BENTONVILLE — Although they don’t all resemble Santa’s elves, there’s a group of volunteers working hard to give some area children a special Christmas gift.
Pedal it Forward is a nonprofit organization that gives away about 2,000 bicycles a year. The group is located on Wishing Spring Road, a short way from U.S. 71B.
“We believe everyone deserves a bike,” director Kenny Williams said, “but around the holidays we focus on kids.”
They accept used bikes year round and volunteers clean and repair them. Bikes are usually distributed through “Pedal Partners” that range from the Department of Veterans Affairs to Sharing and Caring of Benton County. Currently, there are over 60 partners, Williams said.
Recently, he was preparing for one of the group’s larger orders — 250 children’s bikes that would be distributed to families at a special event at the Scott Family Amazeum. The organization will also send bikes to Sharing and Caring and similar organizations all over Northwest Arkansas. Those groups pass them on to children as Christmas gifts. It’s more efficient, Williams said, to distribute through another organization that knows where the bikes are needed.
In early December, hundreds of children’s bikes are stored in the rafters at one of their two locations, waiting to be gifted. They also partner with the area bike shops that will accept donations for the nonprofit.
“I’m always on the hunt for bikes,” he said.
The group often receives bikes that have been taking up space in someone’s garage. Some of those bikes only need a cleaning and a minor tune-up before going to their new home. Other bikes may need more extensive repair, and that is done by volunteers. The only bikes that can’t be used are the ones that have enough rust to make them unsafe. The group will accept a bike like that and may be able to harvest some usable parts. Then the rusty frames are always recycled.
Williams said he is also happy to get new volunteers. There’s no experience needed, he said. Some volunteers can be put to work immediately organizing and cleaning. Others, who want to learn more about bicycle maintenance, are paired with an experienced volunteer. They can be working independently within a few volunteer sessions.
Potential volunteers should fill out a volunteer form on the organization’s website, pedalitforward.org, and then show up at one of the scheduled work days. The regular work days are Monday from 5:30-8:30 p.m., Wednesdays from 9 a.m.-noon and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon. But, Williams warned, many of the volunteers take a break after the busy December period so work days may change a bit in late December and early January.
“Everyone really goes big the first half of December, then we take a break,” he said.
There are also opportunities for groups to volunteer together. They often get corporate groups that want to work as team. If it’s a large group, he may organize a special work day to accommodate them. Small groups, including church groups and Scout troops, may be invited to help during a regular work day.
Pedal It Forward began in 2014 and has donated 4,500 bikes since then.
Even with the volunteer labor, repairing bikes and running the nonprofit requires some funds. A fundraising program called “Pedal Hero” is available. To become a Pedal Hero, a donor must commit to a minimum donation of $25 a month. The group came up with that number by calculating all the overhead costs and dividing by the number of bikes given away. The average cost of refurbishing one bike is $25, Williams said.
To find out more about Pedal It Forward, go to pedalitforward.org.
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