Terry Weiner, one of the co-founders of Bikes for Farmworkers, spoke to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club Tuesday about the future of the bike project.
They’ve been very fortunate to have everything they need in the space they use in the former Virgil school on Four Mile Creek Road, but they are looking ahead to ensure their needs continue to be met, so they can move forward with their work without interruption.
Weiner and project co-founder Mark Gaudet understand there are plans to redevelop the school property within the next two to three years, and they will have to move.
They’re looking for 1,000 square feet for their shop, and another 1,000 square feet for storage, Weiner told Rotary members during their weekly Zoom meeting.
They need a location with low or no rent, and in or near Virgil, to be convenient for the farmworkers who shop and bank in Virgil, often coming to the bike shop Thursday evenings, when they’ve finished their errands.
Their shop operates two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from February to November, and the farmworkers can drop in for bike repairs or to purchase a restored, safe bicycle, for $20, which cover the cost of parts and supplies. Repairs and adjustments to bikes are done at no cost, although new tires and tubes are sold at cost. When a bike is going to take a little while to repair, loaners are offered, says Weiner.
Weiner says they keep a certain level of funds for necessities, and any money above that goes back to the community, including support for worker families in need, and the annual Peach Pickers Picnic organized by Jane Andres.
In the last few weeks, volunteers have been refurbishing bikes that have been left on the farms after the workers have gone home. Most of them have been left outside, under a trailer or in the bushes, he says.
They’ve got farmers collecting the bikes, dropping them off, picking them up and where possible storing them indoors, so the bikes are rust-free and safe to ride when the workers return in the spring.
There are 10 volunteers involved in the project, all taking four weeks off, from mid-December to mid-January, before returning to their workstations, says Weiner.
They’ll be back at it in January, with four fully equipped workstations and one quality control station, he says.
“We need to have all stations operating at least two days per week in order to reach our goal of providing 500-plus bicycles each year, as well as providing repair services for individual workers.”
This year, although COVID restrictions reduced their number of workstations, they managed to repair and refurbish for sale more than 600 bikes, each of which goes through a 50-point checklist. The number has risen significantly since they fixed and sold their first 40 bikes in 2016, and brings the total of bikes repaired since then to 2,742 this year.
Their requirement for operating are simple — space, volunteers and an inventory of bikes to repair, Weiner says, hoping that by getting the word out about their need for space in the future, they will be able to plan their move, and not find themselves even temporarily without a home for their project.