VALE — As part of Drexel H. Foundation’s sustainability program, 14 bikes were given away free to volunteers who participated in Drexel’s Art Builds Community Reunite thru Public Art Project. Everyone who participated from July thru October at various public events and opportunities to paint Drexel’s funky cows were eligible for the drawing for free bikes.
More than 250 people helped in the art project that could be done in person, outdoors and with social distancing over the summer and fall. Of those who helped, 222 entered into a drawing for a free bike.
The funky painted cows will be shared with the public and pop up in various locations throughout Malheur County this fall.
Why give away bikes? Since its inception, the Drexel Foundation brought recycling and reuse into its programing. For example, using recycled items to make rainsticks and drums at art camp, and programs to give away gently used prom dress for volunteerism. Promoting sustainability and helping our plant are some of the core values of this nonprofit foundation.
“Suggestions and input from past youth in the Engaging Young Voices in shaping our community program, focused on how reuse and recycling could help our area become better. The concept is to take items and refurbish them for a new life. Youth bikes are often outgrown and end up in landfills,” said Sandijean Fuson President of the Drexel Foundation. “For Drexel to turn these young peoples goals into action and a few years after the suggestion facilitate this type of program is so satisfying. It is a small step to climate awareness letting youth feel empowered to do their part, stay healthy with cycling, plus it teaches community service has positive impact in numerous ways.”
Drexel kept 95 bikes out of the landfill and trained new workers to repair and refurbish these bikes, offering access to clean transportation alternatives to people who could benefit. The goal is to get 30 bikes or more back into use in our county.
Sustainability program infused with Oregon DEQ grant
The Drexel Foundation was originally created to help preserve the Historic 1908 Vale Hotel and 1895 Grand Opera House. At its inception, the goal was to create an art center in a portion of the Grand Opera House and later in the Vale Hotel, thus, providing a space for the community to enjoy cultural events and art education. In 1995, the first Art Camp & Talent Show was held. Over the years they have added several annual art and cultural programs, taking feedback then turning it into action.
During 2020, Drexel’s sustainability program was enhanced through a DEQ grant.
“I am so proud of our great state and this governmental program to help nonprofits develop a workforce and have positive impact. The purpose of the reuse and repair workforce development grant is to keep products in service longer, like our prom dresses. They can be worn for more than one night. The point is to reduce environmental impacts by reducing waste, like bicycles with flats or broken seats, two can sometime make one good one. It takes some labor and a little effort. This DEQ grant also helped us create new part time jobs in Oregon, with Drexel’s first sustainability specialist Brenda Ramirez” said Fuson.
Two teens were hired to enhance Drexel’s Prom closet free homecoming dresses earned for volunteerism, and to repair and refurbish bicycles and get them back out into the community for people to enjoy and use. Brenda Ramirez and Kohen Payne have done an outstanding job.
Oregon DEQ shares “a commitment to producing and managing materials more responsibly,” said Marie Diodati, Materials Management grant manager. “The overarching goal of DEQ’s Strategic Plan for Reuse, Repair and Extending the Lifespan of Products in Oregon (“Strategic Plan”), is to extend the lifespan of products in Oregon in a manner consistent with Oregon’s 2050 Vision for Materials Management. Reuse and repair are both important means of achieving this goal, and one of the four concepts of DEQ’s Strategic Plan is to develop infrastructure and build capacity” Diodati said.
Drexel Foundation is one of 13 grant recipients.
“The grant applicants represented a wide range of communities and many grantees provide direct service to historically marginalized populations. With these grants, DEQ can engage more Oregon communities in sustainable materials management practices – which focus on using and reusing resources more productively and sustainably,” Diodati said.
“Drexel Foundation has worked hard to creatively engage people in the arts during COVID. Uniting all ages and all areas with the concept of public art by having them paint funky cows for the entire area to share. Having a free bike drawing gave an extra incentive to participate for teens, adults and kids at our various events” explained Fuson. The volunteer appreciation event was held via facebook live and later the winners made an appointment to chose their bike. Some who won gave the bike away to a cousin or sibling and were awarded another prize for their generosity. Also at the volunteer appreciation event many volunteers were honored with other prizes in a different drawing, winning gift cards, t-shirts and coffee cards. Since this DEQ program is ½ done, there is more work to be done, more bikes to be refurbished before next spring. Both the bike and the organization’s free formalwear closet program allow people to earn an item for free by doing community service. Drexel plans to have another bike giveaway in late spring around the same time as prom season.
For more information, visit www.thedrexelfoundation.org, find them on Facebook and Instagram, or phone (541) 473-3470, and leave a message for Fuson or Kelsey Tolman.