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From their birth at the Hollister riot just
after World War II, to the 1953 Brando film, The Wild Ones, to Hunter S. Thompson's
strange and terrible saga about the Hell's
Angels, to the current Sons of Anarchy TV show; motorcycle
gangs are outlaw icons of our culture.
Despite their legendary "bad guy" reputations, bikers also have a lesser-known, but rich tradition
of philanthropy, including nationwide events like Rolling Thunder's annual Ride for Freedom for veterans and POW/MIA awareness, Kyle Petty's Charity Ride Across America, as well as local organizations like the charity, BIKERSCAP, in Florida.
We found out about BIKERSCAP when the
organization's CEO, Greg Reaster, posted on our
Facebook page "TechSoup
has made all we do here at BIKERSCAP possible. We have ventured into
setting up computer labs now, along with donations to education. TechSoup
has made the upgrade to Win 7 possible; how can we thank them enough?"
Naturally, we were excited to check this
out. I gave Greg Reaster a call to find out what they were doing in the Tampa
Bay area. Their work is straightforward: fix up donated computers and
give them to needy children. The name of the organization is actually an
acronym for Building Intellect, Knowledge, Education, Resources, and Schooling
with a Computer Acquisition Program.
Like many PC refurbishment
programs around the world, Greg started doing this charitable work out of his
home. Actually, he still does. BIKERSCAP is an all-volunteer project that started
in March 2009 in the depths of the great recession.
Greg Reaster on his Harley
Greg lost his construction
project management job. According to an article
on BIKERSCAP in the Pasco Tribune he said "I
was making six figures a year with a full benefits package, then I was sitting
at home watching Jerry Springer and drinking beer," he said. "It was
boring. I decided to start working on computers. I mean, I have degrees in
The idea for BIKERSCAP happened when Reaster's long-time biker
buddy, Steve Story, had a computer that needed repairs. He called Reaster and asked him to get it running again, so he could donate it. "It was
Christmas time, and I said I wanted to give it to a kid who needed it,"
Story said. "I wanted to give it to a kid who could get their homework
done and use it for educational stuff, and it just snowballed from there."
After that Reaster began putting
ads in the local paper soliciting for computers. He got several and began
refurbishing and donating them. In due course, he got a bunch of his
biker friends involved and started the charity. BIKERSCAP
now has around 20 volunteers, mostly older bikers, who meet on weekends to fix
PCs and hold charitable events.
Greg told me, "We can easily
image 10 computers per day. Sundays are our best day for getting things done.
We see lots of kids in the Tampa Bay area with natural smarts but no money in
the family for a home computer. Police departments and schools work with us to
identify the children that need them the most.
We're also building computer labs in grammar schools around Tampa Bay, but
we're really all about the kids."
Their mission statement says: "We, as concerned
members of the biker community are committed to providing this necessary
educational tool through completely refurbished computer system donations.
Bikers helping children."
When I asked him about his
largely biker volunteer corps, Greg cites the American Motorcyclist
Association outlaw estimate.
mystique behind us, but 99 percent of us are people you wouldn't expect, like a
lawyer sitting next you – 99 percent of bikers are law-abiding
citizens. The 1 percent of bikers that are outlaws
even support us, though. I've been riding all my life, but I'm not riding so
much any more. Back in my 20s, I was a law enforcement officer. For many years
after that I was a weekend warrior."
For one thing, to judge from the BIKERSCAP Facebook page, these guys
still manage to have a good time, biker style. Computers and money do come to BIKERSCAP
by local businesses and residents. Several computer donations have come from
Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg. The organization's other sponsors, however, are a bit more surprising.
They include Hog-Law.com, Riders
Now Magazine, Ruben and Steve Bazarte Bail Bonds, Biker Valley Radio, Pollock
Joe's Pinstriping, JoDell and the Mountain Road Band, Florida Cars of Tampa Bay,
Motorcycle Metrics, and All Tune and Lube, the official drop-off point for
donations to BIKERSCAP.
Their fundraisers are unique as well, like the Mad
Beach Bike Fest on Madeira Beach and also the North Port Hog Roast for
Charity. Harley Davidson Corporation
isn't yet sponsoring their work.
Greg Reaster was has received the Bay News 9 "Everyday
Hero Award" twice. The project consumes a lot of his time, and since it's
all-volunteer, the project doesn't pay anything. But he said that he wants to grow
their work by aligning BIKERSCAP with a larger national charity so more
children can benefit. The Pasco Tribune quotes him:
might be selfish, but it makes me feel good. We're filling a void. A lot of
these computers, they're throwing them out in the trash. We recycle them for
kids to use in their education. This is like my church, man. I even go back and
check on these kids when I can. We're doing it. We're making a difference."
At TechSoup, we're happy to know that our work helps rev up programs like the ones run by BIKERSCAP. If you'd like to comment on the impressive programs Greg is running or share other interesting stories from the world of philanthropy, please log in to comment on this blog post.
Images: courtesy of BIKERSCAP
This is a topic near and dear to my heart! I'm a motorcycle rider (KLR 650), and I'm a development worker. It's not something you can combine in the PeaceCorps, but it is something many people helping others in developing countries do combine, and this resource I developed a couple of years ago highlights how it's done:
Motorcycles and development/aid/relief & volunteer efforts
What a cool guy...Neat story!
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