Connecticut Checks In

by Jackie Johnson
Spring 2011 InGear

Jackie Johnson with collection crew

Jackie Johnson with collection crew

I was prompted to call Pedals for Progress in September of 2002 after I read a small article in Hope Magazine (long since out of business). The article told the story of Dave Schweidenback launching Pedals for Progress following his experience in the Peace Corps and referenced the 57,000 bicycles that had, at that point, been shipped to partners in sixteen countries. This was a year after the 9/11 attacks and our nation was on the verge of war. I felt a burning need to do something positive and meaningful, ideally involving my husband and two children (who were then 10 and 12 years old). The article so inspired me that I immediately called Pedals for Progress and said I wanted to organize a bike collection in northwestern Connecticut, where I live. Even though Pedals had never held a collection so far from their base in High Bridge, New Jersey, their response was positive.

Because the fall collection season was already underway, I was encouraged to organize my collection the following spring. But I felt I had to act immediately. I ultimately spoke to Dave and explained why I couldn’t wait until spring. He was reluctantly convinced and our first Pedals for Progress collection was held at Holcomb Farm, an arts and environmental center, in Granby, CT, on December 7, 2002. An enthusiastic group of volunteers collected and processed a very chilly 42 bikes that day. They are still the core group of volunteers who have shown up every year since.

May of 2011 (yes, we’ve since switched to spring) will mark our 10th annual collection and will bring our count to over 1500 bikes collected. It would never have been possible without our amazing bike-processing guru/crew leader Tony King, Bruce and Bobbi Sullivan, who always remember to bring everything I forget, and the King and Johnson families.

Over the years, we’ve added many new regular volunteers—the Mayock Family, the Desiderato/Raggio Family and groups of students interested in community service. Sometimes people just happen to see what we’re doing and stay on to help. The greatest joy is that a bike collection truly is an inclusive community event. Anyone at any age can take part, and donors and volunteers alike share in the joy of knowing they’re making a difference in the lives of others. And often the stories donors tell us about the “lives” of the donated bikes are amazing!

Frequently these days, when I’m in the Center (a New England term for downtown) of our small town, someone stops me to ask when the next bike collection is. I feel so fortunate to have noticed that article back in 2002. While we’re a few hours away from High Bridge by car and much farther still from many of the places our donated bicycles have gone, Granby, Connecticut, is blessed to have a thriving Pedals for Progress community.

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