Two-Wheel Transit helps veterans two wheels at at time
bikes give freedom and inspire service
Geoff Forshag of Two Wheel Transit bike shop is big on community involvement. Forshag is quick to point out that it’s an integral part of the store’s mission to bring people together to get and stay healthy and to advance cycling as part of Spokane’s identity as a city. And for the staff at Two Wheel Transit, honoring local veterans is a critical component of their connection to the community.
“Anytime someone comes into the Two Wheel Transit shop, and we know they’re a vet,” says Forshag, “we always try to take a minute to say ‘thank you for your service.’ It’s important to be mindful of what they’ve done for us. Being involved in Bikes for Homeless Vets is a natural extension of that gratitude.”
Bikes for Homeless Vets is a new program created by men living in Volunteers of America’s two transitional living houses for veterans (Rest & Recoup House and Eagles’ Rest House). It all began after Two Wheel Transit sold several mountain bikes to the program in July of 2011.
“When we got the bikes, we found that the men in both houses began riding, and riding, and riding,” recalls Jon Carollo, director of Volunteers of America's programs for veterans. “The bikes replaced the bus for trips to the VA medical center, the grocery store, and to work. As the veterans continued to ride, we experienced less conflict in the house between veterans, and what appeared to be a decrease in anxiety and depression. Veterans began interacting with each other more. They even started having weekly house rides together.”
“It was amazing,” says Carollo. “Except that we quickly realized that when a veteran ‘graduated’ and left the house for his own apartment, his bike had to stay with the program. I asked the guys at both houses to come up with a solution. They created Bikes for Homeless Vets—a way for guys in our programs to have bikes of their own and a way for them to give other homeless vets this incredible gift of increased independence.”
The program was designed and is administered by veterans—ranging in age from 22 to 73—currently living in the two houses as well as several recent alumni of the program. They meet every Friday to discuss ways to gather bikes, determine criteria for receiving a bike and solidify their plans to distribute 100 bikes over the next year. All 11 men currently living in Volunteers of America’s transitional housing for veterans has agreed to help transport, repair and distribute bikes. The Rest & Recoup house has decided to convert their garage into a bike repair shop. One resident has even offered his welding skills.
“I have always known about and supported Volunteers of America in Spokane; they are known as a very good and highly respected organization in the area. But I first met the veterans they serve when VOA took delivery of the bikes they bought at Two Wheel Transit this summer,” recalls Geoff Forshag. “I was struck by the sense of appreciation, gratitude and ownership shown by the veterans.”
It didn’t take long for Two Wheel Transit to join the Bikes for Homeless Vets bandwagon.
“Anything that helps promote a healthy lifestyle and alternate transportation is good, because we have seen how cycling can support a greater sense of control and empowerment for people, especially for individuals like these veterans who may not have as much access to other forms of transportation,” adds Forshag.
Not only is Two Wheel Transit providing free safety and repair courses to bike recipients, they have also donated kickstands, water bottles and other accessories to accompany donated bikes. Two Wheel Transit (located at 1405 W 1st Ave in downtown Spokane) will be a drop-off location for the program’s 11/11/11 Veterans’ Day bike drive.
Forshag encourages anyone who is looking for a way to give back to the community and support veterans to think about getting involved as well.
“The bike you donate will make a difference in someone’s life in ways you cannot imagine today,” says Forshag. “Such a gift will have ripples throughout the community here in Spokane that you cannot imagine.”