The Aberdeen Lions Club is here to help children get some nice wheels.
In a partnership with Stafford Creek Corrections Center and the Salvation Army, the Lions Club is helping to get reconditioned bicycles for children in need throughout the Grays Harbor, and northern Pacific County areas through a program called “Bicycles from Heaven.”
What happens is generous people from around the area donate their old bikes and then the inmates at Stafford Creek work on them, according to Kim Gilbert, service center coordinator for Salvation Army in Aberdeen.
“The prisoners at Stafford Creek refurbish the old bikes to brand new condition,” Gilbert said.
The inmates work on the “used, sometimes rusty, bicycles” and convert them into “virtually new machines,” according to Gene Schermer, who’s been helping the program succeed, for about 20 years. The bike giveaway has happened since Aberdeen had a Kiwanis Club. The Lions Club has continued that kind work.
Schermer spoke about the effort the inmates go through within the bike repair shop at the prison.
“As needed, they do sand blasting, welding, powder painting, replacement of decals, as well as new tubes and tires and brakes,” Schermer said in a write-up. “The Lions clubs of Grays Harbor pay for the parts, paint and tires. A generous grant from the Grays Harbor Community Foundation (from a few years ago) has helped to purchase some needed tools, as well as the parts.”
The bikes will be distributed to the children who need them — after their parents apply in-person or over the phone — on Saturday, Dec. 17. Each family will have a slot in which they can come and get their bike from a location at the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, according Schermer.
Parents have until Thursday, Dec. 15, to apply at Salvation Army — 120 W. Wishkah, in Aberdeen — in order to get their children the bikes. There are about 60 bikes and between 15-20 bikes have been applied for, so far.
All parents need to do is to apply. According to Gilbert, the application is a simple one.
“It just asks for names, birthdays, and the reason for the bike,” Gilbert said.
Last year, the bicycles distributed included Schwinn, Huffy, Mondu and other brand-name bikes. This year, according to Schermer, they even have a Trek bicycle to give to a child in need. Schermer said those usually start — brand new — at more than $500.
The available wheels range from tricycles for 2-year-olds to bicycles for 16-year-olds and up.
“We serve the whole gamut,” Schermer said.
Gilbert shared what she likes about the program.
“It helps keep (the inmates) busy,” Gilbert said. “It gives them a skill, and it provides the kids with a new bike.”
The excited children are something Gilbert can’t wait to see.
Count Schermer as another person who loves when he gets to welcome the parents and children so they can pick up their new bikes. He said his favorite part is seeing the children.
“That beats everything else,” Schermer said about giving the bikes to the children. “To see their eyes light up when they get a bike, that’s just great. Particularly the little ones. You set a 3-year-old on a trike and they just grab onto it tight. And then their siblings are getting bikes and their parents come out and try to take them off that bike, (but) they don’t want to get off. That’s their bike. And the older kids too. It’s great to see. They really appreciate the bikes.”
Schermer has also visited the repair shop at Stafford Creek, and sounded impressed by the work and how much the inmates care.
“It’s a win-win,” Schermer said, adding, “I’ve visited the shop a couple of times and they really get a lot of satisfaction out of making the bikes.”