The Shipley era: a look back at four years of Holiday Bike Drive magic

By Brian Benson, Community Engagement Director

As we’ve said many times before, the magic behind the Holiday Bike Drive isn’t really magic – it’s people, hundreds of people, working all year long to make it possible for over 400 kids to receive their first bikes every December.

One of those people is the Holiday Bike Drive Production Coordinator, a Community Cycling Center staff who transports bikes to storage, trains volunteer mechanics, scares up used pedals and saddles and other replacement parts, and maintains the systems that ensure anyone can come in on a Drop-In Night and play a role in, well, making magic happen.

For the past four years, that role has been filled by Gram Shipley. When Gram started volunteering with us, way back in 2006, he was already a self-taught, expert mechanic. Over the next year and a half, he shared his skills generously, contributing over 600 hours and single-handedly refurbishing hundreds of Holiday Bike Drive bicycles.

In 2008, Gram joined our staff, and jumped straight into the Production Coordinator role. In the pre-Shipley era, this position had been filled by a rotating cast of mechanics, with a new face every few months. Gram would stick with it for four years.

During his tenure, Gram co-designed a certification system that improved our ability to train, support and recognize volunteers. He led weekly mini-clinics on everything from installing bar plugs to overhauling coaster brakes. He organized our spare parts, turning a haphazard collection of milk crates into a labeled, inventoried supply locker. Gram’s innovations made it easier for volunteers to excel as mechanics and teachers, and excel they have. Tuesday night attendance has nearly doubled, as has the number of tiny bikes we refurbish every week.

We asked Dave McQuery, a luminary in the Volunteer Program, what he has appreciated most about Gram. His answer? “Everything.” When pressed for a bit more detail, Dave explained that has valued Gram’s “unfailing good spirits, his teaching skills and his incredibly vast knowledge. [He is] a working, walking encyclo-freaking-pedia.”

Dave added that Gram’s organizational prowess has made a big difference. “Before, if I didn’t finish a bike, I tried to Scotch tape a note to it and hoped that someone would understand what else needed to be done.” Now, according to Dave, “everything is organized better. A lot better.” Ralph Cohen, a longtime supporter who initially proposed the idea of our now-flourishing certification system, added that in addition to Gram’s organizational improvements, he “is very warm and welcoming to one and all. That does a lot to enhance the overall [volunteer] experience.” And that makes it easier for longtime volunteers to share their skills with newcomers.

Last fall, Gram moved into the position of Used Inventory Coordinator, and he’s now in charge of figuring out the best destination for all the bikes and parts we receive every day. It’s a big job, and this January, Gram decided to give his full attention to this new position. We are so excited to see what Gram will do with this new challenge, and endlessly grateful for his phenomenal work with the Holiday Bike Drive.

We hope you’ll join us in thanking Gram for his dedication and ingenuity, and in welcoming Evan Burgad, our incoming Holiday Bike Drive Production Coordinator. Like Gram, Evan wrenched on hundreds of kids bikes as a volunteer, and over the past four years has been one of our most talented mechanics. We’re thrilled to see what he’ll do in partnership with our Tuesday volunteer crew.

Speaking of, the biggest thanks are reserved, as always, for Dave, Ralph and all of our incredible Tuesday volunteers. Without you, none of these improvements would mean a thing. At base, Gram’s work has been all about finding the best way to engage the thirty-plus people that show up, itching to get greasy, every single week. Thanks for inspiring us to always be better.

Photos by Becca Quint and Charles Edelson

Do you have any stories to share about your time working with Gram?

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Hours: 10am-6pm daily (fall/winter)Bike Shop Address: 1700 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211

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