We had the good fortune of connecting with Shelly Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shelly, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
Phantom Cyclist partners with The Welcome to America Project, serving refugees in the Greater Phoenix area. At Phantom Cyclist, our mission is simple, we share bikes, new and gently used, with refugees. A bike enables an individual to be more fluid within their community. Better work opportunities and the ability to commute to school and social events becomes possible with a bicycle. A newly arrived refugee may not have the language skills, or the financial resources, to utilize mass transportation in large metropolitan areas. A bike becomes their lifeline to independence and being able to be more self sufficient in their new community. Most people are not aware of the actual process of how, or why, a refugee comes to the United States. When a refugee flees from their home, it is typically for life or death situations. Many times a refugee finds immediate safety in a refugee camp, where they begin the long process of relocating to a safe country. This can take anywhere from two years and up to 25 years! Refugees are some of the most highly vetted individuals entering the U.S. Once they obtain their approval to enter, they have five years to repay the government for their airfare, six months to find self-sustaining employment, and are not eligible for government benefits after 6 months, unless they become citizens after five years of residing in the United States. Keep in mind, these are people who arrive with one suitcase, if that. So, even after safely getting here, they face enormous challenges.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Phantom Cyclist is different and that story is in our name. A question I am often asked is, “Why the name Phantom Cyclist?” The answer is pretty simple. We are about the receiver of the bike and not about the giver. People who share a bike, or perform maintenance on bikes to ready them for the refugees, don’t do it because they want to see themselves on social media or called out in some other way. They don’t need a standing ovation or lots of recognition for what they’ve done. Phantom Cyclists give quietly. The reward is in the face of the child, or the adult, who just received their very first bike. The refugees are not concerned with brands or colors, or even if the bike is imperfect. If you have ever experience “new bike day”, magnify this 100 times for the refugee. The reward for the Phantom Cyclist is knowing they helped empower someone with two wheels. The reward is the impact that it has on the receiver. This is what makes us Phantom Cyclist.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I like simple things, and I am definitely an outdoor girl. In my free time, I am either on a bike or at Tierra Madre Horse and Human Sanctuary hanging with the horses. If I could plan the perfect day, it would involve 29 horses, a bike and a cup of coffee in the beautiful town of Cave Creek. If my best friend were visiting, we would definitely enjoy the trails at Brown’s Mountain on a mountain bike. From there we would head over to The Grotto’s patio for lunch and enjoy our first cup of coffee, and then on to Local Johnny’s for the second cup, sitting at a high top on the patio, of course. After exploring the quaint shops in Cave Creek, we would end the day on the patio at Bryan’s BBQ. The rest of the week would be spent hiking in Spur Cross, Apache Wash or the McDowell Mountains. For a very special treat, we would dine at Buck and Riders and on the patio at Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn. Both of these places never disappoint. For me, it is the outdoors that makes Arizona a particularly special place, and I usually find a way to incorporate into my day.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Without a doubt, this would be Mike Sullivan at The Welcome to America Project. When Phantom Cyclist was formed, it was an idea with a lot of heart and soul behind it. Partnering with The Welcome to America Project gave Phantom Cyclist a platform to expand the number of refugees served. I knew that I loved bikes. I knew that I wanted to make an impact within the refugee community by helping them become more independent in their communities. Mike, and countless other volunteers at WTAP, have been making an impact within the refugee community since 2001, serving over 2000 families! I have learned a great deal about refugees, their unique needs, and the struggles they face every single day. This knowledge has led to over a thousand bikes being shared within the Greater Phoenix area.
Facebook: Phantom Cyclist https://www.facebook.com/Phantom-Cyclist-1489532604502043
Other: The Welcome to America Project: WTAP.org
Molly Bruce Photography