There’s not many things that come close to seeing a child’s face light up when they get their first bicycle. However, sometimes, due to financial reasons, there are many children whose families do not have the capacity to give them that experience during their youth. In 2008, Albert ‘AJ’ Stapleton, co-founder of Project ReCycle, decided he wanted to change that fact and make more bikes available to kids who would not otherwise have one.
Started as a hobby, Stapleton reflected on first wanting to do Project Recycle as a part-time gig. ”I was working a regular job at the time and I knew I wanted to do something to help kids get bikes,” he said. The thought came to Stapleton after taking a class through the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.
“When I took the class I was exposed to a lot of problems with Colorado education, displacement of children, etc. All those issues started to fester inside me,” noted Stapleton.
Shortly after, he was invited to be on the board of the Inner City Health Center; an organization that provides clinical health services for the uninsured and under-served. While there, Stapleton came in contact with kids who couldn’t get to school easily because they needed a bike.
“After experiencing poverty and seeing kids wanting bikes for transportation and how disappointed they were when there were no bikes left…it broke my heart. So I thought, I’m going to focus on doing this in my spare time,” Stapleton remembers.
Then in 2010, after his ‘side’ project gained non-profit status, Project ReCycle began to pick up steam. As months and years passed, he kept running his business to bring in income. But as support for his non-profit grew, last year, he was finally able to sell his business to and focus all his energy on the project.
One of the deciding factors that helped him reach his goal was meeting and joining forces with Jeff Fleck and his organization. “He was doing something similar and was giving away bikes to kids for Christmas,” said Stapleton, “I was focusing on doing bikes for schools.” By combining their collective resources, the program suddenly exploded.
As things continued to blossom, their original space started to fill up with bikes, causing them to experience some growing pains. Busting at the seams, their landlord, at the time, decided to sell the space, forcing Stapleton to put his feelers out for a new location. That’s when they came across a prime space opening up at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital; the fourth floor warehouse they now call home.
Donated bikes come to the warehouse after they are picked up from drop-off locations all around the metro area. Once a week, they use their truck to collect bikes that people have left for donation at nearby bike shops and and stores like Walmart. “Bikes that can be repaired come to the warehouse (at Adventist Hospital),” he said, “After that, they are evaluated by our mechanics to see that they meet standards and can be repaired so they can get donated to a child who needs it.”
Of course teaching the child about safety on the bicycle is a priority when they receive it. “Along with the bike they get a brand new helmet and lock to go along with their bicycles,” stated Stapleton. They are also taught how to use hand signals when turning, along with other rules of the road when riding their new bike.
Through the efforts of Project ReCycle and similar organizations, he has seen the benefits of how the gift of a bicycle can change a kid’s life. “Research also shows that kids are falling behind because they are simply not making it to school.” noted Stapleton, “The truth is, just giving them a bicycle, a mode of transportation, that can get them to school, increases their grades.”
But rather than just giving away the bikes, they have set up a system where the kids earn the bikes. “It’s motivation for them and it gives them the responsibility they need to make it to school, get better grades and be respectful,” he stated.
Likewise, Stapleton can’t say enough about how community involvement has kept them afloat. Coming up, residents have the opportunity to participate in their Gear and Grubs event on July 19th. “Tony’s Market provides the food for the 26 mile ride – the money that people pay to register goes to getting more bicycles,” he said.
And because he is all about spreading ‘the love,’ he wants to make sure that Project Recycle also help other organizations in realizing their missions. “We support around 23 different local organizations such as Douglas Elbert County Task Force, Women’s Crisis Center and Bikes for Humanity. We’re the ones who provide them with bikes when they need us,” smiled Stapleton. “We are just doing our part.”
To find out more about Project Recycle events, donating a bicycle and supporting their mission, visit: www.projectrecycle.org
9220 Kimmer Drive, Suite 135
Lone Tree, CO 80124