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by Michael Perez, USM Public Affairs intern
As part of USM's 10th annual Husky Day of Service, two USM students, two alumni and a pair of volunteers from the University Credit Union paid a visit to Portland Gear Hub, a nonprofit organization that makes bicycles more accessible to youth by taking in donations of used bikes, fixing them up and reselling them at an affordable price.
Day of Service volunteers went to 25 charities in all, but the four who went to the Gear Hub were tasked with cleaning up the parking lot, which doubles as a test drive space for prospective bike owners.
Shop Director Ainsley Judge and volunteer coordinator Kerry Gross welcomed the foursome and offered further background on the organization, adding that Portland Gear Hub also offers bicycle use and maintenance classes.
"While folks may come in and pay to have their bicycles serviced, we would rather offer education and knowledge about bike maintenance to promote self-sufficiency," Gross said.
Judge was especially excited about the volunteers’ visit, as Portland Gear Hub recently received permission to revamp its outdoor space.
However, this day almost never happened.
“Having relocated here only in 2017, we were informed by our landlord of their intentions to build over the parking lot and test drive area,” Judge said.
The plans included a four-story living space that would not only obscure Portland Gear Hub and it's fresh exterior but also eliminate the test drive area, where so many needy children would try their new bikes for the first time.
The Portland Gear Hub crew forged forward in its mission, while wondering whether it would be fulfilled at their current location or if they would have to search for a new home again.
As suddenly as the news of plans to build on their test drive space came down, so did the news that those plans had fallen through.
The latest change in heart by Portland Gear Hub’s landlord was better received. Their landlord asked them what they wanted to do with their space.
"Plants! Greenspace!" Judge emphatically suggested.
Portland Gear Hub had experienced such a swift change in fortune. They had gone from having a sufficient parking lot and test drive space, to having none at all, to being able to decide how it can be beautified and optimized to help Portland Gear Hub in its mission.
Soon the old, rusty chain link fence would be removed entirely.
"I was like 'is this real life?''' Judge said.
Meanwhile, the Gear Hub's neighbors thanked the volunteers, who took extra gratification in this.
Judge summed it up.
"You guys have been dealt the task of doing the real dirty work,” she said. “But this is the very first step."
The USM crew is very pleased to hold that distinction in helping to fulfill the vision of Portland Gear Hub.