Bike charity celebrates 1,000 sets of wheels donated to recovering addicts

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Freedom Machines 1000th bike

Members of Freedom Machines, a charity supplying bicycles to recovering addicts, and Dan Stec, NY state assemblyman, present the charity’s 1,000th bike to Glens Falls resident Henry Steves, Friday in Glens Falls, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Since 2016, Freedom Machines has been donating refurbished bicycles to recovering addicts across parts of New York and Vermont. On Friday, they marked their 1,000th bike given to someone in need since they started out.

In front of the charity’s third and most recent home at 18 Curran Lane, Glens Falls resident Henry Steves received a refurbished bicycle from the late 1990s, donated by a Saratoga resident.

Freedom Machines co-owners Michael Romanowski and Christopher Collins, as well as shop manager Wayne Jones, were there to present the bike, and were joined by New York State Assemblyman Dan Stec.

“The time of the year stuck me too,” said Stec during the presentation. “1,000 bikes, about 10 days before Christmas, it’s about that time of year where people are in the holiday spirit.”

freedom machines 10000th bike
Henry Steves of Glens Falls takes his new ride for a spin at Freedom Machines in Glens Falls, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

Stec also pointed out that the holiday spirit is good, but the efforts at Freedom Machines are year-round.

The charity’s home by the Glens Falls Shirt Factory is loaded up inside with hundreds of donated bicycles. They come in from all over the North Country and beyond, and the group’s donation footprint is just as wide. Bikes have gone to recovering substance addicts in Warren and Washington counties, but also as far out as Buffalo, and even parts of Vermont.

Collins said that the speed those bikes go out is dependant on the season. During the spring and summer, they give out as many as 14 bikes a week, which slows down to 4 of 5 during the colder months.

freedom machines glens falls
Donated bikes await repairs and new owners at Freedom Machines in Glens Falls, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

The COVID-19 pandemic changed operations in some ways. In a normal year, the charity spends around $13,000 in the process of refurbishing bikes and getting them out to new owners. The pandemic lowered that number to around $10,000 for 2020, with a period of struggle getting people into the shop to have their rides looked at, and fewer bikes out on the road in the first place.

But, as has been the story for many a charity through the pandemic, the community support was still there, if not stronger.

“The bike population went down,” said Romanowski, “but we still had the parts, we could still get stuff fixed.”

Freedom Machines works directly with drug courts and police officers to get their bikes out to those who need them. Romanowski said they get used for general transport, but can be crucial for many clients in having a way to get to jobs or appointments that can be a make-or-break in their recovery process.

Steves, Friday’s recipient, said his girlfriend also rides, and his hope is to surpass her on their future rides together through the area.

The nonprofit requires their recipients to confirm 90 days of sobriety in order to receive a bike. Beyond that, they operate on the honor system, making a post on Facebook as a way of keeping those who benefit accountable.

Those interested can apply for a bike online, or contact Freedom Machines by phone at (518) 832-9353; or by email at freedommachines2016@gmail.com.

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