Joanne Heidkamp and Paul Demers (4th and 5th from left, front row) gather with other volunteers after the 2017 bike and sewing machine collection, when Pedals for Progress collected 253 bikes and 168 sewing machines. 

Local Group Helps Developing Countries Pedal to Progress

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Thursday September 20, 2018

Pedals for Progress has been shipping used bikes and sewing machines to working families in developing countries for 20 years.

South Burlington residents Paul Demers and Joanne Heidkamp, in partnership with a small group of former Peace Corps volunteers, mark their 20th year of collecting bikes and sewing machines for international self-help projects.

This year’s collection will be held Saturday, Sept. 29 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the old Vermont Transit depot at 345 Pine St., Burlington.

“We’ll accept any adult or kids bike that is working or can be repaired” says Demers. “We can repair flat tires, slipped chains and missing seats, and these bikes will be on the road for years to come. Bikes are environmentally sustainable transportation that help people get to work or school.”

Sewing machines should be in working condition, and can be portable or table models. “Sewing machines are treasured in the developing world,” says Demers. “There are so many examples of self-help groups creating a productive small business making bags, clothing and household items to sell. Creating local jobs is huge for a struggling community.”

The group requests $10 with each item donated to help cover hefty overseas shipping expenses. A receipt for tax purposes is provided for the full value of the donation.

Since 1999, the group has shipped more than 3,800 bikes and 350 sewing machines from Vermont to community projects in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Uganda, Moldova, and Vietnam.

South Burlington residents can learn more, or volunteer, at the group’s Facebook page, Pedals for Progress Vermont, or by calling 802-793-0888.