“People who didn’t have bikes and all of a sudden needed them for transportation couldn’t find any."
“Our church bike shop fixes up donated bikes and gives them free of charge to people who are homeless or in need. We’ve been doing this here at St. Andrews for 17 years now and in the past several years, we’ve given out about 1500 bikes a year. In 2020, it was only about two thirds of that, around 996, because the seasonal bike rental places that usually donate used bikes to us each year were holding onto them, painting them up, to use again. And now here it is, March 2021, a whole year after all this started, and I’m shorter on bikes now than I've ever been at this time of year.
The problem is that bikes are not only expensive, but because of the COVID they weren't available if you went into Walmart or Target. By March of last year, those places were out of bikes. So people who didn’t have bikes and all of a sudden needed them for transportation couldn’t find any.
The demographics of the people we give the bikes to changed a lot during the pandemic. We had more homeless because of this situation with COVID, but we also had a larger percentage of people in need. Some of the people in need even had homes and a car or two, but they weren’t able to afford to buy gas. Cars don't do much good if you cannot afford to put gas in them. So a lot of these people needed bikes so they could ride to get groceries, ride to apply to jobs, ride to pick up the free lunches schools were serving for their free and reduced lunch students. We also give out a lot of bikes to kids whose families cannot afford them.
I’ve been doing this here at the church for 17 years because there is a need, a real need. I try to live my life treating other people like I'd like to be treated. So, if I needed a bike, I'd like to have one available.
A couple weeks ago, a father and a son came in because the father needed a bike. While we were picking one out, Ed, one of our volunteers, quickly fixed up a bike for the son and gave it to him as a surprise. His eyes lit up, it was so nice.
Most of the year, it's just the three of us that are working, and we don't get paid, we're volunteers. Both Ed and Mike have been working for me for over six years. They are both homeless, but they volunteer here to help others. Ed sleeps on a cot on that concrete slab over there, where we keep some of the bikes outside. He’s the night watchman.
There are a lot of times it’s satisfying, doing what we do. I go home at night very tired, but also knowing we’ve helped a lot of people.” - Walt, St. Andrews-by-the Sea Episcopal Church #Florida