Bill Perkins Leads ‘Project Bikes’ Group, Donates 500 Bikes to Lawrence Youth

Seven years ago, OPP Occupational and Environmental Safety Work Leader Bill Perkins founded “Project Bikes,” a charitable group designed to donate bicycles to underprivileged youths in Lawrence. While PA Community Service already offers several programs in the neigh-boring city, Mr. Perkins decided to draw on his childhood experiences to initiate a program independent of the school. Perkins grew up in the Stadium Housing Projects in southern Lawrence, a low-income develop-ment that was then inhabited by many single-parent families. The Stadium Projects are named for the football stadium at nearby Lawrence High School. “My siblings and I didn’t have bikes,” said Perkins about his childhood. “We always wanted them,” he said, “even though a lot of our friends didn’t have them as well.” When Mr. Perkins visited the projects again, before beginning the initiative, he noticed a compa-rable shortage of bicycles to the number when he was growing up. “I saw so many kids without bikes,” he said. “I figured they would want them.” Accordingly, he began a program, with the help of his son Luke and his daughter Tess, to find and fix used bicycles to donate to the children living in housing projects all over Lawrence. “I wanted to teach them what it’s like to give back and give them a sense of community service,” he said. Mr. Perkins and his family together fixed the bikes and have donated about 500 in Lawrence to date. He has obtained the bicycles from many sources, combing yard sales and spending his own money in search of low-cost cycles in good repair. He also found bikes through less conventional routes. “I would see a bike in perfectly good condition, on the side of the road, just being thrown out,” he said. “People who knew I was working on this project would also donate their bikes instead of throw-ing them out.” He also received help from Wheels and Reels, a bike shop in Lawrence that re-pairs the bikes at discounted rates, and from Bikes not Bombs, a bicycle-recycling charity based in Jamaica Plain. This past year, he sought a grant from the Abbot Academy Association, hoping to involve the PA community in the program. Instead, the association granted Mr. Perkins $4,500 over the next three years for “Project Bikes”. “[They] were so impressed by his proposal that they granted him the amount for 3 years,” said Abbot Academy administrator Tish Bouldin. Mr. Perkins said that he had met with Director of Community Service Chad Green, who ex-pressed an interest in incorporating “Project Bikes” into the Andover community service pro-gram. “My goal is to include PA students in bike repair,” he said. “I’ve spoken with Thayer Zaeder, the cycling coach, who talked about getting his team to help with repairing the bikes sometime later this year.” “I want to share this experience with the entire community,” said Mr. Perkins. “There are already a lot of great programs in place to help those in inner-city Lawrence, but you can get a great feel-ing from giving back.” Mr. Perkins also believes that PA students should get involved in the distribution of the bikes. “That’s absolutely the best part, and I’d love to share it with the students.” he said. “There’s nothing better than seeing a kid smile with a new bike.” With the support of the Abbot Grant, “Project Bikes” has brought 25 bikes to the Stadium Pro-jects, and 30 bikes to the Beacon Projects, both in Lawrence. He plans to donate about 100 yearly for the next three years.