Every year, we get a few phone calls from people in other states who want to start a Bike Lady chapter in their community. This is a hopeful thing.
Nearly every county in America has a Children's Services Agency. They might be called Child Welfare, Child Protection Services or something similar. Currently, there are over 400,000 children in the US foster care system and over 100,000 of those children are legally available for adoption.
Not everyone can foster or adopt, but it's a miraculously life-altering experience should you consider it. Most child welfare agencies have volunteer and mentoring programs. Spending just one day a month with a youth in care could influence their future with the most tremendously positive results. Becoming a "home base" for the 28% who age out of the system as young adults without ever being adopted or reunited with their birth family would do wonders.
Or you could become the Bike Lady of your community. All child welfare agencies struggle with budget constraints. Typically, public funds cannot be used for holiday gifts. Even if your local agency doesn't have an official program, dollars to donuts, your local agency would love to have help and especially at holiday time.
Maybe bikes aren't your thing. Maybe you're all about basketballs. Be the Basketball Guy. Maybe you're all about helping infants. Be the Blankie Lady. Maybe you're all about electronics. Be the iPod Dude.
But if bikes ARE your thing, then consider starting something similar in your own county. No, Bike Lady isn't franchising or opening other chapters - a girl can dream, though! It would simply be our pleasure to share our experience with you. We're pretty confident you could do it and probably do it better!
When we started, we knew very little about starting a charity, raising funds or applying for tax exempt status. We knew very little about creating a web page, the PayPal process or opening a Facebook account. In fact, we didn't even do any of that the first year. We simply emailed friends and family and put a flyer in neighbors' mailboxes.
At first, we knew nothing about how many trucks would be needed to transport hundreds bikes or how much square footage they fill up in an office building. And we sure didn't know the smell of rubber bike tires can fill a warehouse - a smell we have come to love! What we did know is that bikes seemed like a pretty good idea filling a need among these kids, and a whole lot of people agree as they donate year after year.
We're still small. We learn as we grow. Our process is simple, the goal is clear, and the results immeasurable. Each person does a small part and, some how, some way, it always comes together in the end. A Christmas miracle? Maybe.
It takes time and effort and can be exhausting, yet, the reward of creating shiny, two-wheeled, memory-making holiday joy is beyond description. It's a labor of love that gets under your skin and you just know you must do it again the following year, and the year after that. And people will help you. They will! We promise!
So if bikes ARE your thing and you like the idea, don't worry about what you can't do. Just call and let's chat about what you can do. Guaranteed, there's a slew of kids in your backyard that you'll never meet, but whose life you'll positively impact and change for the better by giving them a bike this Christmas. One simple bike.
And, you'll feel pretty good, too.
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