By Pam Marino
“What goes around, comes around,” is one western interpretation of Karma, and there’s probably no better illustration of the concept than Good Karma Bikes of San Jose, where those who once sought free help for their broken down bicycles are now helping others—while repairing their own lives in the process.
Under the motto, “Transportation for transformation,” the two-year-old nonprofit has grown from one laid off engineer fixing bikes for homeless people in St. James Park, to a team of volunteers that not only fix thousands of bikes each year for homeless and low-income clients, but also provide job training, as well as a friendly place to belong.
Every Saturday in a converted warehouse near downtown San Jose at 345 Sunol St., loud cheers of welcome greet returning volunteers who come from all over the South Bay Area and Peninsula. As people line up with their bikes to be fixed between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.—between 30 and 40 every week—each person is greeted with friendly smiles and treated with great care and respect.
There is no charge for the repairs. The clients are considered the same as paying customers, and the volunteer mechanics strive to perform the same quality work as a professional bike shop.
While it may look like Good Karma Bikes is one more nonprofit providing free services to the community, founder and Executive Director Jim Gardner insists it’s something more.
“This is not about bikes. What this is about mostly is self-esteem reparation. That’s what I’ve come to learn this far along this journey,” Gardner said while fixing one of about a half dozen bikes in the repair center one recent Saturday morning
To see how Good Karma Bikes is transforming lives, read the full story on Good Neighbor Stories.