Many people probably have an old bicycle sitting in their garage or shed.
You know the one. The one with a flat tire or a worn-out seat or the one that just isn’t ridden any more.
The Golden Optimists, now partnering with the city of Arvada, are giving hundreds of bicycles just like that a second life and a new rider.
Ted Rains, a member of the Golden Optimists, started the club’s bike-refurbishment program in 1990 with one old bike, and it is still going strong today.
“The Optimists were looking for something to do to help a bit, and I bought a new bicycle and had an old bike to get rid of,” said Rains, chair of the bike program. “I found out it can be hard to get rid of old bikes, so I said why don’t we collect bikes like this and donate them to a senior citizen center.”
The senior citizen center took a few bikes, but there wasn’t a real need for them because residents did not use them very much, Rains said.
“The bikes kept coming, a lot of children’s bikes too, so I said `Let’s see if we can give these away.’”
As the program grew, the Optimists’ bike program needed to find a home.
“The Golden City Foundation bought a building for us [at Heritage Square] and we, as a club, assembled it,” Rains said. “All of a sudden we had a home, and it’s been going ever since.”
Now, the Optimists donate 200-250 refurbished bikes per year to residents in the metro area and even in other states, such as an Indian reservation in New Mexico.
Depending on the condition of bicycles that are donated, refurbishing them can take anywhere from 10 minutes to hours, said Golden Optimists President Howard Bagdad.
“We don’t turn anything down,” Bagdad said. “We can either fix it or use it for parts.”
A large number of bicycles are given to international students each semester at the Colorado School of Mines, Rains said.
“Often because of where they’re from, they don’t understand the concept,” Rains said. “They try to pay us and we say `No cost.’ They give us a funny look and say, `Why do you do this? Are you crazy?’ and we explain to them about Optimists International and the service club concept, and they really appreciate it. They often live too far off campus to walk, so in a lot of cases a bike is almost a necessity.”
The bikes are given to both children and adults who may not have the budget to buy a new one. Each bicycle also comes with a helmet and lock.
The program has grown each year since it was started, and this year is no different.
The city of Arvada has partnered with the Golden Optimists to support the bike program and has already donated nearly 60 bicycles to the program, including 28 from the Arvada Police Department, said Arvada Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator Anne Tully.
Arvada residents can also sign up to receive a bicycle through the program. About 30 residents have expressed a need for a bicycle so far, Tully said.
“It’s going to be a huge impact on our community,” Tully said. “I think a lot of people who aren’t biking aren’t because they can’t afford to and now that I’ve gotten all those phone calls, I’m finding out that’s true.”
Tully said she is also working with Jefferson County Public Schools Health Coordinator Emily O’Winter to help fulfill children and teens’ need for bicycles.
“I think a lot of school-age kids could be on bikes if they had an easier way to get one,” Tully said. “We have decided to try to go through our school resource officers who know the students very well to identify the need and help send a bike to the school on their behalf or get in touch with the parents to see if there is a need.”
All bikes are free to recipients, but the Golden Optimists do accept donations.
“It’s just a wonderful program,” Tully said. “These guys do so much for the whole metro area and beyond with very few people, so hats off to them.”
Residents interested in donating a bicycle can email Anne Tully at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ted Rains at email@example.com and include their name, address, phone number, email, the number of bikes being donated, a convenient pickup day and time, and if they would like to receive a tax deduction form.
Resident interested in receiving a bike can email Tully or Rains and include their name, address, phone number, email, what size bike they need, their height to get the right size bike and their preferred style of bike — mountain or road.
For more information, call Tully at 720-898-7749.