The mission of Freewheels Houston is to provide safe, reliable bicycles to refugees, veterans emerging from homelessness and young people from low-income families. Freewheels bicycles provide everyday transportation that enables people from underserved communities to get to work and school and stay healthy and connected.
Freewheels Houston repairs bikes that will have a second act as transportation for someone who needs to get to work or school.
Our business model is simple:
- We ask Houstonians to donate used bicycles.
- We rely on volunteers to clean and repair bikes.
- We distribute bikes to refugees, veterans emerging from homelessness and young people from low-income families who need a way to work, school or other destinations.
Freewheels Houston was established in 2015 by members of Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church, volunteers from BikeHouston and other members of the bicycling community. We became a Texas nonprofit corporation with 501(c)(3) status in 2019. The Freewheels board of directors brings diverse backgrounds together to guide our activities.
Responding to the Afghan refugee surge
Almost all the 280 refugees we helped in 2022 were members of families forced to flee the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan (like the family pictured above with our volunteers) because employment with the U.S. military and other institutions meant their lives were in danger.
With hundreds of refugees arriving in Houston each week, word about Freewheels spread quickly in the apartment complexes in southwest Houston where many refugees settled. When one person got a bike, many more called or sent text messages, seeking a bike for transportation even before they learned English or received authorization to work.
To meet this demand, volunteers worked extra shifts to clean and repair donated bikes and distribute them to our new neighbors. Each person who gets a Freewheels bike also gets a new helmet and a lock. All bikes are equipped with lights.
We have strong partnerships with schools, faith communities, refugee agencies, veterans’ service organizations and bike shops.
- Trek Bikes Houston has donated children’s bikes and helmets as well as parts and safety equipment that help make bikes more reliable and safer to ride.
- With support from the Aubrey and Sylvia Farb Community Service Fund at Congregation Emanu El and HISD Foundation, we provided bikes to 140 students at Wisdom High School.
- We have an ongoing program to deliver bikes to 5th- and 6th-graders at Klentzman, Owens and Mata Intermediate Schools in Alief Independent School District. Working with Communities in Schools of Houston and school staff, our bikes have been used to reward perfect attendance and improvement in academic and social areas.
- We work with the Veterans Administration, USVets and SEARCH Homeless Services to provide bikes to veterans and others emerging from homelessness.
- We worked with Dow Chemical, Marine Well Containment Corp. and Tailored Brands to organize employee service and team-building events. The assembled bikes were distributed by Freewheels through its refugee, veteran and youth channels.
- Rice Bikes, a student-run business on the Rice University campus, has provided volunteers, bike repair services and financial support.
- In 2018, in partnership with PAIR Houston–the Partnership for the Advancement & Immersion of Refugees–we provided bikes to 65 middle-school-aged refugees during a day camp at Jane Long Academy in the Gulfton area of southwest Houston. PAIR is a nonprofit operating after-school programs for refugees at six Houston schools.
Volunteers drive mission
Our volunteers come from many parts of the Houston community, brought together because they enjoy working on bikes and providing transportation alternatives to people starting a new chapter of their lives in Houston. In 2022, 162 people volunteered at Freewheels.
We appreciate the support of Volunteer Houston, a program of Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston. Volunteer Houston’s platform helps connect volunteers with opportunities at Freewheels and other nonprofit organizations.