By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
With a wrench, a pair of tubes and some grease – actual and elbow – a 2007 McNary High School grad is making the world a better place one bicycle at a time.
Austin Rogerson’s fledgling interest in bicycles turned into a full-on passion after arriving at college in Boise, Idaho.
“I worked as a work-study student for the College of Business at Boise State University, and nearly all of my coworkers were cyclists throughout the year. They rode their bikes to work, they went mountain biking during lunch breaks and they did extended bike rides on the weekend,” he said.
He’s kept up his interest riding in two Ironman races, in the mountains and foothills around his Boise home and by commuting via pedal power to his job as an interactive marketing specialist for the Idaho Lottery.
It was while he was working on his own bike at Boise Bicycle Project (BBP), a cooperative dedicated to spreading bicycle knowledge and usage, that the idea for his latest pursuit struck him.
“BBP taught me so much of what I’ve learned today. I’ve always had the desire to help others and, for quite some time, I’ve been looking for a way that I can do so that fits my life. That’s where I came up with Bicycles are Blessings,” Rogerson said.
He was already the go-to guy when friends needed a hand whipping their rides into shape or simply getting a tune-up, and he was more than willing to help.
“It was the joy that I felt when fixing up these bikes for others, that made me curious if there was more to this passion than just tuning up my own bikes or those for people close to me,” he said.
Rogerson started out looking for older bikes and working them back to street-worthy condition. He turned to Craiglist for bikes that others were giving away for free and it wasn’t long before he’d started up a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bicyclesareblessings), where he could share his ideas about what he wanted to do. At that point friends, and friends-of-friends, began searching their garages for old bikes and reaching out to Rogerson offering them as donations to Bicycles are Blessings.
With a bit of a backlog in stock, the costs to repair the bikes (typically new chains and tire tubes), were mounting. In December, Rogerson launched a gofundme campaign with a goal of $500. He met it in four days.
“I was absolutely in awe and overly encouraged! It made me realize how special the program I started truly was. People understood what I was doing and they realized how it could impact others and our Boise community in an amazing way,” Rogerson said.
While he fixes or repairs the immediate concerns with each new intake, he overhauls every bike in the hope that they’ll continue working for years down the road.
Recipients have included members of his church, Revolution 22, Love Inc., a faith-based organization with a mission to mobilize local churches to transform lives and community, and friends who were unable to afford new bikes for their own children.
“For each bicycle that I give, I pray considerably about it. There are so many people who are in need of a bicycle and, for that reason, I ask the Lord who needs it most right now and that prayer has always been answered,” Rogerson said.
His goal is to meet everyone who receives one of the bikes so that he can write about the experience for his Facebook followers.
The most powerful delivery so far was a birthday gift for a friend.
“Several months before, her bicycle was broken and stolen, which had been a joy to her and an option for transportation,” he said. “A group of her closest friends brainstormed ideas for her birthday. Everyone decided it had to be something special, something that would truly make an impact on her life.”
He’s regifted seven bikes in the past two months with several more in the works, but he plans to continue his work for as long as he possibly can.
“Reactions of others, their thankfulness, their gratitude; this is one large reason that keeps me motivated and encouraged to continue what I’m doing. The fruits of my labor are blessing others in beautiful ways,” Rogerson said.