Toll Gate High School seniors are looking for old bikes to repair and sent to those in need.
For their class community service project, the Class of 2014 are going to spend the year collecting bicycles to give to Bikes Not Bombs, a Boston-based non-profit that sends them to developing countries to promote social change or uses them in their Boston-based youth program.
President of the student committee Bikes Not Bombs at Toll Gate Max Lupovitz explained that the non-profit looks for schools to organize bike drives, asking each school to have a goal of collecting 50 bikes. In the spring, the organization will collect the bikes and send them to an international partner in Africa, Latin America or the Caribbean; others will stay in Boston.
Lupovitz explained that the benefits of this unique service project are two-fold; they are helping to provide jobs and skills for the people working in the international partners' organizations and providing valuable means of transportation for people in the area.
Transportation can be difficult in developing countries because many important services are not in walking distance, but owning a car is very expensive. According to the Bikes Not Bombs website, providing bicycles at a subsidized cost and providing basic maintenance training at the international partners for workers will allow people in those areas to have access to education, health care, markets, jobs and more.
Bikes Not Bombs collects the bikes and will send them to international partners along with tools, parts and field workers. Those field workers will then train individuals in the area in bike maintenance.
“I like knowing my direct action here at Toll Gate can directly help someone in Africa,” said Lupovitz.
Bikes Not Bombs was formed in 1984 in response to the United States military backing Contra attacks in Nicaragua; the name comes from the fact that the organization was bringing bikes to the same locations the military was sending bombs. According to their website, the organization collects roughly 6,000 bikes each year, as well as bike parts. The bikes are sent to other countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean through the international program, used to teach teens bike safety and mechanics skills through the Youth Program in Boston, or are reconditioned and sold in the Bikes Not Bombs retail shop. Sales from the retail shop fund youth and international work; the shop also employs many of the former Youth Program members.
Any and all types of bikes are accepted (mountain, kids, adult, etc.) and they can be in any condition. The students in Toll Gate’s Technology classes will be making repairs to any of the bikes that need them.
Lupovitz says the class does not plan on putting any money into repairing the bikes but if small tools or parts are needed, they will consider it.
“Hopefully, we’ll try to avoid putting money into it,” he said.
Lupovitz is spearheading this effort with the help of the committee’s vice president Sarah Sagnella and the Class of 2014 Class President Kyle Gray. Sophomore Michael DePardo is also helping the committee by lending his graphic design skills to create advertisements. Technology teacher Dennis Dubee serves as the group’s advisor and the one who suggested Bikes For Bombs in the first place.
“I heard about it on NPR,” explained Dubee, who brought the idea to his students.
Gray said the senior class is required to complete a community service project, and they liked that not many people had heard about this non-profit and their work.
“That’s why we wanted to do it,” said Gray of the project. “It was so different.”
The group has yet to fully implement their advertising campaign, but through Facebook posts to their class page and word of mouth, they have already collected 25 bikes in just a few weeks from current and former students.
“I donated my old bike,” said Sagnella. “It was too small for me.”
“By word of mouth, the response has been great,” said Dubee.
The committee is still putting together mass emails to the student body, planning to make calls to students in the community, and other forms of outreach. They are also looking to come up with an incentive for students to bring in their bike, such as a pass for something or a special day they can wear a hat in school.
“Our goal was to get a minimum of 50 bikes, but if we got 500, we have the space and the manpower to handle that,” said Dubee.
Dubee explained that bikes can be donated by calling him to set up a pick-up or drop-off, or people can simply drop the bikes off in a designated area behind the school in the faculty parking lot. There is a fenced-in area, and the committee has a sign reading “Bike Drop-Off” set up.
“Bring it here, we’ll help unload it. They don’t have to do much,” said Gray, who added that he is willing to pick up bikes because he has a truck.
For more information about Toll Gate's drive or to arrange to drop off a bike, call Dennis Dubee at 734-3300, ext. 238. For more information about Bikes Not Bombs, see their website www.bikesnotbombs.org