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OUR HISTORY

On Wednesday, June 21 of 2017, Glen Sanders and his 18 year-old son, Cordell, packed up 112 bicycles in two 10-foot U-hauls. Rich Gigliotti and Adam Swartz, two other members of Calvin Church in Zelienople, joined them as they set off on a 1300 mile trip to South Dakota. Twenty hours later they arrived in the village of Wanblee located on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Ten years after their first trip to South Dakota, Glen and Cordell were finally seeing the culmination of a vision that started with a car that refused to start.

Back in 2007, this father and son had set out on a bonding vacation that had no plan except to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota. When they arrived, they set up camp and played the tourist by panning for gold at a gold mine. As they were ready to head back to their campsite, the car wouldn’t start. Thankfully, Glen was able to make contact with an old college friend, Adrianne, who met them at the gold mine and drove them to Rapid City where the car had been towed for repair.

 

Adrianne had been married to a Lakota man who grew up on Pine Ridge Reservation. Adrianne was running a nonprofit that provides Christmas gifts and meals to the Lakota people. Glen was eager to learn more. Days later, after the car was finally repaired, Glen and Cordell needed to return home. Before they left, Glen asked Adrianne if there was anything more that the Lakota people needed that they couldn’t provide with the nonprofit. He was told they need bicycles. Adults can use bikes to travel to and from the ranches where they are employed. Without transportation, residents of the reservation have a hard time staying employed and the nearest convenient store, offering basic necessities, is a mile away. Also, bikes provide healthy recreation, socialization and enjoyment for children.

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Glen and Cordell Sanders during their first distribution day.

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Lakota children receiving bikes on a distribution day.

During the return trip, Glen had a lot of time to think about all he had learned and that unique need for bicycles. Over the years whenever his son outgrew a bike, they would take a walk on garbage night. There was no problem finding a bike Cordell liked within two blocks of their home. Glen would make the necessary repairs—a new inner tube or brake pads—and Cordell had a new bike. Glen thought if we throw away so many bikes in our community, why not collect them and take them out to the reservation? Glen called his friend, Adrianne, in South Dakota and was given the name of Ari Rooks. He and Ari started a conversation that would put the wheels into motion but with many obstacles yet to overcome.

 

Glen figured this would be a great project for the boys at George Junior Republic in Grove City, the school where he is on staff as fine arts director. And certainly his church, Calvin, would see it as a great opportunity for mission. He pitched his idea and both groups agreed it was an interesting project, but politely declined getting involved. Glen had to tell Ari that there would be no bikes arriving anytime soon.

 

Then Glen discovered that Robert Stubenbort, a member at Calvin, was involved in raising money to fabricate special needs bikes. Glen eagerly shared his idea of providing bikes for Pine Ridge Reservation with Robert. It was quite a while later that Robert got back to Glen saying that he felt Calvin Church should reconsider taking up this cause. Glen again approached George Junior Republic and they agreed to get involved as long as the activity occurred off campus.

 

Glen had created a piece of artwork for the rails to trails project in Greenville, PA. Glen’s contact person was Fred Kiser who is a member of the Mercer Bike Association. Fred invited Glen to pitch his idea to the association and he got a positive response. They would help support the repairing and delivering of bikes to the Lakota people. All they needed was a place to repair and store the bikes. Glen approached a new business, Sweet Jeanie’s, in Grove City and was given permission to use their very large basement.

Finding places to store the bikes, during and after repair work, is an ongoing challenge.

Just about this time, Calvin Church was starting to collect bikes, so the new space was greatly needed. Gary Semrac, also a member of the Mercer Bike Association, became the master bike wrench—the name given to bike mechanics. Glen began bringing young men from George Junior Republic to work on the bikes.

 

So in May of 2016, Glen was finally able to share the good news with Ari Rooks—bikes would be arriving at Pine Ridge Reservation in the summer of 2017. Glen would see his grown son passing out bikes to children and families on the reservation. And members from Calvin Church would make the trip with them.

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Calvin Church members begin loading bikes for a trip to South Dakota. This container serves as storage for repaired bikes.

In 2021, Without Reservations member, David Wuchina, reached out to another bike mission, Communicycle in Aliquippa. David got to know the organization by volunteering at bike repair events where Communicycle volunteers teach community members how to repair bikes—teaching skills and empowering individuals. Communicycle collects used bikes and bike parts in order to repair and refurbish bicycles to give to those who do not have a bike to ride. They offset expenses by collecting scrap metal and running their organization primarily by volunteers.

 

Soon after Communicycle learned about the work of Without Reservations, they led a bike repair session in Calvin’s Fellowship Hall. On two succeeding Sundays, groups from Calvin repaired WR bikes in the Communicycle shop in Monaca. They also ran a bike repair workshop for the students at George Junior Republic so kids could be outfitted for bikes on the campus.

 

In 2022, Communicycle provided a trailer that was used to deliver bikes to South Dakota. And they began donating bicycles to Without Reservations ensuring that there are always enough of every size.

 

It is believed that a growing partnership between Without Reservations and Communicycle will provide bicycles and training opportunities for individuals in communities in both Beaver and Butler Counties.

 

Since those first bikes got delivered in 2017, there has been a trip every summer involving four to twelve participants each trip. Hundreds of refurbished bikes have been delivered to the reservation. And the project got a name—Without Reservations. Over the years the work of Without Reservations has evolved with more and more individuals playing important roles and becoming an official mission point for Calvin Church.

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During a distribution day, Calvin Church members David Wuchina and Adam Swartz prepare a bike for its new owner. 

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