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Wheels turning on bike project

April 04, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

While he has been active at Otterbein United Methodist Church for many years, Mike Johnston has thrown himself into a new project with particular enthusiasm.

It's called Bikes for the World and is designed to collect used bicycles for distribution in poverty-stricken countries.

"I'm a bike person, so when I saw this in our church newsletter six weeks ago, I volunteered to lead a committee," Johnston said.

Johnston and his committee have set Saturday, April 16, as the day when they want people with old bikes to bring them to the church at 108 E. Franklin St. between 9 a.m. and noon. He has been working diligently to get the word out in the community.

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A charitable organization, Bikes for the World is affiliated with the Washington (D.C.) Area Bicyclist Association, which ships unwanted, clean and usable bikes all over the world, Johnston said. A donation of $10 to defray costs is welcome but not mandatory.

"We've been advertising and getting more volunteers to be at the church on the day of the event to help," Johnston said. People who have bikes to donate but no way to get them to the church may contact Johnston at 301-797-1235 to arrange for pickup ahead of time.

Johnston, 45, said Keith Oberg, director of Bikes for the World, has seen a maximum of 250 bikes collected at a single site.

"We are hoping for at least 50, since this is our first time," Johnston said.

Johnston and fellow volunteers will be at the church at 9 a.m. to accept bikes for adults and children. After all the bikes have been packed, a representative from Bikes for the World will come from Arlington, Va., to haul them for shipping.

Two-wheeled donations to Bikes for the World go to adults and children who need affordable transportation to get to health services and educational opportunities in countries in Central America and West Africa, Johnston said.

These bikes can also help poor people earn more income by allowing them to get better jobs. Another benefit is learning business management skills, as well as improving bicycle mechanical skills.

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