Port Colborne Optimists Keep Broken Spoke From Going Broke

Bike program at Port Colborne High keeps churning out new wheels

James Culic – Port Colborne Leader

When it came time for Aubrey Foley to check out the Broken Spoke’s finances last week, he was hit with a case of the bank account blues.

“I didn’t want to tell the kids this, but, we were down to just $117 in the Broken Spoke account when I checked,” said Foley, who volunteers his time to operate the Broken Spoke program at Port Colborne High School.

“There wasn’t going to be enough left to buy the next set of parts needed for the bikes.”

The Broken Spoke program is in its sixth year at Port High. In that time, the students there have donated 8,472 bicycles to people who need them.

“A lot of the people who we donate bikes to, they have jobs, but at the end of the month after they’ve paid the bills and bought the food, maybe there isn’t any money left over for a new bike for their child,” said Foley.

Despite the positive impact the program has in the community, the Broken Spoke remains chronically underfunded. The entire budget for the program is just $5,000 and about half of that goes to paying for gas for the truck used to collect the scrapped bikes.

“That truck out there makes a trip, every single day, out to a recycling facility to pick up more supplies,” said Foley. The Broken Spoke program has collected tens of thousands of bicycles from landfills (the Solid Waste Association of North America gave Broken Spoke the Silver Award of Excellence for their work removing bikes from landfills in 2018) and repurposes them into new bikes, stripping the good pieces, tossing away the bad parts, and putting them back together to make safe, affordable transportation for low-income families and charities.

When word of the Broken Spoke’s financial woes reached the Port Colborne Optimists Club, they sprung into action to make sure the wheels don’t fall off the program.

“Asking for help is hard, and I know Aubrey needed help but he wasn’t going to ask,” said Janet Pilon, president of the Port Colborne Optimists. On Friday the club resented Foley with a cheque for $1,000.

“This is going to make a huge difference for us,” said Foley. “We were down to our last box of brake wire.”

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