by Dan Holland
Bike Fix-it Day, which occurs on one designated day each month at Brecksville United Methodist Church, is in the business of accepting donated bicycles that are then repaired and distributed to needy families around the Greater Cleveland area. To date, more than 700 bicycles have come through the program since it was founded in 2015.
The program began as a temporary mission effort tied to Vacation Bible School during the summer of 2015, according to Jennifer Gee, director of Christian education for the church.
“At the time, I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know how many times I ‘ve driven around this area and have seen a perfectly good-looking bike sitting out on a tree lawn,’” she said. “So, I thought we would collect bikes and adjust the brakes, or whatever they needed, and get them to others. I really had no plan or idea of what I was doing when we first started.”
The brainstorm happened at a time when the church’s youth group and a number of adults, including Gee, were performing repairs and painting work on homes on Cleveland’s West Side with Nehemiah Mission of Cleveland and noted among the neighborhood children that some were on bikes while others ran or walked next to them.
“As we were working, the neighborhood kids were fascinated with what we were doing, and there would be 10 or 12 of them, with maybe three or four on bikes and the rest just running alongside,” she explained.
The program got its first boost in 2015 when officers from the Parma Police Department dropped off a shipment of recovered bikes that had been stolen but were unable to be properly identified and reunited with the owners. Over the years, other churches have dropped off bikes as well. A stage in the church’s Fellowship Hall currently holds around 100 bikes ready to be worked on. Some are harvested for parts.
The partner ministry leaders in Cleveland, who distribute the bikes, told Gee that having a bike makes the neighborhoods a bit safer for children while also providing local transportation options.
“They told us that being on a bike makes kids safer in the neighborhood because no one is jumping to grab your backpack or start up a fight, because you’re moving quickly,” Gee said. “Many of these kids have been able to sign up for afterschool recreation programs and even run errands for their families if they don’t own a car; something we don’t even think about in this area.”
The program provides an outlet for local residents to provide needed resources to others.
“I think people see things they have and know that there’s still life in them, but they just don’t know how to get them into the hands of someone who can use it,” she said. “This opens up an avenue to not have it go to a landfill and to know that it’s going someplace where it will be appreciated and literally change lives. We have a lot of adults who get bikes in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood who use them to get to work or do grocery shopping.” The fix-it crew usually consists of around 12-15 volunteers each month, and the ministry is always looking for more to join in, said Gee. Bicycles can be dropped off through the rear entrance of the church during regular hours Sunday through Friday. The next Bike Fix-it Day will take place on Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. – noon.