Got wheels? Want to be a winner? Roll on over to Wheels for Winners this weekend for a 24-hour festival of grease, gears and goodwill. From noon on Saturday, July 28 until noon on Sunday, volunteers at the 2nd Annual Wrench-A-Thon will be working over its stockpile of used bikes to rebuild, reuse, and re-cycle.
"Last year was pretty successful," says Dar Ward, an activist for the biking community. "When we started, the shop was full of unrepaired bikes. By the time we were done, it was almost cleared out."
Tuned-up bikes are given to Dane County residents, mostly kids, who have the need, the need for two-wheeled speed. To earn a bike one must complete 15 hours of service work such as helping a neighbor with housework, reading to younger kids, volunteering at a bike-safety rodeo, or helping to stock a food pantry. Kids can also qualify by satisfying the requirements of a reading program. More stories about the project over the last year can also be found on the Wheels for Winners blog.
This year's Wrench-A-Thon, co-sponsored by Community Shares of Wisconsin, will have live music, light refreshments, kid-bike races, and an open forum for anyone who wants to learn about do-it-yourself bike repair. If you're not handy with a wrench, Ward says, you can always lend a helping hand by sorting parts.
Wheels for Winners, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, aims to give away 200 fully reconditioned bikes a year. Ward, secretary on the board of directors, estimates that perhaps twice that many make it through the shop annually. Some are donated to other organizations. "We try to refurbish everything that we can," Ward says. "If parts are reusable then we strip the parts and inventory those for other bikes."
Wheels for Winners was founded in 1992. There have been a revolving set of about 30 volunteers, says Ward, but they are always looking for more. The group's repair shop office is currently open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30 to 4 p.m. The shop/office is located at 2310 Pennsylvania Ave. in Madison, between Third and Sixth Streets, southwest of the Oscar Mayer plant.
"We are always looking for people who can help out," says Ward. "Even if you don't have a lot of experience fixing bikes, it is a great place to learn."