign. After a short discussion we made a hasty dash and I am sure made some disparaging remarks about our guide book.
After days of heat and dust we treated ourselves to two nights at the ‘Hotel De Haro’, anxious for a warm shower and a good night’s sleep. Alas, the water main broke the previous day and there was no shower. Better yet, somehow the wallpaper between rooms was magically held in place so we could not see but could hear our neighbors, all too well!
When you are not volunteering at Sharing Wheels, what do you like to do with your time? In addition to most things bicycle we enjoy reading, camping, visiting our grandchildren, and enabling Boomer, our Golden Retriever, to manage our lives.
Sharing Wheels is not currently accepting donations of bikes for kids or adults – the shop is full!*
Despite COVID-19 limits on our retail sales and volunteer events, Sharing Wheels remained a hub of activity in 2020. We needed the community to step up to support our programs, and that’s exactly what happened.
Many people donated gently-used bikes. Individual financial donations to Sharing Wheels doubled in 2020, to $32,000.
The Stillaguamish Tribe awarded a $5,400 grant to support Sharing Wheels kids bike programs and volunteers. A City of Everett Community Development Block Grant allowed us to give maintenance classes and bikes to 12 low income adults this year. The Everett Port Gardner Rotary continued an annual grant of $2,000 to support the shop’s free self-help repair services.
“Interest in bicycles boomed this year because people of all ages needed to feel the freedom that comes from riding outside,” Sharing Wheels Executive Director Christy Cowley said. “We also help many low income people who use bikes because they are the most affordable, efficient way to get around town.”
*If you need a bike, the shop has an excellent selection of refurbished adult bikes. The shop is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Thanks to all of YOU who participated in this year’s Holiday Kid Bike program, more than 150 Snohomish County kids will get a bike this Christmas. We had 75 volunteers donate over 400 hours these past few months. All of you helped clean, repair, transport, store and even purchase bikes for our annual giveaway. We matched 100 bikes directly with low/no income families this past weekend with an additional 50 bikes distributed to our non-profit partners including; The Salvation Army, Dawson’s Place, Interfaith Family Shelter and Domestic Violence Services. The outpouring of generosity from all corners of our local community was tremendous! Groups of families and friends, Redmond Police Department, Cascade and BIKES Club of Snohomish County Members, Local Eagle Scouts, and so many individual contributors made up our volunteer task force this year. Thank you for all the support.
We recognized early in November that the needs were much greater this year and that we wouldn’t have enough bikes to fulfill all the family requests. Enter Eagle Scout, Henry Amend, and The Everett Sail and Power Squadron who separately started their own fundraising campaigns and raised enough funds to purchase 61 brand new kid bikes to fill the gap. A special thank you to them and all the folks who contributed to their campaigns.
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.
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.