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02.12.2004 Diaspora News

Bikes lost in Park Ridge are finding way to W. Africa

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Park Ridge, IL -- Several bicycles found abandoned recently in Park Ridge are on their way to the West African country of Ghana where they are expected to be delivered to communities and citizens who need them most.

Park Ridge resident Lowell Nelson picked up eight bikes from the Park Ridge Police Department last month for donation to the Chicago-based Working Bikes Cooperative.

Working Bikes is a non-profit organization that recycles bicycles and their parts and ships them to countries like Ghana, Kenya, Nicaragua and Cuba. The organization's web site claims that since 2001, thousands of bicycles have been shipped overseas.

Volunteers like Nelson deliver bicycles to the organization's warehouse in Chicago and prepare them for shipping, which is what Nelson did with the bicycles he collected from the Park Ridge Police.

"We're like bike missionaries," Nelson said. He explained that volunteers for Working Bikes collect bikes that have been thrown away, abandoned or sent to scrap yards.

Jerry Holub, community service manager for the Park Ridge Police Department, said the bikes Nelson picked up last week had been either found by the police or turned into the department as missing or lost property.

"Generally, with whatever is unclaimed, we try to find a source that will recycle or reuse the bikes other than having them wind up in a Dumpster," Holub said.

This is the second time unclaimed bicycles have been donated to Working Bikes, he added. Nelson had been involved in the first pick-up as well.

The Park Ridge Police Department has also donated unclaimed bicycles to local organizations like Maryville Academy, Holub said.

"As long as we have an interest, we'd like them to go to a good home," he said.

Nelson, an avid bicyclist, learned about Working Bikes through his participation in a monthly downtown Chicago biking expedition called Critical Mass.

"I've gotten involved in biking projects and this is just one of several interesting volunteer opportunities that are around," Nelson explained

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