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New West community rallies around man whose livelihood threatened by theft

Bikram Keely has overcome challenges – but he could use a little help rebuilding his biz
Bikram Keely
Bikram Keely, shown with daughter Alyssa, is a familiar face to many folks around town. He now lives in Poco but was raised in New West and worked at the McBride Safeway for many years.

Community members are rallying around a resilient and hardworking man whose livelihood has been threatened by thieves.

Bikram Keely is a familiar face to many New Westies, having grown up in the city and having worked at the Safeway at Royal Square mall for many years. He’s also the entrepreneur behind Bik’s Neighbourly Lawn Care, a small business that provides lawn care, garbage disposal and similar services.

But Keely’s business has been challenged after thieves stole his work tools from his trailer last July. In an effort to help him carry on with the business, lifelong friend Dylan Jones has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help replace the stolen tools and lawn care equipment.

Jones said the theft has been a “massive” blow to his hardworking friend, who was born with cerebral palsy but hasn’t let that stop him from living his life to the fullest and achieving his goals.

“It’s been massive. It basically put him out of business,” he said of the impact of the theft. “He built his equipment inventory over 10 years.”

According to Jones, Keely has purchased some used tools as it’s not financially doable to buy new, high-quality tools. He’s also had to rent equipment to do certain jobs.

“Bik has had to overcome a lot. He has always been determined not to let his physical challenges get in his way,” he said. “He’s been a small business owner. He has worked at jobs at Safeway – he was at Safeway on Eighth for many years, and now he works for Wastech. If you have ever been to Wastech or Safeway, you’d know him.”

Bik’s Neighbourly Lawn Care helps Keely support his wife Kristell and their six-year-old daughter Alyssa.

According to Jones, Keely rejected his many offers to create an online fundraising campaign to help him get back on his feet. Not wanting to lose anymore business by cancelling jobs – because he doesn’t have the equipment needed or because the “crappy” equipment he’s picked up secondhand breaks down – he agreed.

“Bik’s insurance didn’t pay him much, but he’s been trying to get back on his feet by himself. He’s not been able to afford good equipment or has been trying to rent stuff. It’s been a huge struggle for him, so we were talking about what we could do,” Jones told the Record. “I had to convince him to ask for help, for many months. Finally he said yeah.”

Jones and Keely, who grew up in the same Glenbrooke North neighbourhood, attended Herbert Spencer Elementary School and New Westminster Secondary School.

The friends shopped around and created an itemized list of tools needed to replace the ones that were stolen, as well as a new enclosed trailer that will have a commercial-grade alarm and lock installed to help prevent future thefts. The fundraiser includes a list of the specific items that money raised will purchase: a power trimmer; a commercial grade lawnmower; a microcut lawn mower; a 4000 PSI power washer; a backpack blower; a 20" surface cleaner; assorted ladders, rakes, shovels, etc.; steel loading ramps; and a 6-by-10-foot enclosed commercial trailer.

On April 4, Jones launched the Help Bikram's Small Business Recover From Theft fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.

“It’s blown me away. I figured we would make the goal, but to see $6,500 in less than 24 is awesome,” Jones said. “He’s super excited; his wife Kristell is super excited.”

As of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, the campaign had already raised more than $7,000.

“I set a base goal of $15,000, which will get him the tools and the trailer he needs, and the alarm system and the locks and all that,” Jones said. “A stretch goal of $20,000 will allow us to get a nice wrap for the trailer, so he’s got a nice big rolling billboard whenever he goes anywhere; the same with his truck. That’s my stretch goal; I didn’t want to go too crazy. I wasn’t sure of the response, but I think we are going to push for those wraps.”

Jones said he’s heard from friends who like the idea of doing something positive at a time when COVID-19 and war are making life hard for so many people. And he can’t think of a better way than by supporting a man whose livelihood has been hampered by a theft that wiped out many years of hard work, sacrifice and savings.

“He was at Safeway for at least a decade. He did carts and stocking. He’s got his own business and then he works at Wastech, which is the Coquitlam transfer station. He’s kind of like a two full-time kind of guy,” he said. “His disability limits him on how on what he can do, so for him to make the money he wants he has to work a lot.”

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus