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'Very zen': Firebird Community Cycle ready to soar

'When I saw the mass of jumbled bikes and parts in the shipping containers on my first day at the shop, I felt I was in heaven,' says volunteer mechanic

Darcy Glidden was looking to give back to the community by sharing the bike mechanic skills he developed over the last 30 years. Then the name Firebird came up during a meeting at work.

“I asked what that was, and after hearing about the great work they do, I was hooked,” said Glidden, who's the community libraries manager at the Barrie Public Library's Painswick and Holly branches.

As a volunteer bike mechanic with Firebird Community Cycle, a not-for-profit bicycle repair shop, Glidden enjoys the challenge of getting bikes back on the road.

“When I saw the mass of jumbled bikes and parts in the shipping containers on my first day at the shop, I felt I was in heaven,” said Glidden, who described his work on bikes as "very zen."

Another member of the Firebird team, Dylan Debettin, said he loves riding bikes and seeing other people on bikes.

“Seeing the smile on someone's face while they ride a bike that you helped rescue from the landfill is a priceless moment for me," he said. 

Back on the road, Firebird Community Cycle has a lot of work to do.

“We have backlog of donated bikes that need fixing, and we’re currently looking for volunteers to help refurbish them,” said volunteer lead Geri Poisson.

Poisson told BarrieToday that volunteer bike mechanics can come to the charitable bike shop or "foster-a-bike," whereby they work on the bikes at home and bring them back to the shop.

Poisson finds working with Firebird rewarding: “One of the many priceless moments I have had was when a father with three young kids and limited financial means came in, and few hours later left with 'new' bikes for whole family.”

Currently open only on Sundays, Firebird Community Cycle is looking to be open an additional day, but details and funding are pending.

“We are waiting to see if grants we applied for with the city and the province will be awarded to us," Poisson said. 

In addition to opening an additional day per week, Poisson said the funding would help hire a part-time bike repair instructor, as well as purchase needed parts and supplies.

“With the extra staff, volunteers, and parts, we will refurbish more bikes and offer them to those in need, including through referrals from local agencies," he said. 

The grants are also intended to support a series of weekly bike repair and maintenance workshops targeting underrepresented groups, such as youth, women, new Canadians, and those with low incomes.

“And we are always looking for a ‘benevolent property owner’ to donate an indoor shop space for us to expand our services to the community and provide more volunteer opportunities," Poisson added. 

Poisson said a bike sale is coming soon, but the date is yet to be determined once the shop has enough refurbished bikes ready to go.

“Other plans are to be at Mariposa Folk Festival and Kempenfest to help at the bike lock-up areas," he added. 

Poisson joined the Firebird Community Cycle in 2010 and his first big role was help get the original lunch-time program established as an incorporated not-for-profit one year later.

“It became apparent that Firebird needed to be a standalone organization and that is when I got involved," he said. 

Poisson volunteers in multiple positions at Firebird, including administration, treasurer, chair, and director.

“That is my role as I don't have a lot of bike repair skills,” he joked.

Firebird Community Cycle is open for the season on Sundays from 4-8 p.m., at 134 Anne St. S., in Barrie.

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