U.S. bike shops offer work & lodgings to Katrina victims

By Steve Medcroft

Members of the U.S. based bicycle trade organization, the National Bicycle Dealer's Association (NBDA), have found a unique a creative way to assist the victims of last week's Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding of New Orleans, Louisiana. Through a forum on the NBDA Web site, more than thirty-seven members (as of September 7) are offering everything from housing and groceries to jobs and financial aid to bike shop owners and bike shop workers displaced by the disaster.

Mike Baker, marketing and communications director of NBDA says the idea came about in the member forums NBDA hosts on its Web site. "Our members chat on line," he says. "About 300 to 400 regulars. They typically discuss things about the industry and business on any given day."

After Katrina struck, talk turned to the disaster. Hans Hansel, owner of BikeWorks, a Specialized, Giant, Raleigh and Merlin dealer based in Orlando, Florida says the idea for the offers of assistance came from a volunteer at the Houston Astrodome. "There was a person organizing in the Astrodome in Houston. He came across a group of people who had worked in or ran bike shops. He contacted a Houston bike shop (an NBDA member) and asked for help."

The Houston member (whose name Hansel couldn't recall at the time of the interview) mentioned the interaction on line and Hansel, like others, felt there was something they could do. "I responded by saying I could put someone up and give them a job," Hansel said. "I've lived in Central Florida for twenty years. We were hit by three hurricanes last year alone. I know what it's like to be hot and hungry and not have water."

The posts caught the attention of NBDA executive director Fred Clements. Clements worked out a posting page that members could use to list what they could offer as. "We provide a page with the postings and a form someone can use to request help," Baker says.

The postings have been growing daily and include offerings like employment and housing from David Whaley of Carolina BikeWorks in Morganton, North Carolina, employment, housing, meals and use of a bike from Martha Emmons and Hutch Smith of BikeWorld in Paducah, Kentucky and up to $1,500 in transportation costs to anyone who accepts one of the offers of employment or housing from Eddie Warner of Holland's Bicycles in Coronado, California.

Hansel, who is offering temporary work and lodging for four to five people hurt by Katrina, says his post has been online for two days and he hasn't received a request yet. The challenge, he says, "Is that we don't know how these people are going to find out about us. I don't think that the people displaced have access to the Internet."

Hansel says he hopes "word travels back to those people. We don't know where they are or what they need but if I get a chance to help, I'll be very happy."

The offers of help are posted at www.nbda.com.

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