The Waste Connections Annual Holiday Bike Build began in November 2001 when Pat Murphy, a Waste Connections employee in The Woodlands, Texas was inspired by his church pastor to do something special for kids during the holiday season.
“My pastor’s message about leading by example to make our community better really stuck with me,” says Pat. “I thought about it a lot and then it came to me - why not build and donate bikes to deserving kids during the holiday season?”
Pat shared his vision with Ron Mittelstaedt and Eric Hansen, his colleagues at Waste Connections, and asked if they’d be interested in helping him start a goodwill initiative around giving bicycles to children during the holidays. Ron and Eric enthusiastically supported Pat’s idea and the rest, they say, is history.
The trio collected donations to cover the cost of sixteen bicycles that first year. They bought and assembled the bikes and then gave them to several small local charities.
The next year the Bike Build initiative received donations to buy and build sixty-six bicycles. They were assembled right in the office. There were bicycles and the smell of rubber just about everywhere - including the break room.
In addition to donating funds generously to the Bike Build, Waste Connections employees also stay after work to assemble bicycles - sometimes late into the night. Many bring their family so their kids can experience the impact of giving to others at a special time of year.
Waste Connections vendor partners got involved the following year. Once they heard about the Annual Holiday Bike Build, they enthusiastically embraced it by donating to the Bike Build instead of bringing in the traditional holiday treats for employees - so more bicycles could be bought, assembled and donated.
The program would not be able to touch the thousands of children it does without the vendors’ generous contributions. Some give their time as well, assembling bikes with the Waste Connections team. They, like Waste Connections, believe every child deserves to get a new bicycle at least once in their lives and what better time to receive one than during the holiday season.
“Almost every vendor I spoke to told me they remembered the fond memories of receiving and riding their first bike and it compelled them gave generously to the kids,” says Murphy. “That first memory was the recurring theme. I remember my Dad talking to me about the fond memories he had of his first bike just before he passed. It was as if he was staring right at his bike when he spoke of it, describing it in detail - right down to the streamers on the handle bars.”
The Bike Build team of volunteers assembled and donated 248 bicycles that year.
It got to the point where there wasn’t enough room to build in the office. The team began assembling bikes in an unoccupied part of the office building. That area did not have heat, power or lights so power cords were strung up to run the air compressors and set up utility lights to illuminate the area.
In later years, Ron and Keith Gordon took the Holiday Bike Build initiative across the entire company - from California to Tennessee, from Canada to Mexico. The team assembled and donated thousands of bicycles.
“We were still building bikes on the ground and about then, Greg Thibodaux, got heavily involved and helped us perfect the building process,” says Keith Gordon, Waste Connections Chief Bike Builder. “At that point, we were building about 350 bikes per night, but our team wanted to build more.”
To date, the Waste Connections community has been fortunate to be able to donate more than 85,000 bikes to children across North America.
Every August, the Waste Connections Bike Build Team starts planning to build bikes. Donations are collected and matched by the company, and bikes are purchased. Actual assembly starts in early December. There are always more bikes to build.