In #RaiseMKE

Greg Ryan started the "Good Neighbor Donation Program" about six years ago.

Local guy enjoys giving away free snowblowers to good homes

Some of us like to read or knit or shoot hoops, but Greg Ryan's favorite hobby is giving away free snowblowers. And lawnmowers.

"I enjoy fixing things. I can fix a broken snowblower and give it away to somebody who might not be able to afford it. It makes both of us happy at the same time," says Ryan. "Also, I keep it out of the landfill."

Ryan, who lives in Riverwest, is a retired electrical engineer who worked for Boeing in Seattle, Wash. and as the president of local internet company, ExecPC. After retirement, he took a part-time job at Bliffert Hardware where he specialized in tool and small engine repair.

During this time, he noticed how many people preferred to get new machines rather than repair an old one. He also noticed how many people couldn't afford to own a snowblower, and bought shovels from the hardware store instead.

"I started thinking, 'what if I begin advertising that I'll take the old, broken machines and repair them at my expense and then find a new home for them with somebody who may not be able to afford it?'" says Ryan, who eventually started a small side business, "Greg's Small Engines."

Ryan started advertising on Facebook and Next Door and in a short period of time, the concept – which he calls "The Good Neighbor Donation Program" – was a success. People are eager to donate their old machines and, of course, Ryan has no problem giving away the fixed appliances for free.

"I've developed somewhat of a following and people started giving me their old machines or alerting me to a disposed machine at the curb," says Ryan.

After fixing an old blower or mower, Ryan advertises again on social media to find a new home for his machine.

"I randomly select a new recipient. When our dog, Lafayette, was still with us he'd sometimes help me do this," says Ryan. "It's not a tax deduction or anything and I don't check to see if somebody really deserves it or not. It's the honor system that I'm giving it to a good home."

So far, Ryan distributed approximately 15 lawnmowers and 10 snowblowers, but says he's not really keeping track.

"I get to meet such a wide range of people on this job. Every occupation from a Rabbi in Sherman Park to a church photographer in Shorewood to a restaurant owner in Riverwest and an MATC English teacher on the North Side," says Ryan. "I've met lots of cool dogs, too."

Sometimes people ask if they can watch Ryan repair the machines.

"My customers watch me do my thing, and it's OK as long as there are not too many questions," says Ryan. "We both learn a thing or two in the process. We find out what makes each other tick."


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