It’s a motto made famous by Rotary International, but its simplicity and direction speaks to the core truth and mission of the Community Bicycle Center, a youth program based in Biddeford serving at-risk kids throughout York County: Service Above Self.
Clearly the community believes in it too, because it turned out in full force Nov. 10 for the CBC’s third annual benefit auction, “Building Bikes, Building Futures,” hosted by Motorland Vintage America gallery and showroom in the historic Pepperell Mill campus in Biddeford. Organizers said the event raised more than $5,000.
“We think what the Community Bike Center does in the community and what they do for kids is so important,” said Tim Stentiford, owner of the new Motorland Vintage America, an urbane gallery of Americana and vintage cars. “We are glad to support this effort.”
More than 150 people filled this loft space adorned with antique cars, splashes of pop culture and World War II memorabilia, including an armored car and a small exhibit titled “Life on the Homefront,” featuring ration books, comfort pillows and newspapers blaring daily updates from the front lines. Rows of silent auction items were carefully perused while local musician Jeff Cusack provided an upbeat, tuneful backdrop. Original artwork, including custom bike wheel art, was auctioned off in a lively exchange.
Holly Culloton, board president of Heart of Biddeford, praised the work of the center and its founder, Andy Greif. “The Community Bike Center works with at-risk children to develop life skills, bicycle safety, and participate in the Trek Across Maine,” she explained. “Andy is so devoted to this program and kids love him. What a great thing it is.”
“People think I’m this great cyclist,” said Greif, a former geologist specializing in petroleum exploration and co-founder of Community Bicycle Center, or CBC, as it’s also known. “I’m not. It’s just a tool, a way of connecting and working with kids.”
What Greif sees as a tool you can be certain the kids he mentors see as more like a lifeline. Exposed to harsh realities in their daily lives ranging from poverty and emotional disengagement to a lack of support and encouragement at home, the Community Bike Center welcomes kids of all ages, and its programs are free.
With accolades like a Lifetime Achievement Award from Trek Across Maine and a Youth Advocacy Award from the American Lung Association of Maine, the CBC has touched thousands of young lives with programs like Earn-a-Bike, Bike Doctor and a Girls’ Empowerment Group. It has also provided countless opportunities for kids to flourish, including learning how to repair and recondition bicycles, not only for themselves and the CBC fleet but also for young people in neighborhoods with no access to the center.
“The kids all know it’s a safe place and that everyone cares about them,” said fellow co-founder and current CBC volunteer Al Zullo. “I’ve seen quite a few of the kids support each other in ways I never saw when I was a kid. It’s kind of a melting pot…adults and kids from every walk of life supporting and participating in this program.”
With more than 1,100 kids served since the CBC became incorporated in 2006, Matt Perkins’ story is perhaps not all that unusual.
“I was introduced to CBC when I was in fourth-grade, and I’ve been coming since then, pretty much every day,” said Matt, who is now in eighth-grade. “I volunteer by helping people repair their bikes. It’s helped me to be more patient, and it helps me with my problem solving. It’s taught me I’m a hands-on learner.”
“The things they are leaving with can never be taken away,” said Greif, referring to Matt. “Community service, confidence, the ability to teach others, public speaking, focus, leadership, the Trek Across Maine… As we challenge them, they keep challenging us.”
For more information about the Community Bicycle Center, please visit www.communitybike.net.
Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at: