Rick Anderson knows the value of a good mentor.
More than 50 years ago, he had two during a time when his home life was "kind of dysfunctional," he said. One of those mentors was the owner of the local Schwinn bike shop.
"[The owner] knew what was going on at our house, so he just kind of took me under his wing informally and let me hang out there. I was putting single-speed Schwinn bikes together when I was 8 years old," Anderson said. "He just gave me that safe place to go."
For the past eight years, Anderson and his wife have mentored kids through Kids 'n Kinship, a nonprofit that pairs children ages 5 to 16 with adult mentors. The program let Anderson pay his own childhood mentoring forward. But he still wanted to do more.
"Now, 55 years later, I'm using the skills that I learned [at the bike shop] to fix bikes and sell the bikes and then give the money back to an organization that sets up kids with mentors," he said.
Anderson will host his seventh annual bike sale Saturday at his home in Apple Valley. All of the profits go to Kids 'n Kinship to help recruit more local mentors. The Dakota County program serves kids in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Lakeville, Rosemount, Eagan and Farmington.
The sale will feature about 170 used, but refurbished or repaired, bikes ranging in price from $30 to $350. All of the bicycles have been donated to Anderson so he can clean, tune and make minor repairs in preparation for the fundraiser.
Anderson hopes to raise $20,000 this year, up from $13,000 last year.
"A big part of that [increase] is that I've got help doing the bikes, so we can do more," he said. "And we're getting better bikes."
The biggest challenge in the whole operation is finding storage for the bikes as they build up throughout the year.
Anderson currently has more than 50 bikes in his garage. Meanwhile, the rest are scattered at friends' houses and with others who have volunteered space.
"You can't put [the bikes] in a pole barn somewhere with a dirt floor. You need a clean dry space," he said. "It would be nice if there was a vacant store front or something like that in a retail shopping center, but there isn't a lot of that around in Apple Valley."
The more than $46,000 in funding that Kids 'n Kinship has received from Anderson's bike sales over the years is critical for the organization, said Jan Belmore, executive director. The group has a waiting list of more than 65 kids who have applied for a mentor, and the number is growing.
"We are seeing a lot of applications come in right now because school will be wrapping up soon, and those teachers and school social workers are trying to get some supports in place for kids when they are no longer in the classroom over the summer months," Belmore said.
Though the group sees an uptick in applications in the spring, the group's need for more mentors is a year-round issue. Part of that stems from misconceptions about children living in suburban areas, Belmore said.
"It's kind of a barrier that we have to fight in our recruitment of mentors because people think, 'Oh, I'm living in this pretty, nice neighborhood here, and how can there be kids in need around here?' " she said. "But there are plenty of kids that need a mentor."
Kids 'n Kinship often serves children coming from single-parent homes without male role models, Belmore said. However, finding male mentors for children is an especially difficult task.
"One of the things that makes it a little bit easier for our program is that we also use couples and families, so that those families can decide if they are mentoring a boy or a girl," Belmore said. "So sometimes it's hard to get that single, individual male to volunteer, but if he comes in with his wife and family, the child benefits from seeing that male role model."
Ultimately, Anderson wants to increase the number of role models kids in his community have to look up to with his sale Saturday — raising money or by getting people interested in Kids 'n Kinship directly.
Staff and board members from Kids 'n Kinship will be at the event to offer information about the program to people who are interested.
"For me, it's just trying to give back, to give them a chance," Anderson said. "Because when I look back, if I wouldn't have had those two [mentors] in my life, I may have gone a different direction."
Janice Bitters is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.