Bikes for Farmworkers has sold most of their reconditioned bikes, and is looking for more donations so they can continue to provide bikes to farmworkers still in need of transportation.
Founded in 2016, Bikes for Farmworkers, now an outreach project of Gateway Community Church in Virgil, is a volunteer organization that refurbishes donated bikes for hundreds of seasonal farmworkers each year.
A grant from the Niagara Community Foundation allowed them to set up workstations in the Virgil Public School basement in 2017, and buy the tools they needed.
For many of the workers, it’s their sole means of transportation during their time here, which can be up to eight months, says volunteer Ken Eden.
Since its inception, theorganization has put 2,185 refurbished bicycles in the hands of migrant workers, and done free repairs on 1,367 others.
It has already sold two-thirds as many bikes it did all of last year, says Eden. “We had a huge demand at the beginning of the year, and we had a pretty good inventory of good bikes ready to go. That pretty much got sold out in just a few weeks.”
One night, early in the season, they sold more than 50 bikes, he said.
Why they are seeing “such a huge demand,” he said, “we just don’t know.”
Last year the organization supplied 298 refurbished bicycles, and so far in 2022 has already sold 248, emptying their inventory of saleable bikes. They are now in dire need of more bikes to meet the demand.
Mark Gaudet and his friend Terry Weiner began refurbishing bikes for farmworkers in their garages, with their own money, in 2016. That year the men rebuilt a modest 40 bikes, which were either donated to farmworkers through a raffle at a local health fair, or sold at a small cost. Weiner, retired from a career as an aerospace engineering consultant and with some experience restoring old cars, knew how to fix a bike. Gaudet, who had worked in management for a paper company, had to learn from his friend.
Their second year, they repaired many more bikes donated from the community, with the help of a handful of volunteers who came on board— 270 were refurbished, and another 168 repaired. Gradually donations from the community helped to make their organization self-sustaining.
The volunteers called for donations of used bikes last fall, to work on over the winter and have them ready to go this season as workers arrived, and had almost 250 bikes refurbished and ready for sale.
“We thought they would last longer than they did. We ran out about 10 days ago,” Eden said late last week. “Most of the workers come in on Thursday night, but the last couple of weeks we haven’t had anything for sale.”
They are doing repairs instead for now, he said, and are hoping for more bikes they can recondition and put back into the system.
They are looking for donations of adult-size bicycles that are no longer being used, and could be refurbished to support local migrant farmworkers.
The volunteers are holding a bicycle drop-off on Saturday, May 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their shop in the former Virgil Public School, 1665 Four Mile Creek Road, at the corner of Field and Four Mile Creek Road.
The seasonal hours for the bike repair shop are Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
To contact Bikes for Farmworkers, call Mark Gaudet at 289-783-1684, or Terry Weiner at 905-321-8638.