CWU News

CWU students repair bikes for the Community Christmas Basket

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Nearly two dozen Central Washington University students are voluntarily repairing bicycles that will be given to local children during the holiday season.

CWU students repair bikes for the community christmas basketThe bikes, donated to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) of Ellensburg, will be delivered early next month by members of the service organization to the children as part of the Ellensburg Community Christmas Basket program.

 “Our goal is to provide up to 30 bicycles,” noted Professor Karl Lillquist, from CWU Department of Geography, who pointed out that 21 of them are already finished. “This is a way to get bikes to those who need and will use them, while also promoting biking overall. We want to encourage and expand sustainable transportation in our community.”

While local individuals, including Lillquist, have conducted such repair efforts in past years, he and CWU graduate student Jhanek Szypluski came up with the concept for the CWU-related “Bike Nites,” which began last April.

“We wanted to help people continue riding and facilitate a way and make it easier for the overall community to do the same,” added Szypluski, a graduate student, from Charleston, South Carolina, in CWU’s interdisciplinary Cultural and Environmental Resource Management program.

The effort is similar to work Szypluski helped conduct while serving as a member of the steering committee for the non-profit Bike Kitchen in Bozeman, Montana.

 “It was really well established,” Szypulski noted. “There were stations where people could come in and have their bicycles fixed or get parts to work on their own bikes. We had all the tools to do anything you needed for repairs. It is exactly the same thing we are now doing out of Dr. Lillquist’s garage.”

Lillquist explained, “Over the past seven months, it has caught on and has now grown to include graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of university departments. The students really bought into this project.”

Initially, the effort involved just members of CWU’s Cultural and Environmental Resource Management Association (CERMA), for which the association’s president Scott Kugel, from Anchorage, Alaska, has been among the ardent participants.

 “I’ve definitely gotten my hands dirty,” Kugel acknowledged, with a laugh. “I came into this knowing basically nothing about how a bike works. Now, I am able to give one a top-to-bottom restoration to get the mechanics working really well and making sure everything is safe.”

Lillquist serves as the advisory for the student-led CERMA, which is is for graduate students who share a common interest in natural and cultural resources. The bike-repair campaign corresponds with its mission to offer community-service, along with providing educational and professional-development activities.

 “Public service is important to a lot of us, so this is a fun way to help people and give back to the community at the same time,” Kugel explained. “We have a lot of [CERMA] members who are [bike] enthusiast. Some decided to get involved as a way to learn how to fix their own bikes and to encourage kids to get outside as well.”

Volunteers now conduct repair nights twice each month, with advice and guidance provided by Lillquist and Szypluski, who each have significant bike repair expertise.

“A lot of people just want to come and be part of it, but they don’t necessarily know how to help,” Szypluski pointed out. “Bikes may seem simple, but they can get involved. Quite often, Dr. Lillquist and I will go around and assist anyone who runs into something they don’t know how to fix.”

Even so, the volunteers have “gotten pretty good at it,” Lillquist notes, with a bit of pride in his voice.

Szypluski, who has been riding bikes since he was about 6 years old, added, “I remember when I got my first bike—it was such a sense of freedom. It was not long after that when I started pulling bikes out of the trash and fixing them on my own, with my dad’s tools. It feels good to be able to [now] fix kids bikes and know that they will go to children whose parents, otherwise, can’t afford to get them one.”

Kugel concurs, adding, “One day, when I see a kid on I bike that I fixed and having the best time on it, and I know that I helped that kid have fun, I know I’m going to feel pretty great.”

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,