Riverbend works with partners to keep bikes cycling through local streets

January 4, 2013
Dean Williams
Dean Williams had one word to say when the News-Register informed him the decision went through: "Outstanding," he said with a pleased tone.

The bikes are reclaimed or stolen property that has been stored in inventory as long as three years, according to Yamhill County Sgt. Tim Svenson. He said the office is happy to donate them, since selling them often creates more headaches from paperwork associated with sales.

"We like to donate back to the community when possible," Svenson said.

The bikes will go to Amity High School, where Jackson Darling's students have been refurbishing bicycles to give to needy children. That project is part of the careers class in the school's structured learning program. Of the donated bikes, the ones that need minor repairs and beautification touch-ups will be handled by Darling's students. Darling said it's more engaging than most projects. The kids get the chance to work together and Darling can teach different life skills - the reason for adding a second coat of paint, for instance.

But the unridable bikes will go to Williams, who contacted the Sheriff's Office asking if they had surplus bicycles to give away in the first place. Williams began putting forgotten two-wheelers back into good mechanical shape earlier this year. He works out of his shed-turned-shop next to his home in the unincorporated area of Ballston.

"We had kind of the same idea, so it's a perfect partnership," Darling said.

Earlier in the year, Williams' granddaughter's bicycle was stolen. Soon after, he began noticing nice bikes in a pile soon to be shredded at the Riverbend Landfill. With his granddaughter's lost bike in mind, the thought of wasted quality bicycles upset Williams enough to complain."It was just a combination of events that I went in the office and shot my mouth off," Williams said. "I said, 'there's gotta be something to be done.'"

Williams received a call three days later from George Duvendack, Riverbend's district manager. Williams was in the office an hour and a half later, he said. He left that day with a verbal contract that Waste Management would give Williams all the bicycles that hit their property.

Jackie Lang, regional communications manager for Waste Management, said bikes were being recycled as scrap metal. Bikes were tossed in piles along with things like lawn mowers, washing machines and wood stoves that had been dropped off. Scrap metal items are transported to Portland from Riverbend for processing, Lang said.

Williams, who retired in May from a mechanical engineer career spent primarily with sawmill machinery, uses parts from depleted bicycles to fix better quality ones. He has separated piles of gears, chains, wheels, tires, tubes and frame parts scattered throughout his shed. Outside, a number of reclaimed bikes wait to be utilized. In a smaller adjacent shed, six bikes are ready to be transported to Amity High School for Darling's students to make finishing touchups.

If Williams can't find the right part in his inventory, he drives to Tommy's Bicycle Shop in McMinnville, where Waste Management set up an account for Williams to order repair parts when needed.

Tommy's has also now become a supplier of used bikes and parts to Williams. Owner Patrick Vala Haynes said people often bring in broken bikes that they don't want to pay to fix up. Tommy's employees now send bikes they think Williams can use his way.

Lang said the account at Tommy's is paid out of the company's recycling budget.

"We love the idea because it reduces landfill waste and repurposes bikes for people in the community," Lang said. "It is an example of how one person with a constructive idea can make a big difference."

When he accumulated a good stock of bikes and parts, Williams contacted schools and other organizations asking if they know people in need of bicycles.

He gave two to Willamina High School for a physical education class, and, in return, received four in disrepair, and then gave a couple to a local rescue mission.

Then his wife, Sharon, learned about Darling's program from a neighbor's Facebook post. Williams contacted Darling and the rest, as they say, is history.

"It's turning out just a win-win situation," Williams said. "If these get back in the hands of needy families, that's my intent, so I'm happy."

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