When Vermillion Police Department captain Chad Passick received an accidental email about a bicycle recycling program he thought of an idea and knew just who to call.
“Someone had sent an email that was intended for staff at the Vermillion, Ohio police department and included a description of a program that they were involved with that I thought had some interesting components,” Passick said. “I felt like it might be a good fit in our community, so I reached out to Kevin Brady as I knew that he is somebody who is interested in all things bicycles.”
Brady is on the board of directors as a ride director for the Barking Dog Cycling Club, a cycling group in Vermillion, and has worked with the Vermillion Police Department in the past to organize cycling events.
After being contacted by Passick, Brady decided to establish ReCycle 605 and take on the project of repairing abandoned bicycles around Vermillion to redistribute them to those in need.
“I am always looking for a mission project, I don’t know it’s just kind of by nature,” Brady said. “Our church does a lot of mission type work and I had thought about it for quite a while actually because I knew the Dakota’s conference of the United Methodist Church would be willing to potentially give money, it’s called a link grant that the Dakota’s Methodist Church gives out.”
The United Methodist Church gave Brady $500 in seed money to start co-op and he began collecting the abandoned bikes through the Vermillion and University of South Dakota police departments with the intent to repair and be redistributed to those in need of a form of transportation. People are also encouraged to donate bikes they no longer use.
“What we are trying to accomplish is take abandoned or lightly used bicycles and recycle them so we can redistribute them to those who are in need of a bicycle or transportation,” Brady said. “Currently, we are receiving bicycles from the Vermillion Police Department that have been abandoned for a certain period of time.”
For a bike to be considered abandoned the police departments will leave it in place for a certain period of time depending on where the bike is located.
“If a bicycle is left in a bike rack at an apartment complex, for instance, it may take a longer period of time to demonstrate that it was abandoned there as opposed to one locked to a pole in the downtown area. To a certain extent we just employ reason and discretion in those circumstances,” Passick said.
According to Passick, it is estimated that anywhere from 60-100 abandoned bikes are collected around Vermillion each year. The bikes are placed in a storage unit, which is cleaned out twice per year.
“About twice a year we clean out our storage location of abandoned bicycles,” he said. “One time a year we typically donate them to a service organization, such as Kevin is starting, and the other time during the spring they are typically auctioned at the city’s auction.”
So far, ReCycle 605 has collected around 45 bikes from VPD with about equal amount waiting to be picked up at the University Police Department. The bikes are currently being stored in Wilharm’s garage until a more permanent location is found.
“The main thing for us would be to have a physical location to do the work and at the same time it would be nice if we could also serve as a store front sort of speak,” Brady said. “(It) doesn’t have to be a prime location, but just somewhere so people know we exist and people can come and talk to us to either fill out an application of volunteer to help.”
The amount of time to fix a bike depends heavily on what is wrong with it and the expertise of the volunteers. Some bikes may just need new pedals, or oiled chains, but some of the bikes collected will not be able to be recycled completely, though some parts may still be useable.
“Sometimes we might be taking two bikes to make one or in the worst case scenario maybe three bikes to make one, but we should be able to use parts off everything we receive for the most part, unless it’s in really, really bad shape,” Brady said.
The redistributing of the bikes will require an application and will be based on a first-come-first-serve basis. Those receiving the bikes will have the opportunity to fix other bikes as a form of payment, or exchange the bike for money.
“We’re primarily focusing on youth and people who need alternative transportation who might have just been released form a long stint in jail who need to get to a job and don’t have a car,” said Jessi Wilharm, co-founder of ReCycle 605. “What we’d ultimately love to do is have a youth program and have kids fix bikes up and give them a sense of pride in what they are doing and learn a skill that the same time.”
Providing a bicycle as transportation to people who may not be able to afford a car would allow for a viable mode of transportation, especially in a town like Vermillion.
“That’s the nice thing about Vermillion because it is so small,” Brady said. “You can actually get everywhere on a bike, you can do everything on a bike.”
Wilharm says having the youth program can also show younger residents that a car is not the only option of transportation within the town.
“Create awareness in the community that biking is a viable option and to teach kids and youth that would don’t have to drive everywhere, but you don’t have to walk either,” she said. “It’s a great way to be healthy, have fun, transportation, whatever.”
ReCycle 605 has not started fixing bikes because of the cold weather, but right now Brady and Wilharm are working towards a 501c3 status to operate as a non-profit organization, so people who donate any items are able to write it off as tax exempt.
“We would love to receive monetary donations or any tools, any bike parts. We would accept pretty much anything,” Brady said. “We are running under the hospices of the United Methodist Church right now, so we do have tax exempt status, but we are just trying to become our own separate entity that’s non-profit.”
On April 23, ReCycle 605 will hold a fundraising event called the Dirty Dog, a bicycle relay race held in the demo derby area at the fairgrounds. The event is corresponding with Earth Day to also try and raise awareness for alternative transportation while raising money for the co-op.
“It will be an exciting event for the community and for people around the area who are looking for a fun thing to do on a weekend in April,” Brady said.