Imagine walking into a warehouse full of bicycles: pink bikes, blue bikes, bikes with streamers, baskets, flowers and superheroes. Large bikes, small bikes, bikes with fat tires and cruisers with a vintage paint job. You feel like a kid again, and that is exactly how AJ Stapleton feels when he steps into the Project ReCycle warehouse. Fittingly, kids are the focus at Project ReCycle. Every weekend, volunteers head out to Englewood to fix up the bicycles that fill the warehouse so they can be donated to children whose families can’t afford bikes. How did this incredibly benevolent and genius concept come to our latest bike hero? It was nothing extraordinary…AJ simply saw a need and vowed to meet it.
While on the board of Inner City Health Center in 2008, AJ took part in their bike drive. The event was so popular that they ran out of bikes! Not wanting to see kids walk away without this all-important vehicle that provides fun, exercise, and transportation, AJ decided to set up his own initiative. Thus, Project ReCycle was born. The funny thing is, AJ was not too familiar with fixing bikes…. Luckily he knew some folks at Recycle Bicycles who taught him the basics and he was up and running in no time, and running faster than he could’ve imagined. In the first three years, Project ReCycle distributed 1,000+ bikes to needy kids. By the end of 2010, AJ and his friend Robert had started the non-profit 3t Ministry (the 3t comes from trash to treasure), with AJ at the helm as Executive Director. As AJ likes to explain, “It’s like the only thing I don’t own, and I work my ass off for it!” Now that’s a true labor of love!
We aren’t sure whether AJ’s entrepreneurial sprit stems from his Irish or Peruvian side, but maybe it’s a mix of both. We also couldn’t believe he has lived in the U.S. since 1984 but only really started commuting by bike and taking rides two years ago! It’s true that AJ has no problem jumping into things, especially when they make a difference. For instance, he sometimes requires groups who ask for donated bikes to earn them: perhaps a class of fifth graders will have to clean up trash in their neighborhood before receiving their bikes (and the shiny green helmet he provides with each bike). The best part is, once they grow out of their bikes, they can trade them in for replacements! Holding bike-fixing classes, developing a bike-fixing manual, and providing a free lock along with that helmet are just some other ideas AJ would like to implement.
By now, Project ReCycle has contributed 2,500+ bicycles to needy households. It sure has come along way since AJ, plus his friends and family, were servicing bikes in his garage! You can continue the tradition by putting your bike maintenance skills to use at the warehouse, donating your old bike at a drop-off location, or finding AJ’s crew at events around town. You can visit them online at www.projectrecycle.org. We thank AJ for providing this great service here in Denver, and hope his aspirations continue to become reality!
Check out the warehouse here!
Bike Hero of the Month Awards highlight different people each month, and help encourage other people to bike by telling the Hero’s personal story. The goal of the Bike Hero Awards Program is to showcase the diversity of citizen-cyclists and the people who support them in Denver.
BikeDenver’s Executive Director Piep van Heuven says: “We introduced the Bike Hero awards because we want to encourage a friendly environment for and public image of bicyclists in Denver. One of the ways we can do this is to showcase the different faces of and great stories about people in our community, like Chris, who ride bikes or help others get out there and ride. Through the Bike Hero awards, BikeDenver honors bicyclists of all ages and walks of life, from the first time bicyclist to the rain or shine bicyclist! We all know people (our neighbors, co-workers, family members or community leaders) who inspire us to reach for the handlebars instead of the car keys. Take a moment to look around you and help BikeDenver recognize the people in our community who are making a difference for Denver, one ride at a time!”
To nominate a Bike Hero, please send a photo and a brief description of why you think they should be recognized (100 words or less) to info(at)bikedenver.org.
We started naming Bike Heroes in 2010. Meet past honorees here:
Bicycle Village has been a Colorado owned and operated business for more than 30 years. From modest beginnings in an 1800 square ft. building in West Denver, Bicycle Village has grown into the largest bicycle retailer in the Rockies. www.bicyclevillage.com
BikeDenver is Denver’s bicycle advocacy organization. BikeDenver promotes and encourages bicycling in and around Denver and works to make Denver a better place to ride your bike for fun, recreation and transportation. Why? Because it’s healthy for you, and healthy for Denver. www.bikedenver.org