Fix a Flat and Then Some

What started out as one man’s offer to fix a flat tire in the parking lot of a homeless shelter has developed into an incorporated, not for profit, 501(c)3 volunteer army that provides more than two thousand bicycles to Rochester NY’s neediest citizens every year. Who would have thought!!

Bill D’Anza was serving lunch at St Joseph’s House of Hospitality in the city when he was asked if he could do some minor bike repair for a guest. Bill willingly responded and soon drew a crowd in St. Joe’s parking lot. Bill promised to return the next week, and out of that offer and with the assistance of many new volunteers over the years, has come what is now known as R Community Bikes.

While the weekly repair of bikes continues at St Joe’s, RCB now has its own headquarters in one of Rochester’s poorest and most neglected neighborhoods. Six days a week our volunteers receive donated bikes, patch tubes, adjust gears, true wheels, sort parts and otherwise ready bikes for distribution to those in need. Most importantly, they also greet recipients, hear their stories of need, and then try to match the recipient to his/her new found “Cadillac,” as the bikes are often called.

Bikes are very frequently the most affordable means of transportation to jobs, schools, churches, programs and meals at local social service agencies. These agencies also form an important link between individuals and RCB since referral letters are required before a bike can be obtained. This helps insure that bikes will be given to the most needy and to those most likely to benefit from them. The current list of agencies referring clients approaches fifty and ranges from shelters to community centers to refugee resettlement programs. The need is obvious and is growing as our economy continues to struggle. Those most in need seem to suffer first and most, and RCB’s goal is to help level the playing field – if only in a small way.

In 2008 RCB gave out more than 650 bikes. Since 2012, we have averaged more than 2,500 giveaways a year. This monumental task is possible only because of our volunteer base, which numbers over 150 and which increases weekly. They are a varied group bringing not only bike skills but also so much more. We have among our volunteers fund raisers, carpenters, printers, electricians, computer experts, grant writers, clerical staff, teenagers, retirees, educators, students, the under and unemployed, bikers, non-bikers, the rich and the poor. The group is varied for sure, but all are committed to our mission of service to the community.