BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — The morning after Halloween, Tia Martinson, executive director of Free Bikes 4 Kidz, was the first to notice something was wrong at the warehouse.
"When I got here in the morning, these doors were open," Martinson said. "I didn't imagine we were burglarized. I just couldn't imagine who would leave the doors open!"
The city of Brooklyn Center owns the building, hosting community events in front while Free Bikes 4 Kidz operates in back. The organization collects and refurbishes bikes and donates them to kids. The final weeks before the holidays are crucial to their mostly volunteer-run operations.
As Martinson walked through the warehouse, she noticed padlocks were cut to gain access through the front of the building. She also realized important items were missing from her office, the storage room and bike repair room.
"There were bikes laying all over the floor," she said. "It was very unsettling."
A desktop computer, iPads used for signing in volunteers, expensive bike repair tools, speakers, wifi hotspots and snacks for volunteers were gone.
With inventory tools also stolen, it will be awhile before they can figure out how many of their 13,000 bikes were stolen, if any. But after losing a week of work to clean up the huge mess the burglar or burglars left behind, they figure at least 300 kids could be impacted his holiday season.
On average during the pandemic, volunteers clean and repair around 300 bikes per week. In normal years, it's around 1,000 bikes per week.
"It's not just the bike, it's the kid that gets the bike," Martinson said.
Now the nonprofit known for its help needs help.
"We're really looking for support from volunteers and from our community to come in and help us clean bikes, repair bikes, move bikes," Martinson said.
They also need financial donations, which can be made online. Bikes are not needed at this time.