Our Residents Volunteer At 24 Hour Cycle Race

published on 18 Sep 2015

Residents from a Salvation Army centre for people experiencing homelessness will be on hand to help with emergency cycle repairs in the first of a series of races across the globe.

The 24 hour race – Revolve24 - kicks off at the Brands Hatch circuit in West Kingsdown on Saturday, September 19, finishing on Sunday, September 20 with hundreds of people expected to take part. The race will take place in a team relay format on closed circuit race tracks.

Cyclists competing on the 2.4 mile circuit are expected to carry out their own repairs and maintenance but one Salvation Army staff member and four current residents of Booth House Lifehouse in Swindon will be on hand in the pit stop to support those who are struggling with the repairs themselves.

Booth House Lifehouse in Swindon, based in Spring Close, is a residential centre for people experiencing homelessness in the town. It runs two social enterprise schemes at the Lifehouse – a cycle repair shop known as Recycles – and a Sandwich delivery service known as The Sandwich People. These schemes offer its residents work experience and the opportunity to take accredited courses to help them gain the skills they need to find work and move on with their lives.

Recycles operates as a cycle repair shop and sells refurbished bikes. It also offers a cycle hire scheme including two tandems, as well as multiple bikes and hybrid cycles to raise funds for the charity’s work in Swindon. Recycles also offers bespoke cycle maintenance courses for local people.

Race participants at the weekend’s events are also being encouraged to bring along their unwanted bikes to donate to Recycles.

Craig Reade, 24, is one of the residents of Booth House who will be helping in the pit stop this weekend having just completed his Cytech qualification in cycle mechanics.

Craig lost his home when he and his ex-girlfriend split up. At first he was sofa-surfing, and then he lived with a relative, but soon found he had nowhere to go when he could no longer stay there. He was initially nervous about moving into a centre for people experiencing homelessness but says he was pleasantly surprised: “I was taken on a tour around Booth House and I saw Recycles and thought that I would like to get involved. It has given me quite a bit of confidence. It has helped me feel useful, and gain a sense of purpose, to do something worthwhile. I’m really looking forward to helping out the people taking part in the race this weekend – it will be an exciting experience.”

Mark Wheatley, 45, was once a resident at The Salvation Army’s Booth House and now works as a cycle mechanic at Recycles. Mark will be one of those on hand in the pit stop to lend support to people struggling with their own repairs.

Mark lost his job as a retail manager in 2011. Within a six month period of trying to find work his relationship with his partner broke down and he found himself homeless. When Mark first came to the Lifehouse, despite finding a warm and friendly welcome, he would stay in his room and shy away from social interaction.

Mark said: “It was awful. We joke about it now but the person I was three years ago is completely different now.

“At first I was nervous and scared, and hardly spoke to anybody, I had very little confidence at all.”

However, within a few weeks the father-of-two began volunteering at the Recycles scheme, as he realised he needed to do something.

Mark began by volunteering on the retail side of Recycles and gradually began to learn cycle mechanics.

The Salvation Army gave Mark the opportunity to complete an NVQ Level 2 qualification in engineering and he is now employed by the Church and charity as a cycle mechanic and lives with his fiancée. They plan to get married next year.

Mark said: “The Salvation Army is an incredible organisation. They support vulnerable people and if you are willing to put in the effort The Salvation Army will help you to turn your life around.

“The Salvation Army do so much work that people don’t know about. They help people who are in need get their confidence back by not only listening to them but also helping them in practical ways.

“I am really proud to wear my Recycles T-Shirt.”