By Michael Yeoman
Contributing Writer —
Lines started forming as early as 8 a.m. as eager children and adults anxiously awaited for the doors to open at 1 p.m. on this year’s annual Bike Day as 321 families in Madison County who may have otherwise not been able to afford one received bicycles.
Ainsley Penicle, 3, of Oneida Castle was in the front quarter of the line stretching from the former Rite-Aid store down to United Auto Parts at the North Side Shopping Center. She hoped to find a pink bicycle with training wheels so she could learn how to ride.
Inside, Community Bikes coordinator Chuck Fox held a last-minute meeting with a large group of volunteers who came out to help place the correct bike with each individual.
“Getting a bicycle today is going to make a big difference for a lot of these kids and families and they do appreciate it,” Fox said. He encouraged volunteers to make the experience as special and as positive for the recipient as possible.
Both older and newer bikes were donated by area residents throughout the year. “We have everything from tricycles to mountain bikes here today,” said Fox. Rows of tricycles, cruisers, hybrids, and mountain bikes sat polished up and ready to go. Volunteers had spent the winter months fixing up the donated bicycles and making them safe for their new owner.
As families entered the former Rite-Aid, they were greeted by a “mechanic” who walked with them to the bike an individual selected, helped them adjust the seat to its proper height and explain how to use the brakes and gears.
“This is super cool,” said Austin Ungler, 11, of Eaton, whose face was brimming with smiles as he guided his bike around the floor of the giveaway area. He was assisted by Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley, who was on hand with his wife, Carol, and several other volunteers to help to properly fit the helmets onto the heads of new owners.
“This is a great event. The kids get a good feeling about themselves with their new bicycles and have a safe bike to ride during the spring and summer months,” Riley said.
In addition to the bicycle and helmet, most of the bicycle recipients also received a lock to safely secure the bicycle at school or at work.
“We are extremely grateful to those individuals and organizations who donate their unused bicycles,” said Fox. “They have the satisfaction of knowing that a bike that may be sitting unused in their garage will be enjoyed by someone in our community who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a bike.”
This year’s Community Bikes Program was the fourth annual giveaway in Madison County and the first held at the North Side Shopping Center. Previous years’ events have been at the Kallet Civic Center.
Fox also credits Community Action Partnership of Madison County for being an active partner with Community Bikes over the past four years and in helping to assemble a listing for the placement of bikes for this event with families and individuals in Madison County who are in need of one.
The local demand for bicycles exceeds the number given away at the annual distribution on Bike Day. “Every year it seems the demand increases. It could be a sign of the economy,” Fox said. Those who do not receive a bike at the annual giveaway are placed on a list and provided with a bicycle when one is received that meets their needs. Fox accepts donations year round to help meet the demands of this important program.
Originally posted by The Oneida Dispatch on 4/15.