Program trains veterans to work as bicycle mechanics

Program trains veterans to work as bicycle mechanics

EUGENE, Ore. - Gordon Mannhalter had a bone to pick last year with his employer, St. Vincent de Paul. 

Mannhalter watched too many donated bicycles hit the trash heap.

Be careful what you wish for: The bosses gave Mannhalter some tools and a little space, and what began as part-time bike repair job has turned into a full-time gig for Mannhalter.

"I was a finish carpenter for many years," the Marine Corps veteran said, "but I'd rather do this."

The work sparked the Veteran Bikes project in an even bigger west Eugene facility.  It's a pilot project teaching unemployed veterns to work as bicycle mechanics.

"Often times for these veterans, this is their sole mode of transportation, so it's empowering for them," said Shane Ayrsman, coordinator of Veteran Bikes. "Well, we are focusing strictly on used bikes and reconditioning them like they were new."

In the big picture of growing jobs, St. Vincent de Paul director Terry McDonald said the new project "gives us one more tool to put into the box to make long-term jobs and training available for our community in a way that's productive."

Mannhalter said this has become his dream job. "My mode of transportation and my passion now: bicycles."