Salvation Army looks to expand bike operation after a year in business

Left to right: volunteer mechanic, Autar Marwaha, 18, volunteer mechanic Sam Macqueen, 20, workshop

Left to right: volunteer mechanic, Autar Marwaha, 18, volunteer mechanic Sam Macqueen, 20, workshop supervisor Keith Young, 51, volunteer mechanic Chris Elliott, 59, volunteer mechanic Judd Olliviere, 33 and volunteer mechanic Ryan Duggan, 30. - Credit: Archant

Bicycles rebuilt, cleaned and designed by the Salvation Army will be on sale at Redbridge Green Fair at the end of this month.

About 15 volunteers, sourced by the Salvation Army, in Clements Road, Ilford, have worked tirelessly five days each week to give old bikes a new lease of life at the Redbridge Enterprise Centre, in Thompson Close, Ilford.

Organisers are hoping the project, which has run for a year, will become fully fledged later this month when they will be able to offer volunteers the opportunity to earn a Vocationally Related Qualification (VRQ) Level Two in cycling repair and maintenance.

The City and Guilds, a training and vocational organisation, must decide if the course is suitable before the Salvation Army can offer the VRQ qualification. .

John Clifton, Salvation Army corps manager, said: “It is brilliant developing their skills and their confidence and then people ask for help less and less.

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“We provide the training because they are volunteer mechanics, so hopefully they will be able to gain a qualification.”

The Salvation Army run a night shelter during the winter months in Ilford, and some of the people who stayed there have returned to take part in the project – many of whom are unemployed.

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Keith Young, 51, is one of three professional mechanics who oversees the volunteers’ work on the bikes.

Mr Young added: “The guys who are volunteering have made a massive improvement - at the beginning they did not know one end of the bike from the other.”

Many of the bikes are reclaimed from local tips, donated by the public or the police.

“The whole concept is a good idea,” said Mr Young, a former policeman. “Mainly from a recycling point of view but socially too – the Salvation Army have managed to achieve both.

“They are all from various backgrounds. Some volunteers have had issues in the past, some have just expressed an interest in bikes.”

If you would like to volunteer, or have a bike you would like to donate, contact 02084782961.

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