In early 2019 when talking at the Men’s Shed at Confederation Park 55+ centre, I mentioned that I was working on bikes with Gina Eaton at her home in SW Calgary. I explained that most of the bikes go to refugee families, especially young children. Gina sourced the bikes from recycling event days at the community centres around Calgary and I met her through my Syrian students who talked about the Bike Lady and the bikes she got for them. I suggested that Men’s Shed could get involved and use the resources at the Centre, especially an outside shed on the patio. Several members indicated interest in helping out and I talked to the Coordinator/ Fundraising Manager, Angela McIntyre, at Confederation Park. She pulled in her father and one of his friends to join into this Men’s Shed project and promised funds for parts, bike repair tools and bike stand. We had 6 people interested in helping out and brought in donated bikes. The centre gave us a key to the shed and we could start gathering bikes from various sources including the Landfills around Calgary. Bent Neilsen got permission from the city to go to the landfills and sign in and take away the better bikes available. We started by giving bikes to Gina for the refugee families.
Interest grew and we gave away bikes to seniors as well and to Senior Centres (loaner bikes), the Legion, people who had had their bikes stolen, and of course kids. At the highest point we had 24 bikes in the shed. We also started doing rides from the Centre and encouraging people to ride with us. Most of the Men’s Shed members were beyond biking age and gave support by donating bikes. I sequenced out rides and work on bikes for the alternate Wednesdays as the Men’s Shed only met on every 2nd Wednesday. We planned a big summer for 2020 but Covid hit us and we had to be cautious. Nevertheless the demand for bikes increased as it was one way to be outdoors during covid and get some exercise. We continued until July 2021 when sadly the Confederation Park Centre closed permanently. We gave about 35 bikes to the YYCKidsRide in Forest Lawn Community Centre for their annual giveaway. Steve Donaldson and I worked on the bikes there to get them in shape along with other volunteers at Forest Lawn Community Centre then on June 6 and 7th, 450 bikes were given out to families in an event organized by a Youth Skills coordinator – GarGar, himself a former refugee from Sudan and several Calgary police officer volunteers.
We have given out over 60 bikes and have about 10 we still have in my garage waiting for a new Bike Shed to be established. It has been a great effort on the part of Angela McIntyre and Confederation Park Centre in supporting us as well as the great group of gal/guys including Gina Eaton, Peter McIntyre, Bent Neilsen, Peter Ziriada, Steve Donaldson, myself and many others who contributed money, bikes, bike parts, and tools plus the search for suitable kids and adults to get these recycled bikes. Angela is no longer working for Confederation Park and is running for councillor in Ward4. Gina Eaton has retired from her Bike Lady role after giving out more than 1200 bikes over 7 years of effort. She is now a CTV News Inspiring Albertan.