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Building bikes to support underprivileged youth

March 04, 2015

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By Annie Fogarty

In the Re-Cyclery garage in downtown San Rafael a rainbow of bicycles are lined up in uniform rows.  Each bike is a patchwork of pieces — a bright frame from one bike matched with a revived set of handlebars or pedals from another. These bicycles, once rusting and unused, have been repaired to be sold at the Re-Cyclery, a non-profit used bike shop which helps fund Trips For Kids.

The are now currently 90 chapters of the organization, which has expanded into several programs to support the underprivileged.

In 1988, Mill Valley resident and cyclist, Marilyn Price founded the Trips For Kids organization, hoping to give underprivileged children in Marin County an opportunity to learn and appreciate cycling.

Each week, Price and volunteers accompany children from the San Rafael Canal district on bike rides around the Bay Area, ranging from China Camp to Golden Gate park.  Their mission is to expose kids to nature, and to teach environmental awareness and cycling skills.

“Somehow tying those three things together, the social work, the cycling, the environment, just all kind of gelled in my mind,” Price said.

What started as a local program 25 years ago out of Price’s Mill Valley home has now developed into an international organization.  The idea has been adopted by volunteers, and there are affiliated branches in Israel, Sierra Leone, and Canada.

Each trip, Price said that bikes of all sizes are loaded into vans and transported to a trailhead where volunteers meet with the kids.

“We spend about an hour getting the kids adjusted to their bikes, putting helmets on, and making sure they are comfortable. Then they are off!” Price said.

Trips For Kids also has an Earn-A-Bike program that gives kids an opportunity to learn mechanics with support from passionate adults.  In the Earn-A-Bike program, youth take lessons from instructors on building and repairing bikes, while acquiring points per hour that go toward earning their own bicycle.

Sophomore bike builder Cameron Kardel said he has volunteered at the Earn-a-Bike workshops.

“I developed some more skills there,” Kardel said. “I worked as a bike mechanic for a few months and learned a lot.”

To help fund Trips For Kids, Price established the Re-Cyclery in 1994 in a cramped half of a garage.  The Re-Cyclery, now located on 4th street in San Rafael, is a bicycle “thrift shop” where donated bicycles and parts are refurbished and sold.  Employees construct bikes out of salvaged parts and repair bikes for customers.

Employee Doug Wilkinson said that there is a lot of freedom in working at the shop.  He doesn’t only work in retail but also gets to fix bikes.

“We definitely have a fair bit of autonomy working on projects,” Wilkinson said.

According to Price, the Re-Cyclery makes approximately $550,000 per year, and the profits provide 60% of the funds for Trips For Kids.  Along with donations from the community, the store’s inventory is comprised of gifts from bicycle manufacturers and old models from bike shows.

“What we sell is what comes in from the community; from the people who donate to us,” Price said.

Price says she loves that the Re-Cyclery embodies all three of the elements that every student learned in their first grade class- reduce, reuse, recycle.

“We have done a huge job of keeping stuff out of landfills, and we are very environmental,” Price said.

Twenty-five years ago, standing upon a Mount Tamalpais trail, bicycle by her side, overlooking the Bay, Price had a revelation.

“That’s when I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to bring the kids that I saw in my community up here?’” Price recalled.  Now she thinks that her vision has become a reality.

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