BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Since launching in 2012, the BF Community Bike Project, a nonprofit community bike center located at 30 Henry Street in Bellows Falls, has grown by leaps and bounds over its six-year journey, with another new expansion coming in the near future.
Founded by Executive Director, Bonnie Anderson, the original mission of the program is to provide local community access to reclaim bikes and bike repair skills, as well as encouraging safe biking as a means of affordable transportation, self-sufficiency and overall health and wellness. All donated bikes are cleaned up and restored, and then sold at a low cost, and hundreds of bikes have been put back out on the street.
Anderson has always been active in her community, with a desire to bring people closer together through her love of art, music, and the outdoors. Previously a Burlington resident for some 15 years, Bonnie was very active in the community. She volunteered at Burlington’s nonprofit Bike Recycle Vermont and saw how such a program can benefit a community by teaching new skills to students and adults alike while also providing an alternative and affordable, means of transportation for everyone. It planted the seed, which would become her inspiration to launch the BF Community Bike project in 2012.
“The Bike Project was inspired by Bike Recycle Vermont in Burlington, a nonprofit community program which rehabs donated bikes for low income Vermonters,” Anderson said. “The idea of giving new life to bicycles, which may otherwise be thrown away just makes so much sense, and Bellows Falls seemed to be ripe for such a project.
“Bikes are not only fun, healthy to ride and better for the environment – they are also affordable transportation for many people, helping them to get to work and go about daily life.”
The project’s first shop was located on Canal Street in Bellows Falls, officially opening its doors in September 2003. “Gary Fox was my first advisor, helping me to set up a board of directors, write a business plan, and get all my ducks in a row. He is also our longest serving board member,” Anderson added. “Todd Ward gave us a big boost right off the bat, donating many of the tools, bikes and parts to get us going, and volunteering as shop manager until spring of 2014. Fred Tipton joined us that year, taking over as shop manager and assistant director.
“I met Fred through a mutual friend and found out that he liked to work on bikes since he was a kid. He began to volunteer at the shop occasionally, but then when I needed to go away for a week, he jumped in to run the place, and I guess he was hooked! Fred has a natural knack for making things work, and when most people would have given up on a broken bike, he’ll keep tinkering until he gets it working. He has been a major driving force behind the Bike Project ever since – he’s our head bike mechanic, is great working with youth in our repair classes, and serves on the board.”
The project also offers programs for local school groups and adults such as workshops in bike repair and maintenance. Many students and various youth clubs have spent time in the bike shop, learning various skills such as fixing a flat, tune ups, and complete bike overhauls. If you can’t make it to a class, each week they offer “open shop” sessions where someone can bring in and work on their bike. Various repairs and tune-ups are also offered at reasonable rates, and volunteer hours may also be applied to offset costs.
The volunteer staff is also very important to the success of the program, and the shop is always looking for new volunteers to help the cause. Also, be on the lookout for an upcoming announcement about a possible expansion of the shop, offering more workspace to expand upon the current services and activities of the shop. “If you’ve been in the bike shop, you know that it’s full to the brim, and not just with bikes,” Anderson concluded.
“There are shelves and racks and bins and boxes of parts, both used and new, and we rarely decline anything that is donated, as we usually find just the parts we need when searching through the ‘stash.’ However, space is a real issue, and we are running out of it. We are looking into renting some extra storage space very soon, so stay tuned!”
The BF Community Bike Project is located at 30 Henry Street in Bellows Falls and the shop hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 12 – 5 p.m., Thursday 12 – 6 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, please call 802-460-0662 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.