Seattle-based outdoor apparel and gear manufacturer Outdoor Research has awarded the company’s second annual We Can Grant for $10,000 to The Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub (WRENCH).
WRENCH is a Canadian nonprofit that focuses on empowering cycling, building healthy communities and educating youth to build bike-repair skills, strengthening their knowledge and confidence in the process.
Any day of the week, people who stop by the WRENCH will find others ready to help guide them in repairing their bike, teach them how to build a bike or teach how to work on bikes for others. The vision? “A world where all people are empowered to use bicycles as transportation and have access to the space to learn bike repair skills regardless of their gender, age, income, ability, ethnicity or geographic location.”
“Our selection committee was really excited by the quality of We Can Grant applicants, and it was a long and difficult process to narrow the field down to four finalists,” said Christian Folk, director of marketing at Outdoor Research. “The process culminated with Outdoor Research staff voting for their recipient of choice. In the end, we’re super excited to award the WRENCH this year’s grant.”
The WRENCH provides education, training and resources. Programs include the Earn A Bike workshops, where people who volunteer a few hours are able to co-build a bike, which they then can take home with them for free or the Mellow Velo workshop, an open shop day for women, trans and femme-identifying people to work on their bikes in a space that’s safe for people who might feel marginalized, intimidated and/or unsafe.
But those resources cost money and labor. The WRENCH’s overhead is low because they use reclaimed materials and partner with the City of Winnipeg for reduced rent on shop space, according to Patrick Krawec, managing director at WRENCH.
“But the demand for free [Earn a Bike] courses greatly outweighs the amount of time limited project funding available,” he said. “Every year the WRENCH has to turn down many schools because they can’t afford a cost-recovery fee, and the waiting list for free programming is 12 months long. The We Can Grant will allow us to build capacity in the schools that need it most and promote positive health outcomes in youth populations that are underrepresented in bicycle use.”
It’s through those school programs that the WRENCH has some of the biggest impact—helping at-risk, high-needs students find focus, participate and succeed. “One of our best-kept secrets is that we are not about bicycles; we are about people,” Krawec said.
Now in its second year, the We Can Grant awards $10,000 annually to individuals or organizations undertaking efforts to improve access to the outdoors on their home turf. Applications for the next cycle can be submitted May 1 to 31, 2019.
Outdoor Research has been working behind the scenes for many years to support organizations and programs that advocate from the top down for public lands and public-lands access. The ‘We Can’ Grant Program builds on this concept but with a grassroots approach.
“The idea for this grant program is simple–to support the people who leave it better than they found it,” Folk said. “Sometimes that’s as easy as picking up a piece of litter alongside the trail. Sometimes, it means applying some elbow grease in a place that needs some help. With this grant, we’re hoping to help organizations bring about change in their community on a much shorter timeline. When inspiration strikes, and someone in a community responds, little gestures can turn into big actions and dreams into reality.”
The application process is straightforward. Candidates simply must be affiliated with a non-profit organization that supports a cause tied to public-lands or outdoor access.
Applicants can visit outdoorresearch.com/wecangrant for more information. The next grant cycle will begin May 1 2019.