An old news guy closes his first sale; gets money for new bike racks

bike rackMy friends in the Melon City Bike Club Thursday night approved giving up to $1,200 to MCSA, my new employer, to buy bike racks for residents at the Muscatine shelter.

To many people, that may not seem like a big deal.

But for MSCA, many of the residents it serves — and maybe for me, too — it’s very important. In fact, if given some time, I could probably list nearly 1,200 reasons why it’s a big deal. Well, maybe not that many. But you get the idea.

A total of 56 people were housed at MCSA Thursday. That breaks down to include 29 single men in MCSA’s dorms, nine women and nine children in the family shelter and nine single men in the emergency overnight shelter in the gym. They will be among the more than 300 people who will live at MCSA this year if 2013 follows trends of the past several years.

For many of those residents, a bicycle is their primary mode of transportation. The problem with that is inadequate places at — and around — MCSA’s building to securely park a bicycle. There are no bike racks at MCSA and not enough of them at Musser Public Library, which is next door.

Fixing this problem became a crusade of mine the minute I walked in the door at MCSA as deputy director in late October. As anyone who reads this blog even casually knows, I like to ride bikes. And I need a good place to securely park mine when I bike to work — a distance of 0.6 of a mile from my house.

Last month, I really began working on this. I started by calling It’s On The River, a restaurant in Port Byron, Ill., and a popular stopping point for riders on the 60-mile Great River Trail, which runs in Illinois from Savanna to Rock Island. Other members of the Melon City Bike Club and I have stopped at It’s and used its bike racks, one of which is pictured above, many times.

After calling the restaurant, I finally connected with the owner of a company that makes the bike racks in Bettendorf, Iowa. He quoted me a price of around $400 per bike rack and said he would deliver and install them.

Pending approval from city officials, we should have at least one bike rack installed by spring for use by MCSA residents, library patrons and anyone else in the vicinity who needs a place to securely park a bike. I’m hoping we will be able to put it on the southeast corner of the MCSA building at the corner of Iowa Avenue and the alley that runs between the shelter and the library.

My friends in the bike club agreed to pay for the first bike rack. And if there is enough demand, the club will buy two more bike racks later this year for the total of $1,200.

Between MCSA residents and library patrons, I’m confident that first bike rack will be used often.

For me, this is exciting for reasons that go beyond my riding a bike. This was the first time I made a presentation to a group and closed by asking for money. It’s the part of my job that represented a leap of faith on the part of the people who hired me.

Blogging about MCSA is one thing. Writing a newsletter isn’t much of a stretch for someone who spent 23 years working as a newspaper reporter and editor. Even writing grants isn’t that different. But could an old news guy who has never really sold stuff and was forced to make a career change after his job was eliminated successfully ask for money?

Well, there was only one way to find out. And take my word for it: Not every potential employer out there was willing to take the chance that MCSA did.

Yes, it’s only $1,200 — and could turn out to be only $400 if that first bike rack doesn’t get used. And, yes, the money is coming from the closest friends I have in Muscatine. (Some of them may have said yes just to make sure I’ll keep providing a nice spot to draft behind when we ride on windy days.)

Still, it feels good to be 1-0 at the part of my job in which no one — least of all me — knew what to expect. I can’t thank my friends in the bike club enough.