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Recycle a bicycle

Erin Crowell - May 17th, 2010
Recycle A Bicycle:Don Cunkle’s repair marathon helps the homeless
By Erin Crowell
Traverse City resident Don Cunkle has restored and donated over 340 bicycles for area homeless and the economically disadvantaged since 2007. He hopes to reach close to half that number this Saturday, May 22, with the Recycle A Bicycle Marathon.
“I’m hoping to get a jump start on the bike giveaway program,” says Cunkle, who has already invested over 400 personal hours turning wrenches, greasing gears and scavenging yard sales.
The Recycle A Bicycle Repair Marathon will be held in the parking lot of the Career Tech Center in Traverse City, Saturday, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Cunkle and several other volunteers will collect and restore bicycles during that time. Area residents are invited to drop off or request pick-up for their unwanted bicycles.

A CHAT WITH THE HOMELESS
The idea for the bike giveaway program started four years ago when Cunkle had a conversation with a few people in need of transportation.
“One day I was talking with some homeless people on the TART trail and I asked them how they got around,” says Cunkle, “They said, ‘we just walk or take BATA when it’s available.’ They said a bicycle would really help them out.”
So Cunkle got to work. As a member of the Cherry Capital Cycling Club, he approached its board members and requested $300 for wheel tubes, lubes, chains – everything he’d need to restore a few old bikes to working order.
“I exceeded that budget,” says Cunkle. “I did 20 to 30 bikes in the first two weeks.”
The following year—seeing a high demand for bikes—Cunkle requested $500 from the club, and again exceeded budget. The same story happened last year after the club donated $800.
“This year, the club is donating $1,000,” says Cunkle. “The demand is just huge.”
Those in need of a bicycle may contact one of several local nonprofit agencies to see if they qualify.
“I work with all of the programs in town, like the Goodwill Inn, the Women’s Resource Center, Child and Family Services – which assists families in the five-county region,” says Cunkle, who currently works as a teacher’s assistant at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Adult Work Center.

BIKES FOR SMILES
So what qualifies as a donation-worthy bicycle?
“I will take anything,” says Cunkle, “but I don’t want complete junk.” There is also a need for adult bikes – especially size 26 and over. Cunkle says although he will accept children’s bikes, the need is not nearly as great.
Being a one-man crew, Cunkle had to limit himself to restoring 120 bikes per year; and while he doesn’t get paid for his work, Cunkle sees payback.
“I get thank you notes from people – notes from kids where the spelling’s all off,” he says, smiling. “There are a lot of homeless teens out there too, some who have jobs but have no way to get to them. Occasionally I’ll see my restored bikes parked around town. I know it’s one of mine because every bike I touch, I put a smiley face sticker on it. I can see that sticker and say, ‘Yeah, I did that.’”

Help put a smile on somebody’s face: donate your unwanted bike to the Recycle A Bicycle Repair Marathon, held Saturday, May 22, in the parking lot of the Career Tech Center, located at 880 Parson Road in Traverse City. Drop off and repair times are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The event is hosted by TART and the Cherry Capital Cycling Club. They will also be accepting good, quality bike parts, along with money to help purchase cleaners, lubricants and parts for refurbishing. You may also donate your time: bring your tools and help repair. Drivers are also needed for bike pick up. Volunteers will sort and clean bikes and help write receipts. For more information, contact Don Cunkle at 231-947-8966 or email ycunkle@charter.net.




 
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