#Rebicycle

What does your bicycle mean to you?

Escape?          Fun?             Exercise?

Guess what your OLD bicycle could mean for someone in poverty?

Independence.     Freedom.       Empowerment.      Control.

Perhaps you’ve seen posts on Facebook or Twitter where we’ve mentioned the hashtag #rebicycle and you’ve wondered what it means. Or maybe you’ve just wondered “Does this guy even know how hashtags work?!” (Incidentally, no, I do not.)

ReBicycle is an idea that has grown from a “What if…” to a “How could we…” and into a “When can we…” ReBicycle is about freedom given. ReBicycle is a chance for folks with very little to get a bicycle and potentially change the way that they experience life.

In Louisville, when the Burrito Riders org was very young, we got to thinking about empowering the people we were serving, going beyond the burrito, into something bigger and impacting lives more deeply. There was this idea that if we could pass along a bicycle, it would potentially make a big difference in the life of a homeless or impoverished person. If someone can’t even afford to ride the bus, how will they make it to work if they get a job? How will they make it to doctor’s appointments to take care of themselves? Even for getting basic services, the Huntington DHHR office is way down in the west end, a sizable hike from downtown.

We saw this one weekend during a Burrito Ride: Ryan meets Ray on a burrito ride one morning. Ray laments that he’s found work that he can do, day labor stuff, but that if he can’t figure out how to get himself down there reliably he’ll lose the opportunity for the work. The bus doesn’t go to where he needs to go, and they don’t go much of anywhere when he needs to go. Need work to escape poverty, too impoverished to get to work. Ryan finds a bike “free to good home” and makes the decision to rehab this free bike and gift it to Ray.

This was unofficially our first ReBicycle gift; we just didn’t know it yet.

So, what is ReBicycle anyway? It’s a way for people in the community to get a bike of their own, in part by giving back. This bicycle could be a way for them to find work, meet obligations, perhaps even just enjoy the pleasure that comes with riding a bicycle and feeling a sense of freedom. The way our program is sketched out at the moment is that we’ll provide opportunities for folks to give volunteer service in the community, a minimum of 10 hours, followed by a “workshop” which will be used to provide bike safety, maintenance, and riding information. After completion the participant will have earned their own bicycle. We have begun a list of folks interested in participation, begun collecting bikes and associated materials, and are in talks for a space to set up “shop” in.

Here’s where we need you. Help us spread the word! We need:

  • Donations of funds to buy supplies that can’t or won’t be donated.
  • Used bicycles to refurb and give out.
  • Helmets, because safety!
  • Decent locks so that they can protect their new bike (non-negotiable).
  • Tools, supplies for the shop.
  • You to volunteer your time (and maybe tools) on the mechanical and labor end of things!

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 21st, we will be doing our first ever ReBicycle Outreach event!  The Burrito Riders will be at Harmony House from 4:30pm until 6:ish providing free basic repairs and maintenance: fixing flats, adjusting shifters/brakes, chains, basically anything that we have the tools and parts to take care of. It’s not too late to donate for this first outreach. If you have tools, parts, or anything that will help us in our goal of repairing bikes for our community, please let us know and we’ll appreciate it so much!

Help us hit the ground running! The Burrito Riders have already given out a handful of bikes informally and seen the joy and purpose that accompany those bicycles in their new life. This is the beginning of ReBicycle, but it may also be the beginning of something much bigger in the community. Everyone has something to give… What have you got?

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Plateaus

The now disbanded Campbell Camp in Lou.l

The now disbanded Campbell Camp in Lou.l

Almost two years ago, Amanda found a very interesting article in “Taste of Home” magazine. Many of you have heard our origin story, but, if you haven’t, you should. To make a long story short, we had this fascinating idea for serving in the community in a unique way.  We just needed to figure out how to implement it and see if it had legs. For the next four months we batted ideas around while I tried to build up the nerve to give it a shot. Finally, it was through the urging of our church “small group” that we made a go of it.

It was the first of many pivotal moments in our lives as an organization. We rode that first morning unsure of how to approach people, what to say, and how not to pre-judge, but eager to do something positive for someone, through making human connections. We started with ten burritos that first morning, had 21 the next week, and 30 the ride after that.  As of today, while operating in two cities, the Burrito Riders have provided nearly 8000 hot breakfast burritos! More importantly, we have made many human connections, flowing in all directions. As much as we treasure the relationships that we set out to create with the folks whom we serve, we have, in some instances, been surprised by the friendships that we have developed with people whom we have come to know through serving together. Strangers have become friends; friends have become closer friends.

I wanted to reach out and share my gratitude to you for being a supporter of the Burrito Riders.  Over the past 15 months we have had so many wonderful opportunities to become involved with so many great volunteers, and we couldn’t do a fraction of what we do without the help of each one of them! Even better, our volunteers have made it possible for us to do the work we came here to do.

Our formula is simple, but our mission is more complex. From our perspective, the burritos, while important for providing a portable, healthy, and filling meal, are merely a vehicle to help us arrive at our true destination, which is building relationships within the community of need and showing God’s love. We want to learn names and histories, so that we can build trust and begin to understand how we can help individuals at a ground level.  The burritos help us gain access to folks. And that help isn’t always overt, and that’s great too. As mentioned in our last blog post, sometimes that help takes the form of showing respect, love, and compassion in mundane ways, such as enjoying live music together with our families.  Activities such as these show people who come from very different circumstances that we are not, in fact, so different from each other in the hopes that they will begin to reclaim some of dignity that is so quickly taken away from people who find themselves homeless or in need of support.

Here’s where we need your help. We need people; we need all of your friends and families! We need folks to do what they can, and there’s something for everyone to do.

We need, first and foremost, burritos. Can you, or someone you know, make a batch? Even better, can you AND someone you know get together, spending time together, to make a few batches? Perhaps you could involve your boy scout troop, church youth group, or college study group. Without burritos we are without our most basic element, and they are the foundation upon which we have built a reputation of consistency, reliability, and trust.  This ensures that we will always be welcomed by new people. We have had a tough time of late gaining new volunteers and re-engaging previous volunteers. Can you help us as we work to climb off of this plateau we’ve found ourselves on?

We need donations. Donations are key for us, and I’ll highlight just two reasons why here. We sometimes have people who passionately want to serve and are willing to roll burritos, but can’t afford to contribute themselves. (Hello, college students!) So we reach into our donated funds to buy the necessary ingredients in order to enable them to serve too. This is a GREAT thing to be able to do, just one of the many ways we work to make it as easy and exciting to serve as we are able.  When volunteers ebb, we sometimes have to encourage more students to help us in this capacity, and we’ve had to do that a lot more lately. We also plan to begin fundraising to enable us to establish 501(c)(3) federal non-profit tax-exempt status. Our hope is that by becoming a 501, we will be able to generate larger donations of food and resources from companies who have deeper pockets but need that tax relief. These types of donors could help us go far in our goals of providing relief and compassion, but the process to become a 501 is not inexpensive.

We need voices.  This is something that most everyone can help with. We need people to take on our mission for spreading the word of the Burrito Riders. We need people who will provide us with some exposure through social media (relentlessly Share us on FaceBook, RT us on Twitter), who will post about our blog for others to see, who will email their friends and family about us, who will TALK about us to their friends, their dentist, their neighbors, their coworkers. If you shared our ministry with 25 people and 2 people contacted us, that would be so worthwhile for the people in our community. (And seriously, tell your dentist about us! We always need hygiene items!)

You have helped us go so far, further than I could have envisioned early on with this project, but that’s just helped us to see how much more we can do and how much our community needs.

Spread the word, fly the flag, #loveservegive

To donate for the Louisville community: http://fnd.us/c/fIcmf

To donate for the Huntington community: http://fnd.us/c/5QSi6

You can also check out some of our media activity since we began!

 – http://wfpl.org/post/louisvilles-burrito-riders-deliver-hundreds-breakfasts-and-more-homeless

 – http://www.herald-dispatch.com/features/x1272701913/Bicycling-group-delivers-burritos-to-Huntingtons-homeless-and-hungry

 – http://www.marshallparthenon.com/burrito-riders-to-start-servicing-huntington-1.2815465#.UcpYxZXT20I

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Our People

Live Music Thursday

Live Music Thursday

This past week has been pretty phenomenal. Starting with last Saturday, some really exciting things have taken place. Every ride is awesome, because every time we go out we are bringing together the opportunities both to serve and to bond with our team. We are surrounded by some very incredible and generous folks who we are blessed to be associated with. Before I go on too long, one of the most fun aspects of this most recent ride was getting to see Brennan and Fiona serve together! Hand two 6 year old girls a bag of burritos and wind ’em up! They were awesome and it was so great to watch them give, and to see how their presence impacted all of the people around them. They were beaming and seemed to be very proud to be helping out. Obviously the moms and dads involved were VERY proud. (Anyone who knows Brennan will easily be able to picture her, the consummate pro with one Burrito Ride under her belt already, taking Fiona by the hand and mother-henning her about everything she has to look forward to and every thing that they need to do!)

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 12.32.16 AM

So that was fabulous and fun. I also had the opportunity to meet Missy Browning (finally!) and all of the amazing folks behind Marshall University’s Med School field operations. It was pretty intense to see their set-up with the tents and the mobile unit, all of the Med Students volunteering their time to help and gain some great experience. Obviously I was so impressed that I completely neglected to take ANY pictures. I’m getting better about documenting though, I promise. Anyhoo, these folks are doing a great service within the community by coming out on the 4th Saturday of each month and providing a wide spectrum of on-the-spot medical care and check-ups. You kinda have to see it in action to believe it!

This, you know about the BR: Our formula is simple, but our mission is more complex. From our perspective, the burritos, while important for providing a healthy and filling meal, are merely a vehicle to help us arrive at our true destination, which is building relationships within the community of need and showing God’s love. We want to learn names and histories, so that we can build trust and begin to understand how we can help individuals at the ground level. (I would say that it’s NOT actually about the Burrito at all, but be on the look-out for Amanda’s upcoming blog post contradicting this statement.)

First off, I love that Huntington is displaying a burgeoning vitality. There is a new, growing energy in the 304 and it’s a welcome feeling. We have a ways to go, but we’re headed in the right direction. One of the growing community activities is the Live Music Thursdays down at Pullman Square. Free music, lots of folks out milling about (and the occasional line dance too), people enjoying downtown again. Here is where we have observed something else that has been awesome this week.

Through the BR and through our involvement with Harmony House we have begun to know the folks who we serve. We get to spend time talking with them and getting to know their stories and their circumstances, our raison d’être. Thursdays at Pullman has become another opportunity for fellowship within the community! We go down and know that we’re going to see folks like Robert, Stan, and others. It’s very nice to be able to spend time with them, as peers, introducing them to our kids and family, enjoying music with them while we chat, and just doing the kinds of simple things that friends do. And then this happens too…

FBphoto

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6/18 Updates

The Latest!

Headline News

We’ve been covered in an awesome piece by WFPL reporter Laura Valentine. We were very excited to see our piece published AND excited all over again to see the post get picked up and shared by NPR on their Facebook page! Please check out the story and share/RT/email/pass it on so we can generate some new, interested volunteers!

We are at a point where we need to develop some new volunteers to help us serve our communities. Please help us spread the word so that we might connect with someone new who would like to make burritos with us! 

Latest updates…

  1. Come serve! The BR always needs volunteers to make burritos and/or to ride with us, connecting with the community. Ride, roll, donate, or just however you feel moved to serve!

    Our next ride in Huntington is THISSaturday, 6/22. Email huntington@burritoriders.org to ride or help provide support, you can ride or roll burritos, or both. Always the 2nd and 4th Saturdays in Htgn.

    Our next ride in Louisville is July 6th, email louisville@burritoriders.org to ride with us or help provide support for that event. Again, we need riders, burrito rollers, or folks who would like to rock out on both! Always the 1st and 3rd Saturdays in the ‘Ville.

  2. We’re hoping to help raise some donations of household items forHarmony House in Huntington! As they transition homeless folks into apartments, they need housewares, furniture, everything you can think of for setting up house.Contact us to help, or Harmony House directly, but please help!

  3. Bicycles are in our DNA and we want to help get more of them into our communities in need. A bicycle can provide someone with a sense of independence, empowerment, pride, and accomplishment. Do YOU have an old bicycle that we can breathe new life into and then provide for someone in our community of need? We’d like to hear from you!

  4. Twitter us! We’re @burritoriders, so come follow us, retweet us, help us grow that segment too.

  5. And, as always, check out our site for links on how to donate, our wish list,how to serveget a shirt, and all the latest stuff.

There is a whole lot more for us to do and we need your help, so Come Give Some!Forward this email!

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Analysis Paralysis

This is a long overdue post to the blog, I know. We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to grow this effort. We have arrived at a point where we have a very passionate, faithful group of volunteers who are shouldering a pretty consistent piece of the work that we do in our communities. We now find ourselves asking the age-old question “Have we plateau’d, and, if so, now what?”

It’s not just a Burrito Riders question, and it’s not just within our community. The larger question is, “How do we step outside of ourselves and begin walking with others?” It’s not always easy to do, but it’s almost always easier than we think it will be. Sometimes it looks like the hardest thing to do. Consider this passage, a verse from 1st John featured on one of our Burrito Riders labels.

          This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.              1 John 3:16

That sounds huge, right?! Jesus had it wired. He definitely knew what needed to be done, but am I really supposed to lay down MY life for others? I’m going to interpret this in a very non-scholarly fashion, because you know that I’m no theologian. Don’t think of it as hurling yourself in front of a metaphorical cross-town bus to spare the person who’s stumbled in the crosswalk. Rather, consider laying down an element of your life for your brothers and sisters. Think of something that you really enjoy, a part of your routine that is just sacred. Maybe you really enjoy sleeping in on Saturday and then a leisurely cup (or 6) of coffee (I know I totally do). Maybe Friday night is your out-on-the-town night, your chance to blow off some steam. Can you lay that down for someone else? Can you sacrifice a piece of your routine in order to make time for someone else? Perhaps you can set aside the fact that you guard your weekends after a long work week, and volunteer with a group. Perhaps you forgo sleeping in on Saturday because you realize that your getting up early to help at the mission or shelter could mean the world to someone who doesn’t even know yet that they needed to see you there, for them.

Maybe it’s more complex than simply giving up some patio time, a hobby, or a guilty pleasure. Maybe we need to lay down something that resides much deeper inside of you. Have you ever heard of the concept of “analysis paralysis?” Loosely defined, it’s the idea that we sometimes get so wound-up about every little piece of a complex problem or we gaze as far as we can see up the steep slope of the job ahead of us that we get locked up and frustrated. As a result, we’re often defeated before we even start. It’s okay to admit it. I do this all of the time. I try to be better, bolder in the face of adversity, but I still struggle with avoidance when the mountain looks too high to tackle.

Perhaps lay down the insecurity in your life, so that you can pick up something that’s been weighing on your brother or sister. And when you do start to feel that anxiety creep in, the surety that you can’t possibly do enough to help (so why bother doing anything, really?), it’s okay to acknowledge that you have limits and that you can’t possibly fix everything for everyone. But you can fix one thing, or maybe a handful of things, for one person or one couple or one family. Do for one what you wish you could do for many. I can’t buy everyone’s food and solve world hunger, but I can buy lunch for one person today who needs it. I can’t fix the school system’s budget crisis, but I can buy school supplies for a family.

We are not all well off. Many of us can’t afford that new iPhone or TV. Many of us would love to run downtown and buy a new bicycle, but that’s expensive and, really, our 7 year old bike is just fine. A lot of us can’t spare the cash to take our spouse or date to a movie. Sometimes we really have to think hard about whether or not we should spend $6 on a drink at Starbucks, delicious though it is. Despite all of this, we have so much more than so many people and none of these things matter to someone who has no safe place to sleep at night or can’t buy dinner for his family or can’t buy shoes that fit for his child.

Have you priced a pair of kids’ shoes at Walmart? You can probably afford to help that one kid, and those shoes are better than any iPhone to that child.

What can you do for one person? It might be a person in your life who needs you or it might be for a person you haven’t yet met. Open yourself up to the possibility.

This is the part where I remind you that the Burrito Riders are an awesome way to connect with someone. The burritos are pretty cheap to make and they are the tool we use to make friends. Our formula seems simple (ride bikes, give out burritos to hungry folks), but our mission is more complex. We enter with the burrito so that we can become friends. The burrito is the handshake upon which we begin building relationships, through respect and trust, so that we can show God’s love. Once we have begun to learn people’s names and situations, we can start to see what the opportunities are to help individuals at the ground level, one person at a time.

And if not the Burrito Riders, there are opportunities within your life to begin to get involved in the life of one other person, no matter how small or how insignificant the gesture may seem to you. It may mean everything to someone with nothing.

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Rain or shine

raindrops

When it rains it pours, eh? This past weekend I had the wonderful fortune to make it to Louisville for a Burrito Ride with my LouCrew and the weather was pretty awful, but the ride was still pretty wonderful.

This past weekend’s ride in the Lou was exceptional for a couple of different reasons. First off, we had a burrito deficit leading up to the ride. Come Thursday we were like “Hmmm… where are all of the burritos going to come from?” I put the call out on the wire and God provided, but I have a theory about that provision. The community made it rain burritos on us, probably to the tune of about 250+ hot breakfast burritos.  However,  just so we wouldn’t get too cocky, God gave us a nice cold rain to ride in to, you know, keep us humble. 😉 I had company, but there was no misery to be seen. Curt, Richie, Stephanie and I were moistened, but not dampened. (I could do this all day!)

John and Maya came out for the send-off and brought us more burritos, and we were joined by WFPL reporter Laura Valentine! Laura has long been interested in what we do and has wanted to join us, but work gets in the way. She was able to make magic on this morning, however, and came out to record our ride and spend some time with us post-ride so we could share about the BR for what will hopefully become a broadcast story on 89.3! This was a great time, but we’ll get to that.

It was just so great to be back in the 502 and hanging out at our regular stops with folks I hadn’t seen in months. True to form, I, when given an opportunity to be on the news, will somehow embarrass myself and the BR! This latest opportunity was owed to my being challenged to a Vanilla Ice-off by one of our regulars. I was able to rock out the entire first verse, handing him the second, which he nailed. Never a dull moment on the ride, eh? (Laura, edit kindly!)

Prior to my Vanilla Ice moment, I had the opportunity to meet Julia, or “Smurf,” as she’s known on the street. Amazing to get to hear from her and understand even a small part of what she’s endured on the street. She’s been homeless since November and is trying to get herself back together. She wanted to speak to me about getting a donated bike. While she wanted one very much, she was more insistent that she be able to get one for her friend, if at all possible. Her friend recently managed to get a job, but was struggling to make the long walk across town to work. Smurf also told me about some of the challenges that she faces as a woman on the street and what she sees as obstacles for women and families. Her biggest desire, as she tells it to me, is to get back on her feet and work her way into an opportunity to try and create a day shelter that is for women and children. She lamented that on Saturdays the only day shelter that welcomes women is Jeff Street, and they close at noon. She had no idea what she was going to do to stay warm and dry after she left Jeff St.

We talk to folks like this all of the time, people who want better and desperately seek opportunities to make it better.

My cognitive dissonance moment of the day was brought to us by the 139th Kentucky Derby. It was discomfortingly surreal to be riding through downtown, in the rain, looking for folks to serve and to see all of the folks in expensive clothes and cars, at expensive restaurants and hotels, preparing for a lavish afternoon of leisure, seemingly oblivious to those in need around them. This isn’t a righteous indignation rant, but we (myself included here!) do spend so much money and attention on things that are not even important, like the newest gadget, home decor, and excessive wardrobes. We do not give nearly enough. These rides have changed my family’s perspective in so many ways.

Give. Serve. Love. For real. (lecture over)

So, we had a really great ride with some awesome folks, and we capped it with a stop at our regular coffee joint, Please & Thank You. The 5 of us enjoyed some coffee and come company and had a great time being interviewed for the local public radio. We love to talk about the BR, so you know we had a good time. 😉 If the segment gets picked up for broadcast, I’ll let you know right here and on our FB pages for Lou and the H.

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment, and we’d love to serve with you! Give us a holla!

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More from Amanda…

We’ve had a busy week since our first ride on the 13th.  As I mentioned in the very long blog post (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), Tim made a connection with a couple, Bill and Amanda, that had been living in a sub-camp of sorts down by the river.  We met back up with a few of the people living in the camp later that day to drop off some water, some brand new and super sturdy moving blankets donated by an awesome member of our Revolution community in Louisville, and a few canned goods.  While speaking with them, we discovered that their camp had recently been burnt in retaliation for the actions of someone living at the camp at the time.  It was heart breaking to hear them tell of losing all they had.  They were fortunate to have a camp stove, but the vandal used their white gas for the stove to further fuel the fire.  They lost all but what they were wearing at the time.  One of the men had recently been gifted a leather biker jacket by “Papa Bear,” a leader among the Bikers for Christ.  He spoke of how wearing the jacket made him feel good about himself and like he “was somebody.”  That about brought me to tears.

Tim called in to check on the group Saturday night and was shocked to discover that their camp had again been burnt.  They had hoped to call us, but our business card was burned up along with their stuff.  There was a freeze warning issued for Friday night, so Tim and Edison headed down to the park with more blankets and a huge care package put together by Tim’s sister Paige that included pillows, clothing for the lone woman in the camp, food, and hygiene items.  Tim and Edison asked if they had considered moving the camp.  They have been looking for a new site, but areas free from police intervention are few and far between.  They have also seen some things in other camps that they consider to be disturbing, so they are understandably fearful of joining them.  There is good news from this group though.  The aforementioned couple is moving to Las Vegas at the end of the month, where Bill has family and a job awaiting him.  A local pastor purchased bus tickets for them, so they are hopefully on their way to a life off of the streets.

Stories like those shared by Bill and Amanda continue to amaze me.  Before Burrito Riders I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the hurdles marginalized people face, the structural inequality that oppresses them in the everyday.  I was wrong.  I didn’t even begin to have a grasp of their experience.  I still don’t.  However, I hope to continue learning so that I can find additional ways to serve.

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