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North Park Community Church Bicycle Reconditioning Ministry Makes
"The Wheels on the Bike go Round and Round"

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In the spring of 2005, Don Kennedy received a call from Dave Cottrill, the Director of Community Outreach at North Park Community Church, "Don, I have a few bikes from members of our congregations that need some repairs but they can't really afford it. Can I drop over so you can take a look to see if they can be fixed?"

Dave arrived at Don's home unloading a truck load of bikes in all states of disrepair. That was the last time Don or his wife would be able to park their cars in the garage for a very long time. When Don had completed the repairs, Dave picked them up, exchanging them for another batch of inoperative bikes and this process continued.

As the program grew and Don's garage became more cluttered, Dave promoted the program within the church community and the response was overwhelming. The responses came from many in need of a basic transportation and from others ready to help with repairs or with donations of bikes no longer needed. Back then and still today nothing is wasted as bikes that were beyond repair are dismantled, parts salvaged for later use and the balance, the unusable metal and aluminum, is sold to Zubick's Scrap Metals.

The parameters of the program began to take shape. Those wanting a bike but could not afford it were given one, while those that could afford something were charged a very small fee.

The program caught the interest of Matt Eckert, North Park's Pastor of Community Engagement. He, along with Don Kennedy, Dave Cottrill, and the growing repair recruits decided to take the program to the streets. They delivered flyers to the apartment buildings in the Huron and Kipps Lane area advising those in need of a bicycle or bicycle repairs to see them at the North Park Bicycle Repair Trailer that would be in their area on that upcoming Saturday. That very first time there were 80 people lined up with bikes with problems ranging from a simple flat tire or loose chain to others with twisted frames, missing wheels and seats. There were some with chains that were so seized due to never meeting a drop of oil; the chain was just a solid loop of metal! There were eight volunteers that tackled the project that day, a day recognized as the official start of the North Park Community Church Bicycle Reconditioning Ministry.

The expansion of the program was one of those good news, bad news stories for Don. The good news was that his garage could no longer accommodate the volume of bikes and parts and tools and people so the program was moved to a warehouse on First Street. The bad news was that the demands on Don's time continued to increase with the growth of the Ministry. Don does not really consider his increased involvement as bad news: "When you see the smiles on the faces of those you have helped, it makes it all worthwhile. We have provided the only means of transportation for many new Canadians from all over and when you can help a family that has just arrived from Afghanistan or Burma as we have done, you know that this work is a true ministry of service to the community. The same is true when we are able to provide kids with a bike, something that would not be possible if not for our program."

Don tells a story of when Dave asked if he could repair a three wheeler for a member of the congregation. Dave arrived with the bike and told Don that the bike belongs to a single mother who is handicapped. When the repairs were completed Don was asked to deliver it to the owner. "She was quite handicapped but she was able to peddle to get to where she needed to be. She had a basket in the front for her very young child and a larger basket in the back for her groceries. When I lifted her bike out of the truck, her face just lit up and I saw a most beautiful smile as I wheeled it over to her. She wrapped her arms around me and cried and she thanked me over and over. Yes..........I cried too."

The ministry has been blessed with a team of fantastic volunteers giving of their time with repairs, transportation, and donations of money, tools, parts and work space. Dick Los, a now retired millwright at Ford has designed and manufactured several special work tables and special tools that have made the repair work easier, faster and less tiresome. Because he is a key member of the repair team, Dick identifies first-hand how to make the work "smarter" and then goes about making a new device to address the task.

Helpers are not just from the North Park congregation as crews regularly come in from Teen Challenge Farm and Quintin Warner House. The ministry has also been blessed with help from First Cycleworks on First Street with parts discounts and help with difficult repairs.

Two other very successful expansions of the program involve direct community involvement, a natural for the Community Outreach initiatives at North Park.

Every Friday in June each year, 4 members of the North Park Community Church Bicycle Reconditioning Ministry host a basic bicycle repair course for Grade 8 students at Lord Elgin Public School on Victoria St. According to Don Kennedy, "The kids are very interested and keen to learn. They are quite excited when there are no bubbles seen in the test bucket from the flat tire they have fixed."

There is also a Bike Repair Course held for twelve young people at a time. These students go through a detailed hands-on series of seminars covering all areas of simple to complex repairs. The objective is to teach complete bicycle repair techniques so the "graduates" will take their skills to their own communities fixing the bicycles of their friends and neighbours. As a reward for completing the course, each student is given a complete set of bicycle repair tools.

Currently the North Park Community Church Bicycle Reconditioning Ministry has a permanent 3000sq/ft warehouse at the corner of South St and William St that allows the team to repair the more than 200 bikes they take in each year. The ministry also owns a 20 foot enclosed trailer that enables them to continue to offer the community clinics.

Would you like to be part of this important ministry? The team welcomes all volunteers, donations, contributions of bikes in any conditions and bicycle parts. If you can help, please contact Mark Eckert matt.eckert@northpark.ca or Dave Cottrill david.cottrill@northpark.ca at North Park Community Church. You can also call North Park Community Church at 519.457.1400.






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