The WRENCH gears up for bike-building marathon

Mechanics and volunteers to recycle bikes recovered from landfill

The Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub (WRENCH) is revving up for its sixth annual Cycle of Giving (CoG), a 24-hour bike-building marathon held at Rossbrook House Inc. on Dec. 10-11. Throughout the marathon, they’ll recycle bike parts and turn them into new rides to be gifted in time for
the holidays. 

“The WRENCH has been doing our best to recycle 100 per cent of the bikes that end up in the City of Winnipeg’s Brady Landfill,” Geoff Heath, mechanical director for the WRENCH, says. “Annually, we end up recycling somewhere around 3,000 bikes, with about half that number being kids’ bikes.”

Heath says that one mission of the educators at the WRENCH is to empower individuals, teaching them how to build and fix their own bikes. But this is difficult when receiving large numbers of children’s bikes.

“With these kids’ bikes, we had the dual conundrum ... plus the difficulty of teaching a four- or five-year-old how to do repairs,” Heath says. “A WRENCH board member at the time, Pat Krawec, came up with the Cycle of Giving idea in order to solve both these issues, bring(ing) together community bike shop volunteers and for-profit shop mechanics for one big holiday party for a good cause.”

Jon Benson, CoG coordinator, says over 225 people volunteered during the event last year, more than 100 of whom were volunteer mechanics from the WRENCH or from the bike community, with skills ranging from beginner to expert.  

“You don’t need to have any familiarity with bikes in order to help out,” Benson says. “We need people cleaning bikes, to help in the kitchen preparing food for volunteers, as well as making artsy cards that will go with all the bikes that are being donated.”

Last year, the event reached a record number of 400 bikes in 24 hours, the maximum space Rossbrook House can offer. This year, the goal is to build 350.

“The event isn’t just about building kids’ bikes, but (it’s) also about raising money so that we can continue to operate youth programs throughout the year,” Benson says. 

When searching for a venue for the CoG, Rossbrook House was a no-brainer says Benita Kliewer, program coordinator for the WRENCH, explaining the pair’s existing partnership through the youth Earn-a-Bike program.

“This is a first for us, holding an event overnight that will bring in people other than community youth that attend the drop-in,” Phil Chiappetta, executive director for Rossbrook House, says.

“It will be great to build a stronger relationship with the WRENCH for those youth who find a passion for working on bikes – learning how to maintain and repair them,” Chiappetta says. “It’s the kind of hands-on skill that will build confidence, purpose and self-esteem in young people.”

The W.R.E.N.C.H. wants to raise $15,000 before the end of the Cycle of Giving event to support their year-round youth programming. To donate, visit the shop during open hours, or online through Facebook or thewrench.ca/wordpress/help/#donate. 

Published in Volume 71, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 24, 2016)

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