London couple steps up to help essential workers with transportation
LONDON, ONT. -- Finding safe transportation during the pandemic is difficult for many Londoners as some are afraid to board a crowded bus, or jump in a cab.
An addiction services worker named Jessica is one of them.
Looking for help, she reached out Monica and Shayne Hodgson, the founders of Big Bike Giveaway. The organization is currently helping people considered "essential workers" by giving them free bikes.
"I haven't been on a bike in years, and this will help so much," says Jessica, while picking up her new bicycle in east London.
Each fall, the Hodgsons give away hundreds of bikes to Londoners in need.
However, low-income workers deemed essential are the ones who need help the most. They can apply for a free bike.
"It started when a man named Christopher gave us a ring," says Monica Hodgson.
"He told us he worked at a grocery store between seven and eight in the morning, but now he starts at 5 a.m."
He figured if he had a bike, he could get there on his own.
The Hodgsons partnered decided to partner with Daniel Hall of Squeaky-Wheel Co-Op because he has a physical location for pick-up.
"We've taken about 40 bikes so far, but we have 60 or 70 people approved," says Hall, also the executive director of London Cycle Link.
"There is an overwhelming response of need. We've had people from pharmacies, front lines of healthcare, food takeout, and grocery stores apply."
The primary sponsor of the annual giveaway is the city of London.
It accepts donations at all four of EnviroDepots in the city, and if you drop off a working, used bike it will go to the Hodgsons.
"There is strict criteria to apply," says Hall.
"You have to be currently working in an essential service, and meet an income threshold to qualify as someone who needs a bike, not just wants a free bike."
On top of his regular job, Shayne would usually spend an additional forty or more hours a week fixing bikes. However with both the Hodgsons laid off right now, they can dedicate their full attention to the program.
"There is a great opportunity here as long as the community keeps donating, we can fix them and figure how to get them to the right people," says Monica.
"We definitely need more bikes now because we want to be prepared for giveaway in the fall. But we are also giving them to essential workers which will lower our stock, so we want to make sure we have them still coming in."
And as Jessica hopes on a bike for the first time in years, she now has peace of mind that she can get to work safely during these trying times.