Drop-In Volunteerism

Even though I’ve been affiliated with the Community Cycling Center for almost two years now, until last night I’d never been to one of their drop-in volunteer nights. Every Tuesday, from 7-9:30pm, they welcome volunteer mechanics who work to refurbish donated kids’ bikes. Those bikes are then used for the Holiday Bike Drive, a fantastic bikey extravaganza where 400 kids whose families can’t afford to buy bicycles get a holiday bike for free. (Check out more about the Holiday Bike Drive here.)

I’ve always kept the Tuesday drop-in volunteer night in the back of my mind, but never actually gone until yesterday.

It’s fantastic! I’m a big fan of volunteering as a mutually beneficial endeavor: you help someone; in return, you develop skills that you might not have otherwise had. The CCC’s system is the epitome of mutually beneficial. I helped spruce up bikes that will be given away to kids this December, and in doing so, I got a whole bunch of hands-on mechanical time, and a chance to hang out with other Community Cycling Center folks–some of my favorite people.

The CCC makes sure that each bike is worked on by a “certified” volunteer mechanic (someone who has proved their mechanical abilities), matched up with a noncertified newbie like me. That way, the rigor of bike fixing is maintained (by the certified mechanic), but the amount of stuff that can get done is doubled. And the noncertified newbie gets a chance to learn a whole bunch about bikes by taking them apart, cleaning them, fixing them, and making sure–with the certified mechanic’s help–that everything fits back together at the end.

My partner and I finished up a little girl’s bike–the “Cosmic Dreamer”–complete with plastic stars on the spokes, sparkly white tires, purple grips, and a psychedelic chain guard. I got a chance to take apart, clean, and re-grease the bottom bracket and fix up the wheel hubs while my partner spiffed up the headset and we both wrestled with the tires (it is so fricken hard to take the tires off little kid bikes!) In the end, the Cosmic Dreamer had all new grease, smooth parts, new tires, and sparkly reflectors–everything nice and neat for its new owner, some little girl who will be so excited for her free bike come December.


This year I’m finally going to be in town for the actual Holiday Bike Drive, too, so I’ll be volunteering there as well. I figure if I make it to all the volunteer drop-in Tuesdays before then, there will be at least 5 bikes given away at the Holiday Drive that I personally worked on, and five kids who leave with a little free holiday cheer that I helped create.

I love the CCC on so many levels. I love that it has these programs to get bikes out to kids who can’t afford them, and I love that the programs are so dependent on community (and volunteer) efforts. I love that it gives out bike lights for free. I love that it gets bikes to low-income adults who need them for transportation–not for free, but for only $10. I love that everything really does come down to the bikes and the people, not the money. Working with the CCC makes me feel like I have a home in Portland, and a stake in the lives of all these little kiddos and adults around me.

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