Working for The Northwest Hub, Salem's community bicycle shop, means Jesus Gutierrez spends a lot of time around two wheelers.
But he is quick to emphasize that the reward he gets from his work is all about people.
"The reason I work at Northwest Hub is not about the bikes," Gutierrez said. "It's the people that come to us. It might be a homeless veteran or a single mother, somebody who is trying to get their life together, get back on their feet. A single act (of working with them) and a single bike can be an important step."
Gutierrez teammed up with his cohort, Larry White, and traveled up the road to Woodburn on a wet Wednesday, Feb. 5, where they set up an impromptu shop in front of AWARE Food Bank. Their services included free bicycle repairs for people without income and reduced repairs for those with an EBT card.
Included among their visitors that day were a couple of homeless men, with whom they made arrangements that are characteristic of NW Hub; a person volunteers eight hours of time working with them and they get a bicycle, lock and light. Gutierrez noted that often public safety entities can also round up a helmet for them as well.
Gutierrez interviewed both men and discovered they were well spoken and well educated. Each had come by his situation differently; one sustained an injury that precluded his working, leading to a lost job and eventually lost housing.
It's a common story.
The Hub, which is a not-for-profit, full-service bicycle shop, is familiar with the scene as often the only means of transportation someone has available is that bike, a crucial conveyance to get to needed services, supplies or to work.
"I've seen people who have volunteered, gotten that bike and really got things back together," Gutierrez said. "I've seen people go from being on the street or being on drugs to getting a job, an apartment – getting back on their feet."
He stressed that with the volunteer program, the first and most-crucial element for the volunteer is validation; having someone take the time to recognize that person and work with him.
The visit to Woodburn is not NW Hub's first, nor will it be the last. In addition to stopping in at AWARE, where they plan to make a monthly date for it, they have also provided their services and St. Luke's Catholic Church.
Another aspect of the NW Hub outreach takes place at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility.
"They (MacLaren youth) get some bikes from us and fix them as much as they can, and then they return them back to us," Gutierrez said.
Selling bicycles at its north Salem location is one of the fundraising methods that keeps NW Hub afloat. It also provides a variety of in-shop repair services, in keeping with its humanitarian motto: "We believe that every bicycle, like every person, has a history and deserves a future."
A donated Cherriots bus boosted the group's outreach to places like Woodburn and Mount Angel, affording bike mechanics like Gutierrez and White transportation with all the necessary tools and parts.
"I really like coming up here to Woodburn, in general, because – I wouldn't say that it is ignored – I'd say there are many more resources available to people in Salem," Gutierrez said while showing the bus. "This helps us get resources up here and provide services for people who need it. It could be a farmworker; it could be a student -- anyone with such a need."
Who: The Northwest Hub cycling center
What: a full-service, not-for-profit bicycle shop, bike reclamation program and training center, which serves residents in need of transportation.
Where: 1230 Broadway St. NE, Salem, OR
Outreach: includes mobile bicycle repair services, such as visits to Woodburn's St. Luke's Catholic Church and AWARE Food Bank.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.