BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In the past year, close to 800 refugees have come to Western New York to call the Buffalo area home. One of the first things most have to do is find a job. But without cars to get them to work, their options can sometimes be limited.
That's why Wheels for Workers 716 takes in old bikes, fixes them, and gets them into the hands of local refugees.
"The bike lets them get to work, get to the grocery store - and they're two years away from having an automobile. They need to learn English, get a job - so a bike is freedom," explained John "Blue" Hannon, who started the organization.
The group will take any donated bike, fix it up, and get it into the hands of someone who desperately needs to get around. They call their volunteers "wrenches" - and they're ready to put in the work to get the bikes on the road.
"Some are really rough," laughed Mark Mitri. "We have to replace chains. They need tubes and tires. Brakes, shifters, to make them work right. Every bike gets fixed and is perfectly working when we take it back."
Brothers 21-year-old Ahmad and 19-year-old Mohammad came to the U.S. from Syria. They and their eight other family members were all given bikes to get around. The two oldest boys say they're eager to do whatever they need to to support their family.
"Any kind of job. Anything they can get to start working and help themselves and their family," they explained through a translator.
"We have restaurants and businesses and landscapers that need employees, but they can't get the employees to the job site,' explained Steve Biegner, the Pastor of St. Paul's Luteran Church. "So we're hoping this will help extend their radius of where they can go to find a job, so they can start plugging into the local economy and then also building a new life for their family"
The bikes have become such a hit that Andy Cammarata from Journey's End Refugee Services says they're delivered in the morning, and gone by the afternoon.
Because they go so quickly, Wheels for Workers is asking for your help. You can help by:
-You can drop off old bike at St. Paul's Lutheran Church at 4007 Main Street, Buffalo OR
-You can contact a volunteer on the Wheels for Workers Facebook page, and they will come pick up any bikes you have.
Repairing bikes costs money! Any donation you make will help the wrenches make improvements to donated bikes.
If you know how to repair bikes, or would like to help the organization, reach out to them today.