Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. has a proud bike culture. From its conversion of a storage apartment to a locker/shower facility and on-site tools, tire pumps and gear to its commuter compensation program that pays employees 75 cents for every mile they ride to or from work, the engineering firm, headquartered in Rosemont with offices around the state, works to make bike commuting as simple as possible for its employees. Last summer, CBBEL added a philanthropic bent to its commuter payout, matching the monthly amount with a donation to Bikes for Lesotho.
Bikes for Lesotho started in 2012 when Downers Grove resident Dave Gorman, who lived in the Kingdom of Lesotho in southern Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1989 to 1992, realized that he had never seen bicycle in the country.
“I thought it was such a shame that bicycling had not somehow reached Lesotho, and at the same time read a statistic that the number of orphans due to HIV/AIDS had reached approximately 100,000,” Gorman says. “That became our target audience as far as trying to get bikes over there.”
While Bikes for Lesotho often has many bikes to send, the biggest barrier to donating tends to be the cost of shipment. Gorman says it costs approximately $13,000 to ship, repair and distribute a full container of bikes to and in Lesotho, or about $25 per bike.
“We have a warehouse of bikes, but the constraint for us is in funding,” Gorman says. “I can only send as many bikes as we have funding to do so.”
The need for funding makes projects like CBBEL’s matching donation so important to Bikes for Lesotho’s mission. During June of 2015, CBBEL employees cycled nearly 5,000 miles and raised $3,500 for Bikes for Lesotho in the process: enough to send 140 bikes across the Atlantic.
“For [CBBEL] to be able to provide $3,500 really got us over that end amount we needed to get the bikes off,” Gorman says.
Supporting Bikes for Lesotho came naturally for CBBEL, Mike Kerr, one of the firm’s bike to work program founders, says.
“What really impressed us about Dave’s program was that he is so hands on,” Kerr says. “It’s a very efficient organization and a great cause. It was a no-brainer.”
Bikes for Lesotho hopes to send 500 bikes this year. You can learn more about its work, including how to make financial donations, on Facebook.