Philanthropy beat: Bicycle workers wanted -- now

  • Article by: JEAN HOPFENSPERGER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 21, 2011 - 9:26 PM

Can you clean or fix a bike?

If so, Free Bikes 4 Kidz would love to hear from you. The Minneapolis nonprofit has received a record 5,000 donated bikes this year and, as with every December, it's gearing up to give them away to needy families.

There's just one problem. All the bikes need to be clean and in good working condition before the big giveaway Dec. 10.

"It keeps me up at night,'' admitted Terry Esau, Free Bikes executive director. "But it also wakes me up in the morning with excitement. It's a bit of a mixed thing. But I'm not complaining.''

For the past few weeks, volunteers have gathered at one of several clean-up centers to "wash, lube, pump tires, change tires ... and do more technical stuff,'' said Esau.

The volunteer centers are located at five Penn Cycle stores, Freewheel Midtown Bike Center and Free Bikes 4 Kidz shops in Hopkins and Maplewood.

But Free Bikes 4 Kidz could use dozens more elves in Santa's workshops, especially some with real technical skills.

The number of donated bikes this year far exceeded expectations, said Esau. When the bike collection was launched -- rather spontaneously -- in 2008, about 300 bikes were pulled together in about two weeks, he said.

The number of annual donations soared, to 750 the next year, 1,500 last year and now 5,000 this year.

"All the bikes are from individuals, and that's really cool,'' said Esau. "A lot of people have used bikes in their garages and are happy to get rid of them.''

About 20 million bikes are sold each year in the United States, he added, about a third of them for little tykes "that kids constantly grow out of.''

Free Bikes 4 Kidz works with more than 30 nonprofits across the metro area to identify children and families that could use some wheels. It also receives referrals from nonprofits in New Ulm, Buffalo and River Falls, Wis.

Anyone who wants to pick up a wrench or tire pump is encouraged to contact the nonprofit. Go to fb4k.com.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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