A member of the Covington, Maple Valley community is taking a negative from his past and turning it into a positive for youth in the area.
Brad Belcher, a retired Boeing technical designer, said he grew up in poverty and had his bike stolen at a young age.
When he and his family moved to Kent when he was younger, he became friends with some neighborhood kids whose parents let him take bike parts from their “scrap heap.” With the heap of scraps, Belcher was able to build his own, working bike.
Now, years later, Belcher has decided to create a nonprofit to help kids in need get the chance to have the freedom to ride a bike like he did.
His nonprofit is called Bicycle Rescue for Youth. He said he takes donated, used bikes and refurbishes them. Then he donates them to low-income children.
Belcher said the nonprofits mail goal is to battle childhood obesity.
“The obesity rate tends to be higher in the undeserved kids population,” he said.
The idea for his nonprofit came to him randomly one day.
“I used to see a lot of bikes on Craigslist (for) free and one day I was out on a bike ride and it kind of hit me, ‘Somebody should do something with those bikes,”’ he said. “So I was kind of kicking that around for about a year and I mentioned it to one of my doctors who has a degree in nonprofit management. She’s the one that suggested it would be a really good nonprofit. That’s kind where it all started at.”
Bicycle Rescue for Youth officially started up at the beginning of this year.
To make the nonprofit happen, Belcher was not able to act alone. He seeked help from Covington Rotary, Vine Maple Place, local police departments and King County.
“It’s kind of slow because I’m learning this stuff as I go. Being with Rotary helps, so we’ve got flyers out, we need to get more out there. We are gaining some momentum,” he explained. “We work with Vine Maple Place and we also work with the King County Sheriff and Maple Valley Police. We take their unclaimed bikes, because they don’t know what to do with them and then King County surplus warehouse, they get bikes off of metro buses. It’s amazing how many bikes get left on metro buses. They get like 3,000 a year.”
One way the Covington Rotary has been helping is by hosting a free raffle.
According to Belcher, he is donating five refurbished bikes to the Covington Rotary Fall Festival, which takes place Sept. 15. At the festival, kids will have the chance to enter a free raffle to win a bike.
So far, Belcher and three of his friends have only been able to refurbish 10 bikes, but all of this is done at Belcher’s house.
”For right now, all that (working on bikes) would still be at my house. I’ve got I think about 25 right now. Some of them are ready to be delivered and the rest of them are going to go through the process,” he said. “I’m kind of hoping I can figure out how to get some donated warehouse space and I’d like to stay in this area. So I don’t know how easy that would be.”
The three friends of his come out to help him often. Two of them come over to help at least once a week and then the other one comes over a least every three weeks, Belcher said.
He said his friends kind of work on the bikes while he finishes up needed paperwork and inventory.
Belcher said he hopes by giving these kids bikes, they will be impacted in a positive way.
“There’s that first taste of kind of freedom that comes with being with a bike. I mean even if you’re small, and you can only ride down the block, you’re still doing it — with your parents watching — but they’re not right there,” Belcher said. “I think it teaches them responsibility because they have to maintain it and if they don’t then it doesn’t work. That is going to be one of our programs down the road — teaching classes on how to maintain (bikes). I think that if someone shows interest in the kids, it will help them stay on a better path in life.”
For more information on Bicycle Rescue for Youth, got to their website at http://bicyclerescueforyouth.org/.