Old bikes transform to provide a new lease on life

On any given day, Geoff Heath sees a couple dozen bikes get a new lease on life. Heath is the Educational Director of The Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub, otherwise known as The WRENCH. But, the organization that started in 2010, is not just about bikes. “It’s the work we do with people that really makes a difference in the community,” says Heath, proudly.

Almost 300 volunteers form the backbone of The WRENCH. During the year, this volunteer force helps run a wide variety of community programs with the end goal of providing people with an affordable, sustainable, active transportation option, where people are empowered to experience their community by bicycle.

Roughly 3,500 bikes a year, are processed through The WRENCH, many diverted from landfill sites. The WRENCH takes old, found, abandoned, scrapped and donated bikes and re-builds them, providing new life to a bike, and new wheels and skills to people in the community.

The WRENCH Winnipeg cycling

On average, 250kg of greenhouse gas emissions are created when producing a brand new bike. When you take an old bike out of the waste stream, you effectively offset that cost. Multiply that by the thousands of bikes The WRENCH saves each year and you get a significant positive impact on the environment.

But the real beauty of The WRENCH is measured on the human side. “Something pretty magical happens when you create a free community space for people to come learn from each other and provide the tools to act on that new knowledge,” says Heath. “The personal connections those people make and the experiences they share become just as important as the hands-on work they do together.”

Currently, The WRENCH runs almost a dozen community programs. The Earn-a-Bike program works with kids who are often having trouble succeeding in school. The kids pick out a bike and are taught to re-build it. At the end of the sessions, they get the bike, a new helmet, lights, and a lock. The Youth Bike Builder program works with kids who are interested in employment building bikes. It’s a highly intensive course where kids strip down two bikes and completely re-build them from the ground up. At the end of the 24-class session, they get one bike for themselves and one bike to sell, and they get to keep the proceeds.

The WRENCH also has a public drop-in program, a reclamation program, a fleet program, and Mellow Vello, a program exclusively for women, trans, non-binary, two-spirit and femme-identifying individuals that allows access to the tools, parts, and knowledge needed to repair bicycles. The WRENCH also refurbishes hundreds of salvaged bikes a year for resale at an affordable price.  Their social enterprise bike-building program, Upcycle, rebuilds these bikes for resale at their summer satellite location, The WRENCH at The Forks.

One of the more popular programs offered is called Traditional Trails. The Indigenous-led tours share Indigenous knowledge during a bike ride along a dedicated path. At designated stops during the ride, Elders or Knowledge Keepers explain Indigenous history, stories, and ways of living and learning.

ACU has been a part of this vital organization from day one and plans to continue supporting the resulting positive impact that benefits the community, while making a significant contribution to environmental sustainability.

“When it came to choosing a bank to work with, ACU was our obvious choice thanks to all the work they do to support the non-profit community,” said Heath.  “Over the years ACU has helped us develop our financial tools and knowledge, helped with promoting our events, has contributed as a corporate event sponsor, and helped us improve the organization through community development grants,” says Heath.  “Whenever we have a new staff member or participant who faces barriers to accessing a bank account, we know we can take them to ACU and their employees do a great job working with them to overcome those barriers and help them access financial services,” he added.

Given the success of The WRENCH, it’s not surprising that it’s looking to expand its space and programming to create even more impact.

You can find out more by visiting thewrench.ca

Congratulations to The WRENCH on the tenth year of their “Cycle of Giving” charitable campaign, to help support their initiatives and build an even more bike-friendly city. To learn more and to make your pledge, visit the “Cycle of Giving” page here.

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