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. “
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).
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
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.
With a budget of under $100,000, donations both large and small make a big difference for Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop. And we put that money to good use.
We served approximately 1,750 people this past year. Maybe you came in to
fix your own bike with our tools? Or perhaps you bought a used part and got
some free advice to go with it? Others donated a bike so someone else could
That’s what Sharing Wheels Community Bike Shop is all about.
We keep people and bikes moving.
You can make a difference for a small nonprofit. Our goal is 100 donors, at any amount. With so many of our customers living in poverty, it’s especially important for those of us with a little extra to contribute financially – for ourselves, and for those who can’t.
Your support will help us though a time of change. We’ve just
hired our first executive director, Christy Cowley. The job is part-time, with
the goal of improving our programs and effectiveness. Josh Pfister, our first
paid shop staff, recently moved on to a Seattle bike shop opportunity after 3
years with us. We continue to look for
a full-time shop manager.
We remain committed to our mission of empowerment,
affordability, sustainability and education. Learn more about our goals for
2020 and see our new shop layout at our Holiday Open House on Dec. 12.
At Sharing Wheels, we love bikes. That goes without saying, right? To us, even some old Schwinn clunker that weighs 30 pounds, with a few weeds still growing through its wheels, still deserves a good home.
So it’s an occupational hazard for us to accumulate more bikes, and parts of bikes, than we can manage. We’ve been in our current shop location for almost 15 years. That’s a lot of time to collect an abundance of bike-related goodies from generous donors. We have corners crowded with hopeful tools and tidbits, 16 bike pumps (some work), old-school bike accessories, and so many beautiful (in our eyes) bikes (many waiting for repair).
For the past year, the Sharing Wheels Board of Directors has been thoughtfully reviewing our operations and our mission – what it is we aim to do in the world as a nonprofit. We’ve come to realize that Sharing Wheels is as much about people as it is about bikes.
But there’s not much room for people in our current shop.
The board has also reaffirmed that we are in the business of moving bikes – repairing them, selling them, passing them on. Storing bikes – until we have time to fix them, waiting for the perfect customer, while we wait to find that special part – is not part of our mission.
Keeping People and Bikes Moving: Empowerment, Affordability, Sustainability, and Education
Sharing Wheels Mission
Right now, it’s hard to move through our shop. It can be
even harder to find room to work on a bike – yours or ours. As we get back into
teaching classes, where can students sit, or stand?
In August we took the first steps to clean out some of our excess bikes and parts. This month, we’ll be taking even bigger steps to ensure that our shop serves all parts of our mission. We’ll be rearranging, taking apart, hanging up, putting on display, labelling. This reorganization is so important that we’ll be closing the shop for the week of Sept. 23-29.
Our preliminary goals include:
Room for more work stands – so volunteers and
customers can work on bikes
Better bike display – to show off what’s for sale
Easier to find and access parts
More basic tools, more organized
You might remember a similar shop reorganization effort that took place about two years ago. It made a big difference, for awhile. Then that bike love thing kicked in. of course.
Attention to shop organization needs to be ongoing. It’s one reason we are hiring an executive director. We intend to set aside space and set up processes to keep both bikes and people moving – in our shop, and in the community.
If you have thoughts about how we could better manage space for people and bikes in our current shop, please contact me: email@example.com
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
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
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
To explain how we do that, it’s EASE:
giving people access to tools, shop, and advice
bike for every budget
Reusing and recycling donated bikes
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.