“I am from Boston but call my accent Bostobama because people in Boston think I have a strong southern accent. I am a marine biologist and moved here eight years ago. I was glad to leave the cold, rain, and dirty snow. I found my calling helping the poor in Mobile through the Delta Bike Project and Delta Dogs. People here are so giving. I will post a need for dog food to help a poor person or that we need bikes for kids and when I get home and my porch is covered. My friend group is my family and I can’t image living anywhere else. We are trying to help Mobile be the city it can be.
The Delta Bike Project refurbishes used bikes and we sent out about 1200 bikes last year. All are donation bikes that help fill the transportation gap in Mobile. Most of the people coming to us have jobs and a roof over their heads. But they may not have power, running water, or gas. They work at the docks and construction but can’t afford a car or even to get their bike repaired. If you are riding your bike over 100 miles a week and you come here every time we are open to work on your bike, what does that say about you? You may not have taken a shower for days or have clean clothes, but you are maintaining your bicycle because that is the life force that gets you places. These are the people I care about. One gentleman had a stroke but rides his bike everywhere. Riding a bike isn’t recreational, it is survival. Some don’t even have the dollar for the bus or the bus is not convenient. We can’t forget these people in our community of poverty.
Some people get out of jail, walk here, and get a bike. This is their transition back to life. Randall was one of our first people who had been in jail for petty crimes. He got out and came to us on his way to the Salvation Army. He got a part-time job with his bike. He came back two months later with a full-time job that used his skills. He bought a new bike and gave his old bike to someone in else a the Salvation Army. I saw him one night just riding his bike for recreation. The last I heard he had a vehicle and a job and was living across. the bay. It all started with a bike.
We do a lot of education and teach people how to care for their bikes. We even teach adults how to ride. Our bikes are not handouts. Five hours of work earns a bike in our ‘Time is Money’ program. $10 an hour is the rate exchange. Need a five-dollar bike tube? Pick up trash around the city for 30 minutes and bring the full bag back. Sweep and clean bathrooms. There is always someone who stops to help us. Sometimes the payment is to do something nice for someone else. They always come back and tell me. We try to put good out in the world.
We fix thousand dollar bikes or $25 bikes and treat everyone the same. Bringing your bike here is a chance to get to know someone you normally wouldn’t cross paths with. The majority of people who come here are honest and treat everyone with respect. We have rules and structure and there are no drugs, alcohol or bad behavior here. I have known many of these guys for six years and always have snacks in case someone is hungry. Police officers often stop by and turn a wrench or check on us. We tune up the firefighters’ bikes before Mardi Gras and they help us with our events
We are opened Tuesdays and Sundays and sometimes have 60-70 people come through here on a busy week. We are all volunteers and I turn a mean wrench. I never dreamed I would be so at home with all of these tools. I would love to see us grow with hired staff so we can open more and increase our service to the community. Our limiters are time and money. We need more volunteers and donations. Gears and Beers is our big fundraiser. Thousands of riders and their friends and family come to Mobile for the four different bike rides. Many of them come from across the country and fall in love with Mobile when they get here. It is a massive event run by the greatest volunteers.
Veterinarian Jennifer Eiland and I started The Delta Dog Project when I realized the homeless and the people from the Delta Bike Project had nowhere to go for pet care. Another gap. We spay and neuter and provide flea and tick treatment and heartworm preventatives. The Mobile Witches Ride is the major fundraiser for Delta Dogs. I also rescue hound dogs and call my dogs ambassahounds. My real job is Acting Director of Program and Project Management under public works for the City of Mobile. I get to assist with the Three Mile Creek Greenway, St. Louis Street Upgrades and Broad Street project. These are good projects for the city and they keep me going.
Through work and volunteering, I get to see it all. Sometimes it gets overwhelming or tough to watch, but it always humbles me. There are big problems in Mobile, but there is no other place I have lived that has the ability to dig into something that isn’t being done and do it. Anything you want to do or help with, you can do it in Mobile.”
(This is the eleventh story in the series “The Souls of Mobile,” with people nominated because of the good they do for the city. Their faces are now part of the mural “The Souls of Mobile” that Ginger Woechan painted on Hayley’s Bar. This mural is a collaboration with the Mobile Arts Council.)