When you think of magical transportation around the holiday season, a sleigh and reindeer might be the first thing that springs to mind. Even though the streets are ice-covered and snow-dusted, the Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub, better known as the W.R.E.N.C.H., is planning 24 hours of bike-making magic. On Dec. 15 and 16, the Atomic Centre at 167 Logan Ave. will turn into a workshop filled with volunteer bike mechanic elves.
For the second year in a row the W.R.E.N.C.H. is collecting donations of bikes, wheels, bike parts, and cash to build over 200 bicycles for Winnipeg children in need. Aside from a new set of wheels, the bikes also come equipped with lights and locks to help keep their new riders and their bikes safe. This year they are also hoping to send each bike out with a helmet thanks to a partnership with Active and Safe Kids Manitoba.
Organizer Greg Unger says it all started last year when fellow W.R.E.N.C.H. staff member Pat Krawec was feeling the Christmas spirit. It was a success and they were able to make the holiday memorable for a total of 245 children.
“He came up with the idea quite late in the year and we busted our butts to put it together in a month,” says Unger.
“Today is Black Friday and it is just the most depressing, suicidally consumeristic time of year,” says Krawec. “When you work in back alleys and garbage dumps like I do, you see so many kids’ bikes crying out to be fixed up. This is the opposite of that consumerism.”
The W.R.E.N.C.H works with organizations in the inner city like North End Women’s Centre and Art City to distribute the bikes to low-income families, so they can gift their children with the bikes that they would otherwise be unable to afford. Some community partners, like the NEEDS Centre, saved theirs until spring when the W.R.E.N.C.H staff could custom-fit, size, and tune-up the bikes for kids. Krawec says that they were ecstatically happy – and with good cause. Most of the children are receiving their first bike ever thanks to the marathon.
This kind of holiday miracle doesn’t come on its own – the support of the community is needed to help put this generosity to work. Unger says they need 75 volunteers with all kinds of skill sets to help make the workshop a success. Whether you can fix a bike, ride one to test it out, clean it up, or write a card, no skill is overlooked. Bands are also welcome to donate their skills to help entertain the volunteers during the marathon. Even cooking up some finger food for the volunteers or serving as a hospitality guide to help boost morale is a huge help.
Of course, monetary donations are also more than welcome to help provide locks, lights, helmets, and to help support the education that the W.R.E.N.C.H and other bike hubs do year-round.
Volunteer Will Belford is helping out because of his skills in bike mechanics and is trying to beat his bike-building record and make eight bikes in his shift. There is also a rumour that the staff of Natural Cycle—where Belford works—and Bespoke Cycle are having a build-off to see who can get more staff out and more bikes built.
Friendly competition aside, this is really a chance for everyone to contribute something meaningful to an often wasteful season.
“While everyone is buying and destroying our planet as fast as we can, there is something great about healing waste with human hands and mindful work,” says Krawec.
Unger and Krawec say they can use any skill, so email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know what they you can do – they will find a use for you.