In addition to shipping bikes to our partners abroad, Working Bikes also donates repaired bicycles in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs through numerous partner organizations. These include health focused institutions (veteran hospitals, health and human service agencies), transitional housing facilities, youth organizations, community centers, and schools.
In a typical year, Working Bikes donates between 800-1,000 bicycles to individuals through this program. In addition to a bicycle, local donation recipients receive a helmet and a u-lock, and are welcome to bring their bike to us within the first year if service is needed.
An eligible bike donation candidate:
• Is inhibited from buying a bike due to low income or other situational barriers.
• Has a need for a bike; needs include general transportation or recreation/physical activity.
How to Apply
AS OF AUGUST, 2017: DUE TO THE HIGH NUMBER OF APPLICANTS, WE WILL TEMPORARILY NO LONGER BE ACCEPTING NEW REFERRALS.
• An organization or individual contacts Working Bikes by phone, email, or in-person to request a bicycle.
An applicant must submit a referral form from a social worker, case manager, or representative and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Once the application is turned in, they will be put on a waitlist. It can take up to a month for an applicant to receive a bike depending on how many people currently are on the list.
• Working Bikes requests a $20 copay to offset the costs of the program; the copay is frequently paid by the partner organization or waived.
• Applicant or their case worker/referrer has four weeks from the date Working Bikes contacts them to pickup a bike. If not, the applicant will lose their place on the waitlist and have to go through the referral process again.
• Typically the applicant comes to Working Bikes’ shop at 2434 S. Western Avenue in Chicago during its open hours. Occasionally Working Bikes delivers the bikes to the partner organization if they are requesting more than one bicycle.
Working Bikes partners with a wide range of community groups and social service organizations in the Chicago area, including the Chicago Help Initiative, Renaissance Social Services, Heartland Alliance, Refugee One, Rehabilitative Systems, the T.A.G. Foundation, Mercy Housing, Better Boys Foundation, Hines Veteran Hospital, the Salvation Army, and World Relief.
The Chicago Help Initiative (formerly HELP), one of our most long-standing partners, has hosted a bike giveaway for its meal recipients every year since 2005:
“At the 2002 New Year’s Eve supper, HELP asked their guests to make a wish that they thought HELP would be able to fulfill for them. Several of the requests were for bicycles. It took a bit of research, but HELP found an avid bicyclist, who is a member of Working Bikes, to get this program rolling (pun intended). The members of Working Bikes collect abandoned bikes from high-rise bike rooms on the Near North Side of Chicago, refurbish them, and donate them to worthy causes. HELP was delighted to be one of their recipients and make some dreams come true for their Wednesday night supper guests in 2005.
Our first bike fair took place on Saturday, May 14, 2005, at the parking lot facilities of Catholic Charities, located on the Southeast corner of La Salle and Erie Streets, from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Bikes were distributed to guests who signed up for one at a Wednesday meal prior to the event. Recipients had to demonstrate that they could ride a bike and they were instructed in The Rules of the Road for Bike Safety. The fair was so successful that we held a second one in October.
The City of Chicago requirement that anyone distributing bikes to individuals must provide a helmet and a lock was satisfied by generous donations of the HELP Board and HELP volunteers and friends.
Seeing our guests ride away with a smile on their face made us realize that, for many locked in the negative spiral of their lives, riding a bike gave them a sense of freedom and owning one allowed them to know the pride of ownership.”