What started as a few talented bike mechanics setting up small repair clinics throughout the community, has grown into a thriving shop providing bikes to those in need.
Rolling Horse was founded on the idea of getting talented people out into the community to do some good. “I’m a community developer and I work for a church in Oakville,” says Founder Paul Millar. “Part of my mandate is to take the skills, talent and abilities of people within the congregation and see how we can mobilize those skills to serve the community.”
Everything in the shop has been donated. “We don’t buy anything,” says Millar. Every bike is refurbished by the volunteer mechanics before being sold. “We actually started by giving bikes away, but quickly realized it wasn’t sustainable,” he says.
“People can come in and buy a bike from us, see that it’s going to be fixed up, even work on it themselves,” Millar says. “We let them know that buying a bike from us, will allow us to help more people.” All of the money made continues to cycle through the shop, funding outreach projects both near and far. Most recently, Rolling Horse travelled to the island nation of Haiti to start work on a new project.
“People with low income don’t imagine that they have the finances to help people,” says Millar.
A member of a Canadian NGO met Millar through his church; Forestview in Oakville. “Their mandate is to support people in skills and trade development,” says Millar. Working with farmers in Haiti, the NGO discovered the biggest disparity was that they lack transportation. So in partnering with Rolling Horse, they purchased bikes, packed a shipping container and sent it down. Millar and a couple of mechanics met the container in Haiti where they organized and serviced the bikes.
Rolling Horse has been around in some capacity of 6 years. Four years ago they set up shop in the Aldershot Bingo Hall. Things continued to grow from there and in 2014 after moving into the Next Door Social Space they were incorporated as a Not for Profit. Now, Millar says that they’re selling nearly 200 bikes per year. Every bike a donation; volunteers work tirelessly on servicing the bikes throughout the winter. They typically sell out of their first group of bikes in early May. People are putting in deposits and waiting 2-3 weeks for their bike.
The hard work put in by Rolling Horse has been getting noticed. In fact, the city reached out to them last year to bring in the Buddy Bike. Millar tells us this came about from the city’s Healthy Kids Program. They wanted something for kids with developmental disabilities as well. Enter the Buddy Bike.
The bike is a tandem with a few special features. “The child leads the ride,” says Millar. Sitting at the front, they handle bars follow to the back where Mom or Dad’s arms are almost wrapped around them. The pedals are on the same drive train, which allows the child to determine the speed of the ride. This bike can be borrowed for 1, 3 or 7 days. “The big thing for us is to keep getting the word out about the Buddy Bike,” says Millar.
Millar says the more people can spread the word the more they can continue to do within the community and abroad. They have also been working with Syrian refugees and their sponsoring families/agencies to provided bikes as well as the opportunity to volunteer as mechanics.
Some of these volunteer mechanics have overcome employment barriers going on to full-time work. “It’s not a planned program,” says Millar. “It’s just been a happy outcome.”
Keep spreading the word!
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