Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on November 29th, 2006 at 9:32 am
This time of year, the headquarters of the Community Cycling Center on NE Alberta street is like Santa’s workshop; complete with elves, toys for the kids, and a magical sense of anticipation for the Big Day.
Except in this case, the Big Day isn’t Christmas, it’s the Holiday Bike Drive.
Now in its 11th year, the Holiday Bike Drive has become one of Portland’s most well-known bikey institutions. This year, organizers aim to match 600 kids (450 from Portland, 150 from Vancouver) to a new bike. That’s almost half the usual amount given out, but this year each kid will receive a generous serving of education along with their new wheels.
CCC mechanic Brian Manning — who played Chief Elf at volunteer night last night, doing final checks on all the bikes and watching over the volunteer elves — says the focus on education this year makes a lot of sense,
“This year we’ll spend more quality time with each kid and their parents. We’ll have various safety stations that will teach them about their bike and how to ride it. One of the stations will be an unsafe bike where the kids will have to point out what’s wrong with it…they’ll get stamps on a card for each station and won’t get their bike until they’ve gone through all of them.”
The event is a major undertaking and it could not happen without the army of dedicated volunteers who help the CCC get all the bikes ready.
Northwest Portland resident James Fitzgerald is not who you might expect to find wrenching on a Disney “Little Princess” bike on a dark, ice-cold night at the CCC. I talked with the 54 year-old software research planner for IBM as he bravely disembowled the bike’s bottom bracket, spilling bearings on the floor.
It’s James’ second volunteer night in a row,
“I’m usually traveling for work this time of year, but I had some time off so I thought I’d come down and help out. We’ve donated several bikes over the years…it’s a great cause and we know the bikes will find a good home.”
I asked James if he remembered his first bike,
“This one (pointing to the “Little Princess”) is a lot fancier than anything I had. My dad was a postman and he’d find old bikes and parts in people’s trash and bring them home for us. My friends called my bike the “Junkcycle”.”
Whoever gets the Little Princess will be rolling on something far from junk. James’ hard work will have it rolling better than new.
Around the shop, other volunteers worked just as hard. Bikes filled every repair stand and nearly every open spot on the shop floor. The cacophony of clanking and the controlled chaos in the room would warm any bike (or kid) lovers heart.
But I wondered…How can they possibly get 600 bikes ready in time for the event? Mechanic Brian Manning just smiled and said, “We’re Santa’s elves, we’re under the gun. The kids will be waiting, we really have no choice.”
For an inside look at how the CCC gets ready for their Holiday Bike Drive, browse my Volunteer Night photo gallery.