A working bicycle—and the ability and empowerment to work on it—can be one of the most empowering gifts to give. Anyone who’s ever thought, “Wheeeee!” coasting down a hill, or pedaled their way to work in the morning can vouch for that. So we’re pleased to announce that our next We Can Grant recipient is The Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub, or WRENCH, for short—a non-profit organization that creates stronger, healthier communities by removing barriers to building, repairing and maintaining bicycles with a focus on educating youth. The We Can Grant is a $10,000 award given to a non-profit for a project that will improve access to the outdoors in their community.
"Our selection committee was really excited by the quality of applicants and it was a long and hard process to narrow the field down to the four finalists," said Christian Folk, director of marketing at Outdoor Research. "The process culminated by the Outdoor Research staff voting for their recipient of choice, among four finalists. In the end, we’re super excited to award the WRENCH this year’s grant."
Any given day of the week, if you pop by The WRENCH, you’ll find folks either ready and waiting to help guide you in repairing your own bike, teach you how to build your own bike or teach you how to work on bikes for others. The vision? “A world where all people are empowered to use bicycles as transportation and have access to the space to learn bike repair skills regardless of their gender, age, income, ability, ethnicity, or geographic location.”
The WRENCH provides both education and training and resources. Like in the Earn A Bike workshops, where people who volunteer a few hours are able to co-build a bike which they then can take home with them for free. Or, the Mellow Velo workshop, an open shop day for women, trans and femme-identifying people to work on their bikes or get help with their bikes in a space that’s safe for people who might feel marginalized, intimidated and/or unsafe in macho, male-dominated spaces.
But all those resources cost money and labor. The WRENCH’s overhead is low because they use reclaimed materials and partner with the City of Winnipeg for reduced rent on shop space, says Patrick Krawec, Managing Director at The WRENCH. “But the demand for free [Earn a Bike] courses greatly outweighs the amount of time limited project funding available,” he says. “Every year the WRENCH has to turn down many schools because they can't afford a cost-recovery fee and the waiting list for free programming is 12 months long. The We Can Grant will allow us to build capacity in the schools that need it most and promote positive health outcomes in youth populations that are underrepresented in bicycle use.”
It’s through those school programs that the WRENCH has some of the biggest impact—helping at-risk, high-needs students find focus, participate and succeed. “One of our best kept secrets is that we are not about bicycles—we are about people,” Krawec says.
Congratulations, The WRENCH! We’re so excited to see all you do!
Photos courtesy of The Winnipeg Foundation and The WRENCH.