Recyclery builds bikes, community

July 28, 2011 (CHICAGO)

At The Recyclery people will spend all day repairing bicycles. But most of the "mechanics" you see there are not employees. They are volunteers. Barry John Walker is a college professor who teaches mathematics.

"In general I like helping people and so this is one way that I think I can donate like my time and my efforts to helping the community and helping other people. I find this to be more self rewarding, a little bit more concrete," Walker said.

Volunteers fix up donated and discarded bikes and then fill requests from social service agencies that work with low-income families and the homeless.

"A bike is about the most affordable transport you can have and it allows people, you know, to get to work, to get to job interviews if they don't have any other, you know, means of making money at the time," said Darren Knox, volunteer coordinator.

Community members are also welcome to come in and get free lessons to help keep costs down.

"Three times a week we have open workshops and unlike a normal bike shop where you drop your bike off and give them money and they'd fix it. We make you fix it essentially and we'll give you our expertise and knowledge, tools and used parts and you're responsible to learn how to fix your bike," Knox said.

Bikes that are not given away are sold to fund The Recyclery's operations. Adult bikes range in price from 35 to 130 dollars. Children's bikes are always capped at ten dollars. Volunteers say whether they are donating or discounting bikes -- it's rewarding to know they are supplying a critical need in the community.

"It's very fulfilling to see people, you know, just receiving something that's a necessity and that makes their life a little easier and happier," Blanche Montesi said.

The Recyclery is always seeking bikes and volunteers. If you'd like to donate your "fix-it" skills or a bicycle that you're no longer using, go to for more information.

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