What do you get when you mix recycling, wheels and philanthropy? A rolling recycling bin for charity events? No - actually, a great community effort, called the Madison Bike Swap, spearheaded by my good friend Lisa Moro. Lisa has been running the bike swap for 11 years in our town of Madison NJ, giving neighbors a home for the bikes they have outgrown, and providing bikers with a bike to call their own. Keeping used bikes out of landfills - check! Reducing carbon emissions by riding your newly acquired, gently-used bike - for sure! And encouraging fun and fitness for those who purchase one – score!—all for a small fee of $10. Lisa organizes the well-attended event annually, with the help of her family and dedicated Bike Swappers who receive, clean and store the bikes, Central Avenue elementary school (CAS), who opens up their school for the event every year on a weekend in May, and generous individuals in town who volunteer to make sure the bikes are in good shape for their new owners.
Lending a helping hand for a new bike rider
The Madison NJ Bike Swap event
The Bike Swap also has a charitable aspect. Lisa has teamed up with a group called Peaceworks, who ships bicycles and other goods like school supplies, tools and sports equipment, to people in need in Nicaragua. On their website, https://peaceworks.org/shipments/, they give a great description of their humanitarian efforts. Their mission statement is "Supporting grassroots community organizations in Nicaragua and their efforts to overcome a history of poverty, violence against women and environmental destruction.” Leftover bikes not purchased at the Bike Swap are given to Peaceworks to add to their convoy of goods. And profits from the bike sales are donated to help with their efforts. This year, Lisa is also sharing a portion of the profits from the sale with a local cause. CAS has created a wonderful learning vegetable garden for the students, and part of the Bike Swap funds will be going toward maintaining it.
Getting bikes ready for the shipment in Plainfield, NJ. Photo credit- Peaceworks.org
Youth biking to school in rural Nicaragua. Photo credit - Peaceworks.org
Lisa kindly agreed to do a Q&A session with me to talk more about the Bike Swap.
Q: The Bike Swap connects many a happy customer with their own set of wheels. How many bikes do you usually have donated for the event, and how many do you sell?
A: that’s a tough question because every year before they leave my garage, they are counted but many folks bring bikes to sell the morning of so I usually lose a little track of it but approximately 100 bikes or more roll through every year.
Q: What was your inspiration to create this event, and what gives you the passion to keep you going year after year to make it happen?
A: that’s a funny question too. One Sunday night before garbage pick up, my then first grader (18 now) asked me why people were putting their bikes in the garbage, they looked perfectly fine? I said, I don’t know because kids grow out of their bikes but into another one year after year I suppose. I thought what a lame response that was! There has to be a way to keep these bikes rollin on the roads and out of the landfills? So I asked a couple of friends on the CAS PTO if they thought this idea to ask people to give me their used bikes and trade up in a form of a Swap was a good idea. I remember saying, I think it’s a win win for the planet and frugal parents, plus I wasn’t asking for volunteers just the space to do it. How could it fail? That was 11 years ago and I’m happy to say, it’s still pedaling on!
My inspiration comes from seeing kids ride their gently used bikes as if they were new, honestly they are so thrilled, it makes me smile. Also, seeing parents who come back every year to trade up or donate or just help out a kid with their bike, people helping each other and helping Peaceworks is my inspiration.
Q: What’s something that has happened at the bike swap, that when you think about it, it makes you smile?
A: honestly everything! Everyone is so gracious, it’s a real feel good morning.
Q: How did you become involved with Peaceworks? Please share about your relationship with, and your experiences with working with their organization.
A: Sal Piccolo, the previous owner of the Madison Bike Shop told me about them. Then I met and developed a friendship with Jim Burchell who founded Peaceworks. Jim came to every Bike Swap until sadly he passed a few years ago and now there’s a nice group of Peaceworks volunteers that come every year, most notably, Denis Johnston who now runs Peaceworks.
Q: Do you have any words of advice to someone who is looking to start their own bike swap in their town?
A: Absolutely I say yes go for it! I’ve had a lot of folks try it out in their town and I hope they do well.
If you live in the Madison, NJ area, the Bike Swap will be happening on Sunday, May 19th, 2019. Please check out this flyer for more details, and be inspired to reduce reuse- and re-cycle! The bike swap relies 100% on donations to make it successful, so if you have a used bike, please donate it and pay it forward!
Bunkybee celebrates people who pursue their passions for their pastimes. We think biking is definitely something to be passionate about! We believe in efforts like the Bike Swap that do good things in their communities, and for outreach missions to others. If you would like to support Peaceworks, you can make a donation by going to their website: https://peaceworks.org/donate/
And Bunkybee will be donating 10% of all sales from our bike-themed shirts to the Bike Swap efforts with the code BIKESWAP from May 1 until Aug 1 2019. (the Madison Bike Swap and Peaceworks are not promoting or affiliated with Bunkybee or our products)
Happy biking, and keep up the good work Lisa!
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