“100% of our grant money goes towards finding bikes and putting them in the hands of kids.”

Bob Mandel, founder of Bob’s Free Bikes, had a simple mission — refurbish donated bicycles and put them in the hands of underprivileged kids. And thanks to a team of volunteers and funding from organizations like the Fountain Hills Community Foundation, Bob’s Free Bikes has been fulfilling that mission since its inception in 2016.

“100% of the grants and funding we receive goes towards finding bikes and putting them into the hands of kids,” Robin Heimbuch, Treasurer and Community Outreach Coordinator, said. “Nobody gets paid for their time.”

Robin is talking about the 30 volunteers who keep Bob’s Free Bikes rolling along. This year the organization is on track to gift more than 1,000 donated and refurbished bicycles to kids in need under the age of 18 who live in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. It’s the second year the organization has reached their 1,000-bike goal, a substantial increase from the 110 bikes they provided to kids in their first full year of operation.

Volunteers pick up donated bicycles, inspect each one, then repair what’s necessary to make them functional before giving them away. Depending on the condition, bikes can require anywhere from $20 to $75 to repair. Robin says almost all of them need tires, tubes, and grips because of the brutal Arizona sun. Each child also receives a protective helmet and bike lock to keep both them and their bikes safe.

In addition to individual kids who have been nominated to receive a bike from an adult in their lives, Bob’s Free Bikes donated 44 bikes to Vessels of Possibilities STEM Robotics, Coding & Programming team, 60 bikes to children of military families stationed at Luke Airforce Base, 74 bikes to kindergarten students at Frank Elementary School in Guadeloupe, and 12 bikes to Patagonia Enrichment Center in 2023. In the featured photo, Bob Mandel poses with K-8 students at St. Matthew’s Catholic School in Phoenix, after donating 135 bikes following the COVID-19 shutdown.

The organization occupies 10 classrooms at the Four Peaks elementary school where its 500-bike inventory is stored. Robin said while the Fountain Hills Unified School District will allow them to stay as long as possible, they know they’ll have to move their operations once the building has been sold.

“It’s important for Fountain Hills to know we are goodwill ambassadors,” she said. “We travel all over the Phoenix metropolitan area and always represent ourselves as coming from Fountain Hills. We want people to know we want to stay here and be part of Fountain Hills.”

In addition to a new permanent home, Robin said the organization is currently in need of additional volunteers. Interested individuals can reach out on the organization’s website.

“A number of our group are seasonal and only here for the winter,” she explained. “Our bottle neck is in the pickup and delivery aspect. We’re always looking for someone with a pickup truck that can pick up and deliver bikes.”

Sadly, founder Bob Mandel passed away in May, after a brief illness. After receiving his diagnosis, Bob called a board meeting and asked the group to continue his mission, something the all-volunteer crew was more than happy to do.

“We promised him we would carry on his legacy, that we would not give up, that we would move forward,” Robin said. “We don’t want him to be forgotten.”