Free rides for homeless teenagers

by Alison Boggs (The Spokesman-Review)

Cobbling together $2.50 for a daylong bus pass can be challenging for 19-year-old Tim Bordwell, who frequently doesn’t know where he’ll be sleeping at night.

On Thursday, some of his transportation obstacles were alleviated when a nonprofit organization called Pedals 2 People supplied nine refurbished bicycles to clients of Crosswalk, a downtown Spokane service center and shelter for homeless teens.

“I don’t have a way to get around a lot of the time,” said Bordwell, who is pursuing his GED at Crosswalk and used to live there. “I don’t even have a dollar.”

Bordwell said he’s worked at restaurants in the past and hopes his new black GT freestyle bike will help him find a new job because he’ll have a way to get there. All the bikes came with helmets.

“A bike is autonomy. It’s independence. That’s why we’re so thrilled about it,” said Marilee Roloff, executive director of Volunteers of America, which runs Crosswalk. “These kids don’t take drivers’ ed; it’s a fortune, several hundred dollars. So they don’t get to aspire to the normal 16-year-old dreams. They rely on each other and the buses. This will be one more way to give them independence.”

Pedals 2 People promotes riding bicycles as a sustainable way to build healthier communities and healthier bodies. It collects old bicycles in the Spokane area, fixes them up and offers them to worthy causes. The organization supplied about a dozen bikes to children at St. Margaret’s Shelter for $5 a bike, said Liza Mattana, a volunteer. It made the same arrangement with Crosswalk, she said.

The nonprofit also is collecting bikes for a Moscow, Idaho, organization called the Village Bicycle Project, which donates the bikes to people in Ghana. Pedals 2 People has a goal of collecting and sending 500 bikes to the African nation this summer. About 100 have been collected, Mattana said.

“The bikes are coming to us from this community,” Mattana said. “We hope the Crosswalk clients will use them for transportation. Hopefully their bikes will help them to get around and get to school and be more independent.”

Laurel Kelly, director of youth programs for Volunteers of America, said having a bike means more than exercise and fresh air to the teenagers.

“For a kid who may not even have a dry pair of socks, that is a big deal,” she said. “It can mean the difference between making it to a job interview or not.”

Reprinted from The Spokesman-Review: