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Uphill Climb

Uphill Climb: Recycle Bicycle must pedal quickly to find new home.

Recycle Bicycle has been putting wheels to pavement for over 20 years, but the nonprofit now has to roll out and find a new place to call home.

For the past four years, the community group has operated out of an old warehouse on the 2200-block of Atlas Street in Harrisburg. But the building recently sold, leaving founder Ross Willard with the task of having to relocate–quickly.

“I would like to find a permanent home right away,” he said.

Recycle Bicycle serves the community by giving bicycles to those in need of one and by training people to be able to build and repair their own bikes. They receive unwanted or abandoned bikes and also register them with the Harrisburg Police Bureau. Willard has been retired for years, but he runs the shop like a full-time job, with volunteers from the community to help out.

At Atlas Street, Recycle Bicycle has paid no rent, so was able to save up about $150,000—a majority from donations. However, they were never able to find a suitable building to purchase.

“We’ve been aggressively looking for a new place since 2017,” said Jenifer Donnelly, a volunteer of four years. “We’ve been campaigning for capital.”

It’s been about six weeks since Willard got the news that they needed to move out, and he’s been up and down the city hunting for somewhere to house the hundreds of bikes currently in their shop.

“Are you familiar with every back alley in the city?” he said jokingly. “Because I am!”

Ross Willard stands near a pile of donated bicycles.

They have some prospects right now, like an old post office, a former machine shop and some warehouses, but they’ve been getting a few no’s and a lot of unanswered calls. Willard estimated that he’s toured the insides of about a dozen places.

He hope to find a building ranging from 5,000 to 6,000 square feet and also emphasized the necessity of it being on a slow, safe street for young riders.

Willard has already started clearing out bikes, but you can hardly tell. A mountain of donated bikes fills the first floor. If they don’t find a place before they’re forced to leave, they may have to revert to operating as a mobile repair shop, Willard explained.

In order to clear out the warehouse, Recycle Bicycle is working even harder to find other agencies and organizations to give bikes to. However, all the bikes they give out need to be repaired and ready to use safely, he explained. Because of this, Willard is in need of more volunteers.

The move is no small feat. It took 30 days to move everything into the current warehouse, and Willard expects no less this time around. He is hopeful that he will find a place soon, so he can get back to his main focus—making bikes safe for Harrisburg kids.

“We’ve outlasted a lot of other nonprofits in the area,” he explained. “Now, we need a place that’s going to outlast us.”

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