A Decade of Changing Lives Through Cycling
After working as a volunteer for the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough Ride and Race Youth Program in 2007, Tulsa Hub founder Ren Barger was invited by a member of the Tulsa Wheelmen Race Team to take over their expired earn-a-bike charity program. Ren had a much bigger vision, desiring to create a multi-generational workshop where discarded bikes could be paired with people of all ages who were interested in using a bicycle for transportation, learning new skills, and making new relationships. Ren quit her day-job in 2008 and became a League Cycling Instructor through the League of American Bicyclists, and began to put together her plan to form a 501(c)3 educational non-profit. Because of the support from Michael Sager and the Tulsa Community Foundation, Ren's dream of incorporating became a reality in October of 2008 and Tulsa Hub began operating out of a donated warehouse in downtown Tulsa.
A Tulsa World article came out on the Tulsa Hub’s adult earn-a-bike program in June of 2009, which resulted in new volunteer investment and hundreds of additional bike donations, including several trailer loads from the staff of American Airlines. Right about this time, Stuart Hetherington, the Hub’s part-time Workshop Manager, and John Carlisle, the Hub’s other lead mechanic from 2009-2012, joined the volunteer crew, and grew the scale of the earn-a-bike programs.
Ren had assisted with Dick Bank’s Eugene Field Bike Club in the spring of 2009, and was invited to begin an after school cycling club at Kendall-Whittier Elementary in the fall of 2009. In Spring of 2010, Tulsa Hub received a Safe Routes to Schools education grant and conducted after-school Bike Clubs at five elementary schools. Thanks to an investment from LaFarge Corporation, Tulsa Hub was able to purchase a fleet of 30 24" bikes to use in trainings all around the Tulsa region. Tulsa Hub has since conducted Bike Clubs at seven Community/Title 1 elementary schools, teaching more than 1,000 students how to use bicycles safely and effectively as vehicles. Tulsa Hub began focusing it's mission programs on middle- and high-school students in 2015, but continues to work with this age group at public events and special projects.
The first Board of Directors meeting was held in July of 2009 at the Flynn Law Firm, populated by eight caring Tulsa citizens (many of whom are still involved with the organization today.) Stuart's older brother John Hetherington volunteered to be the first president, and helped attract such talent as Shannon Richards, Mary McMahon, Shawn Schaefer, and many others. James Wagner from INCOG joined in an advisory capacity and continues to champion bicycle and pedestrian mode-share as part of his work in regional transportation planning. Once ONEOK Field was completed in the fall of 2009, and the original Tulsa Hub warehouse at 216 North Elgin was set to be demolished, Tulsa Hub was invited by David Sharp to store bicycles in the CB Kerr warehouse at 12 North Cheyenne. Tulsa Hub then established the Workshop at 601 West 3rd Street (the former DTU Headquarters), at the invitation of Don Walker and MayFest. The 3rd Street building sold to Chris Bumgarner in 2011, and the Tulsa Hub continues to operate there thanks to Mr. Bumgarner's generosity to this day.
Tulsa Hub grew quietly for the first five years on a shoestring budget, finally exceeding $100,000 cash revenue in 2014. Tulsa Hub still relies on over $150,000 of additional in-kind support from the community. When the vulnerable and downtrodden come to us looking for a means of transportation, they find a long-term invitation to build a grassroots community advocating human power.