Holiday observations go way beyond greeting cards and fruit baskets at Pine Street Carpenters. Two weeks before Christmas, the 40-person company, of West Chester, Pa., spends an evening assembling 50 bikes that it will donate to area nonprofits. Two days before Christmas, there’s a staff party with bumper pool and ping pong. And the week after, company staff and spouses, key subcontractors and suppliers, and a few clients convene for an upbeat gathering at a local restaurant.

Five local social services agencies will distribute the 50 bicycles (with helmets and locks) to underprivileged children in the area.
courtesy Pine Street Carpenters Five local social services agencies will distribute the 50 bicycles (with helmets and locks) to underprivileged children in the area.

The “100 Wheels Project,” launched in 2008, doesn’t necessarily sell remodeling projects, nor is it intended to. But like the two holiday parties that follow, it brings people together and demonstrates a neighborly spirit that no amount of search engine optimization or direct mail or PR savvy can.

The 2008 bike-building project debut “strengthened our ties to the community, and our existing customers certainly appreciate it,” says Michael Dolan, marketing and communications manager. “On an intangible note, some of our employees got to deliver the bicycles to our partner organizations last year, and seeing the reactions of the recipient groups is immeasurable in terms of goodwill.”

Gearheads and Gratitude

Why bikes? Several staff members and key trade partners are avid cyclists (owner Brendon Dolan, shown at left, bikes to work most days). While bike-assembly is fun for the staff’s many carpenters and tinkerers, nonmechanical types are also welcome to unpack boxes, pump tires, and wrap bike locks and helmets.

More broadly, community involvement has always been a core value of Pine Street Carpenters, which for 16 years has sponsored a team of cyclists in the American Cancer Society’s Bike-a-thon.

The direct cost for the unassembled bikes is about $4,000, compared to about $6,000, had they been pre-assembled. The company also provides pizza and beer (don’t worry, resident gearheads make a final safety check) for the evening. But the real investment in the 100 Wheels Project “is our employees and their donation of time,” Michael Dolan says. He expects around 45 volunteers to participate in the 2009 effort, including 25 employees.

Local media will likely attend as well. “We received great PR from it last year,” Michael says. That’s nothing, though, compared with the 50 kids who got to do wheelies on Christmas morning.

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.