MASHPEE — When Laurie DePina of My Cousin Vinny’s Junk Removing marketed bicycle availability at her location, she obtained a flood of calls from J-1 college students, who have been desperately in want of transportation. 

“It is not straightforward to seek out bikes consider it or not,” stated DePina of Mashpee. “And these college students are simply searching for the simplest option to get round.”

The J-1 college students, who’re often known as seasonal, cultural change guests and staff, started calling DePina from so far as Provincetown searching for two-wheelers.

“They want them to get to and from work — they’re working at locations like Roche Bros and down at Popponessett Market,” she stated. “They haven’t got numerous transportation choices.”

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Seeing the demand, DePina began to assist as many J1 college students as she might — even making a “explanation for the week,” on the My Cousin Vinny’s Fb web page, the place neighborhood members might donate cash to purchase J-1 college students a motorcycle.

“Even when it is solely $10 it is one thing,” she stated. “So we may also help people who want it.”

For different J-1 college students, she and her son Vincent Doheney, co-owner of My Cousin Vinny’s, together with Patrick Wooten, gifted bicycles to those that could not afford them. 

Hi there Summer season J-1

DePina’s endeavors finally related her with Judy Scaglione, a volunteer with Hi there Summer season J-1, an organizational outreach collaboration between native church buildings, which seeks to assist J-1 college students expertise a secure and profitable summer time as they work on Cape. 

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Scaglione has been concerned with Hi there Summer season J-1 since 2019, and stated the group helps 1000’s of scholars from all over the world discover housing and transportation. 

“Housing and transportation are the 2 largest priorities for these J-1 staff,” she stated.

All year long, the group builds partnerships with companies like Cape Cod 5 to assist put together for J-1 arrivals. The financial institution, specifically, donates roughly 1,200 “bike backpacks” yearly to equip college students with journey instruments like bicycle lights, which assist college students get to and from work within the night. 

“It is an enormous endeavor,” she stated. “Yearly we spend a number of weeks packing the baggage with potato chips, back and front bicycle lights for security, and we embrace security tips on our Hi there Summer season J-1 website.”

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For companies which might be immediately hiring the J-1 college students, Hi there Summer season J-1 encourages them to rearrange housing and transportation choices for the seasonal staff, who usually decide up second jobs. Particularly, stated Scaglione, as a result of the youngsters are already spending 1000’s of {dollars} to journey to the USA to work. Discovering bicycles is important to their success, she stated. 

“Simply to return right here, they should pay teams who discover them jobs, they should pay for his or her visas and medical health insurance,” she stated. “So it runs into an terrible lot of cash.”

Two-wheel gross sales dwindle

Catherine Dow Boyle, an affiliate pastor on the Mid-Cape Worship Middle, stated she based Hi there Summer season J-1 to tell, assist and supply friendship alternatives for J-1 college students.

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Whereas the group formally had a bicycle program, the efforts got here to an finish after the bicycle volunteer had an sickness in his household. Whereas that has considerably impacted college students’ potential to acquire bicycles earlier than they arrive on Cape, she stated the true setback has been bicycle retailers which have switched from gross sales to leases to accommodate vacationers.

At one time, Benny’s in Dennis Port offered bikes for $80, Dow Boyle stated, however the chain retailer closed in 2017, leaving only a handful of motorbike shops all through the Cape. At Orleans Cycle, for instance, an grownup hybrid bicycle rental prices $125 per week, in response to its web site. Different companies can value $15 per hour.

“I’ve a listing of locations which have bikes and we used to refer college students to them. However now the youngsters are coming again to us saying these locations are doing rental solely,” she stated. “The leases are very costly for the J-1 college students.”

Cape Cod J-1 workforce down by 3,000

In 2019, Dow Boyle stated roughly 5,100 J-1 college students got here to the Cape to work from international locations together with Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Eire, Russia, Malaysia and Serbia. Whereas the scholars are nonetheless originating from most of the similar nations, the variety of J-1 college students who’re coming to the Cape has dwindled to only one,185 anticipated to reach by July, in response to Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce information. 

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Paul Niedzwiecki, chief govt officer of the Cape Cod Chamber, stated his workplace has been conducting a deep dive into summer time work journey visa information for J-1 college students and stated there are about 100,000 J-1s issued nationally, with the Cape taking roughly 5% of the whole quantity. 

However for the primary time, J-1 program sponsoring companies are requiring companies to supply housing for the seasonal staff. As a result of companies are struggling to seek out housing alternatives for his or her staff, he stated 3,000 individuals have been lower from the Cape’s summer time J-1 programming, as sponsoring companies direct their college students to different locations throughout the nation.

“That is the results of the intersection of the housing disaster and the labor scarcity. And it  additionally seems like it may be a long-term downside,” he stated. “As a result of the true property market has modified.” 

Complicating the scenario, stated Niedzwiecki, is that many J-1 college students beforehand obtained assist by means of volunteer teams  hooked up to faith-based organizations across the Cape. Apart from Hi there Summer season J-1, many volunteers have begun to age out, he stated, and retire. In response, the chamber is organizing efforts to take all present host households by means of these volunteer networks, and produce them beneath one regional group so the host program can increase. 

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“We wish to step up that host program as a result of that would assist as early as subsequent summer time,” he stated.

Discovering options 

The chamber can also be trying in direction of the adaptive re-use of older resort and motels. Niedzwiecki stated 96% of companies on the Cape have 20 or fewer staff, and 60% of these, have 5 staff or fewer. Companies like Chatham Bars Inn or Ocean Edge Resort have the power to buy properties for his or her staff or can use a few of their resort rooms for J-1 college students. However not all small companies have that benefit, he stated. 

“Developing with a mannequin by means of adaptive re-use of motels and condominiums …  might actually assist smaller companies take part,” he stated.

Niedzwiecki stated communities additionally want to take a look at rising density at city facilities to accommodate seasonal staff. 

“Allowing and permitting the form of seasonal workforce housing that we completely want is important,” he stated. “We’re feeling this proper now. We’re presently being impacted economically and there’s a large alternative loss due to the labor scarcity.”

For DePina, there’s solely a lot she will do for this yr’s inflow of J-1 college students. However she stated My Cousin Vinny’s is making an attempt to suppose forward for 2023 college students who will most probably be going through the identical issues. Whereas the enterprise already frequently offers used furnishings and provides to these in want, she stated the corporate is planning to construct a facility this yr so when J-1 college students come, they may have bicycles prepared and ready for them. 

“They’re so well mannered, properly mannered and grateful. I’ve realized a lot for simply placing free bikes on my web page,” she stated. “I hope by subsequent yr we may also help them on a a lot bigger degree.”

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