Volunteer fixes bicycles for the homeless

By day, Russell is a school teacher at Forest Lake Education Center. In his free time, he devotes countless hours to repairing bicycles for neighborhood children and others in need.

Have you ever wished you could reach out to a struggling friend, or offer the perfect “hand up” to someone in need? Perhaps, like so many, you were halted in your generous intentions by the haunting thoughts, “What can I do to help? What do I have to offer?”

At Coalition for the Homeless, we are grateful to have thousands of volunteers each year who find unique ways to meet the needs of our clients. One noteworthy example of our creative volunteers is Russell Durham’s bicycle repair.

By day, Russell is a school teacher at Forest Lake Education Center. In his free time, he devotes countless hours to repairing bicycles for neighborhood children and others in need.

“I’ve been repairing bikes nearly 20 years now,” Russell reflects. “Bikes are my hobby.” This seemingly forgotten trade has allowed Russell to make an impact on those around him, meeting a need few others would have even considered.

Over two years ago, Russell began consistently coming to the Coalition’s Men’s Pavilion to serve dinner with his church, the Markham Woods Church of Seventh-Day Adventist. For each monthly visit, Russell decided to bring a few repaired bikes to give away. The thoughtful man left the donated bikes with Coalition staff members, knowing they would be able to distribute the simple means of transportation to the men who needed it most.

Last year, Russell decided that providing a handful of repaired bikes each month was simply not enough to meet the need he observed at the Coalition. He realized the majority of clients in the Men’s Pavilion must rely on public transportation for travel to and from work or other appointments. Russell noted that even those lucky enough to have bicycles lacked the tools and resources to make simple repairs.

With both a problem and a solution in mind, Russell decided to begin hosting a quarterly bicycle repair day outside the Men’s Pavilion. The premise of repair day is simple: Russell loads his minivan with tools and spare parts, and the Coalition’s male clients line up to have a myriad of simple repairs completed on their means of transportation.

The enthusiastic repairman estimates that he has mended between 25 and 40 bikes on each of his repair days, but also admits that he has taken some of the bikes with more complicated repairs to his home workshop as well. That way, he ensures that the men receive their machine back in the best state possible.

Russell’s enthusiastic and frequent stories about volunteering at the Coalition make clear that he plans to continue utilizing his unique talent to improve the transportation means of homeless men for a long time to come. We are thrilled that this distinctive service can be offered to the clients staying in our Men’s Pavilion and hope that Russell’s story of tune-ups for a cause will inspire our community to discover how they can use their own area of interest to serve others.

Do you have a skill you’d like to share to help a neighbor in need? The Coalition is always open to those who wish to share their time and talent! Please visit our website for more details on getting involved and giving back.

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