The days might be getting shorter, but there are still plenty of good bike-riding days left on the calendar.
Unless you’re lacking a bike.
St. Francois County Community Partnership (SFCCP) and Shared Blessings transitional homeless shelter based in Bonne Terre have been partnering on a bicycle program that gives under-served kids and adults two wheels to exercise, play, or even more importantly, to look for jobs or commute to their jobs.
“I hear, ‘You have no idea how much time you saved me,’” said Vicky Huff, community services representative for Uplift Center, a part of East Missouri Action Agency that serves as a resource for the homeless. Huff said they keep a stable of bikes on hand that people can check in and out like a library book, or they can be given one if they need a more permanent, affordable means of transportation.
“They’re having to walk, and it might take them a whole day to get to the store. So if they can do multiple errands in a day on a bike, having one saves them so much time and legwork,” Huff said. “Also, sometimes I have people who might have a health condition and a lot of walking isn’t possible for them.”
Bill Bunch, executive director for SFCCP, said about two years ago, they received a call from the City of Bonne Terre regarding a number of bicycles that had accumulated in storage over a number of years. Some were abandoned, others probably forgotten, many in some form of disrepair.
Bonne Terre Police Chief Doug Calvert said the city makes every effort to find the owners of the bikes, but if they’re unclaimed, “they start to pile up.” Calvert said they keep the bikes 6-12 months before they’re given up.
Bunch said he remembered a program out of Potosi Correctional Center in which inmates worked over unwanted or unclaimed bikes for dispersal to needy kids during the holidays. He said for a while, Bonne Terre’s ERDCC prison inmates helped refurbish the bikes to make them road-worthy again.
“That first year, about 50 bikes went to Head Start and to halfway house residents to look for employment or go to work,” Bunch said. “We got nice thank you notes from the guys at the halfway house. But last year, that program ended, and Shared Blessings stepped up.”
Shelly Bess, executive director of Shared Blessings, said there’s a growing row of bikes in the homeless shelter’s storage area, and spare bike parts — the costs which SFCCP is reimbursing — have been ordered. They’re only waiting for volunteers to put them back into serviceable repair.
“Once it’s said and done, we plan to put 40 or 50 bikes back in service that would have been trashed,” she said. “Most just need minor repair. It’s turning out to be a very good thing.”
For more information or to donate old bicycles, contact Shared Blessings at 573-358-2998 or email@example.com.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.