Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Marine View bike shop volunteers ensure thousands of disadvantaged children and adults can peddle into the future.

By John Jensen

Most people driving down the 6500 block of Dash Point Blvd in Northeast Tacoma will miss the fact they just drove past the biggest factory in the area.  That’s because the facility is housed in a nondescript former bungalow home just above Marine View Presbyterian Church.  

Hidden behind those unassuming walls is a bustling group of volunteers dedicated to refurbishing donated bicycles so they can be given to disadvantaged children and adults in the area. To date, close to 6,000 bicycles have been lovingly restored and distributed to very appreciative youngsters and adults.

Established in 2000, Bikes for Kids was born out of a garage project of local resident Harold Neufang, who enjoyed fixing bikes and mending toys for the neighborhood kids. When the 94-year-old retired policeman passed on, his daughter, Betty Long, asked if Marine View could help perpetuate Harold’s legacy.

Thanks to Don Cowan, Dick Schenk, and several other church members, additional donated repair equipment was soon acquired, and the bike shop was moved to its present quarters.

Now Don and Bill Peterson co-lead the activities of this group of hearty volunteers who weekly donate their time and talent to restoring bicycles to almost “like new” condition.

“We have close to 25 who donate time regularly, of which about half participate on a weekly basis,” says Bill, “However, because of the large number of bicycles we receive, we can always use more help.”

Local partner churches and businesses serve as locations where used bikes can be dropped off.  At any given time 200 to 300 bicycles are at some stage of restoration at the shop.  When repaired, the bikes are sorted by size and function for distribution.

"Most go to Trinity Presbyterian, Living Grace and other churches and agencies who have a strong outreach presence in the Tacoma community.", said Don, "But some of the bicycles appropriate for foreign distribution are prepared for shipment in containers and are sent overseas to Africa through another non-profit, The Village Bicycle Project."

When volunteer Harry Honda was asked why he enjoyed restoring old bicycles, he replied, “It’s a combination of things. I enjoy the camaraderie of working with others at the shop, but mostly it’s because I know some young person will have the fun of owning a bicycle. Every kid should experience that joy.”

Both Don and Bill are eager to see new volunteers get involved with the project. They also are looking for someone with the ability and enthusiasm to lead the bike shop in the future, ensuring this outreach will continue for many years to come.

Don Cowan probably said it best: “Everyone remembers the experience of having their first bike.” The team at Bikes for Kids ensures that this experience is given to another child or adult several times each week.

If you are interested in volunteering, donating a bicycle, or just want to come by for a tour, bike shop hours are Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays between 9 a.m. and noon. Or visit their website at mvpbikesforkids.webs.com.

 

Posted on June 25, 2015 .