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New bikes sweeten summer for 55 Grout students

by: David F. Ashton David Yandell explains to Grout Students Dahir Yerow and Dominick Wagner why he “shares” bicycles with youngsters like them.

'It's been a magical morning as kids pop into the auditorium to sneak a peek at all these new bicycles,' said Grout Elementary School Principal Susan McElroy with a big smile. 'For most of them, this will be their first bicycle.'

While the gift of bikes to 55 Grout students whose parents may not be able to afford them doesn't necessarily fit the school's academic mission, McElroy conceded, 'It certainly does support another part of our duty - to provide for our students and their family. Again this year, [benefactor] David Yandell approached me with an idea to support our families in a very unique way.'

Calmly sitting in the front row, David Yandell - who had previously given many students free backpacks in a similar manner - waited for the program to start. 'When we say 'give', it means someone doesn't 'have'. We believe these kids have a lot, and a lot to give. So for us it is about sharing.'

Asked to clarify, Yandell responded, 'There's a boundary set up with 'giving and taking'. With sharing, there is no boundary. This is my philosophy.'

And share they did. With his longtime associates, James Meyer and Neighborhood House, Yandell 'shared' a total of 190 bicycles with kids at four different Portland elementary schools. 55 bikes were 'shared' at Grout, which is located on S.E. Holgate Boulevard, across from Odd Fellows in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood.

As the students took their seats, Yandell asked, 'Why are we here today?'

'To get bikes!' the kids shouted.

'We're not here to 'give' you anything,' replied. 'What do you think about that?'

Stunned silence filled the room.

'Actually, we are here to share an opportunity with you,' Yandell continued. 'You know, if you let somebody else ride your bike for a few minutes, it's called sharing. I get people in the community to share with me, so I can share with you guys. What do you think about that?'

His query produced a splattering of applause and quizzical looks.

'Oh, what is the word I just used?' Yandell asked.

'Sharing!' the kids enthusiastically responded.

'When you let somebody else ride your bike or use something you have that they don't - what do you call that?' Yandell again elicited.

'Sharing!' was the response.

'Then, it's time to start sharing,' Yandell said. 'Let's start with the youngest students.'

More than merely writing a check, James Meyer, a principal at Opsys Architecture, was on hand to help fit helmets and meet the students. He paused to tell THE BEE that working with Yandell is a 'good fit' for Opsys. 'He helps us connect with the community, and with kids. In this simple way, we can transform lives at a really good age.

'I also like that we can 'drive' donated money directly to the kids,' Meyer pointed out. 'It's straight-line money, without any bureaucracy or overhead. David takes no money for setting up these programs.'

About being involved in the bike 'sharing', Meyer said, 'It is joyous, actually. There's such directness with the smiles that come from the kids. It's very tactile and visceral because you can see it and feel it directly. It's really pretty satisfying.'