Besides the obvious joy of a shiny bicycle as a holiday gift, the Annual Holiday Bike Program is important to the Longmont community for a variety of reasons, said Bicycle Longmont’s President Ryan Kragerud.
“The first reason is that it helps kids get something they normally wouldn’t get and that makes the kids feel good,” he said. “It’s great for the families because they get bikes for their kids. If the kids can use those bikes to get around the neighborhood, it’s less pressure on the family. It’s also safe, cheap, dependable transportation for children. And who doesn’t like a bike for Christmas?”
The Annual Holiday Bike Program is the brain child of Buzz Feldman, who began the program in 1988. Bicycle Longmont became involved with the program in 2009 when Feldman joined the Bicycle Longmont Board.
“Buzz saw a need in the community based on his work in his bike shop,” Kragerud said. “He began giving bikes away after seeing other programs doing that in different communities. We have a group of volunteers that fix up donated bikes and give them away in December to low-income kids.”
Last year, the Annual Holiday Bike Program fixed, cleaned and gave away over 350 donated bicycles to both children and adults on a first come, first served basis. While the program is mostly geared towards gifting children’s bicycles, there are clear benefits to providing the adults in the family with bicycles, as well, Kragerud said.
“There’s the need for adults to have bikes in the community as well,” he said.
“Giving an adult a bike brings a family that may be looking for work a step toward self sufficiency. You can now ride your bike to the bus, get on the bus and job search. Typically, folks who ride the bus live a mile from the bus stop and the bus stop is a mile from their destination. [Having a bicycle] opens up many more job opportunities to visit other employers.”
The program only refurbishes a small number of adult bikes as there is less demand and occasionally these adult bikes, if not given away to a community member, end up being sold on Craigslist to help fund the program. Bicycle Longmont is a completely non-profit, volunteer-driven organization, which makes the donation of bicycles, money and time particularly important to their Annual Holiday Bike Program.
“When people have bikes they want to donate and the bike is valuable in some way, we fix up the bike and sell it to put the money in the program,” says Kragerud. “That’s one of the things that we do that helps us significantly even more than the cash donations.”
Not only do especially valuable bicycles make a wonderful donation, but well-loved ones can, also, says Kragerud.
“Some of those bikes that are broken or don’t run or we can’t ride them, we’ll take the parts off of it and three broken bikes can make one functioning bike,” he said.
Donating a bicycle to Bicycle Longmont’s Annual Holiday Program is made easy by the many drop-off points. Simply take the bicycle to any Longmont Fire Station. Bicycle Longmont has a volunteer team that makes weekly trips to the fire stations to collect the donations and take them to the repair shop. The program has already had 30 bikes donated this year.
Kragerud said that the donations are the easy part, but the money and time necessary to get a donated bike to give-away-ready status presents the true challenge.
“People donate bikes because they have stuff in their garage they want to get rid of. It’s having money to buy parts and get cleaning supplies that is always a struggle. Lately, getting volunteers has been an even larger struggle. I think this year our biggest struggle will be having volunteers to come out and do the bikes.”
The donated bikes are taken to a repair shop, located this year at 225 Price Road, Unit 37 in Longmont. The repair shop is open for volunteers of all ages and abilities to come help repair and clean the bikes. The hours for the repair shop will be listed on Bicycle Longmont’s Facebook page and their website, bicyclelongmont.org. This year, the program is using an online sign-up system to better organize the shop. While the repair shop has tools and stands, sometimes there are more volunteers than places to work, so volunteers are encouraged to bring their own if they can. But Kragerud emphasized that no experience with bicycles is necessary for volunteers.
“Our volunteer program will take volunteers whether they have skills or not,” he said. “Most bikes need to be washed, cleaned and polished. Corporations that like to do team builders are more than welcome to contact us as well.”
If your garage is bike-free and your holiday schedule is all filled up, there is always the option for a cash donation which can be made on Bicycle Longmont’s website. It costs between $12 and $15 to get a bike ready for the giveaway. While the Annual Holiday Bike Program has some consistent and generous corporate sponsors, Kragerud said Longmont is their main supporter.
“The number one sponsor is the community itself because we get all of our bike donations from the people of Longmont and all of the volunteers from the community of Longmont,” he said.
-By Emma Castleberry