By Lucy LaRosa
The Sheridan Press
SHERIDAN — You know that mountain bike that you were really excited about when you first bought it — those big dreams you had to hit the local trails every weekend. Is that bike is now collecting dust and spiderwebs in your garage? Or the bikes your kids, who’ve gone and left for college, used still leaning up against the side of the house?
The Sheridan Elks Lodge has a solution to your hoarding that gives back to the Sheridan community. The Elks began a tradition of repairing donated bikes and redistributing them to the public about six years ago.
It began as a “Bike for Kids” program however the Elks wanted to help others who were in need of transportation.
“We saw a need and decided we could do something about it,” Elks member Bob Strauser said.
The Salvation Army, Volunteers of America Northern Rockies and Department of Family Services create vouchers for those in need of transportation to receive bikes and the Elks provide them. The program is ongoing all year.
“The community has been very responsive,” said Larry Penrice, coordinator of the Sheridan Homeless Shelter. “They have built around our needs.”
The Sheridan Homeless Shelter provides an opportunity for their residents to request a bike for transportation purposes. Most of the residents use their bike to get to work. The Elks program also does complimentary tune ups for the recipients’ bikes whenever they are needed.
“Bikes are their primary mode of transportation,” he said.
While the bikes are free to recipients, the program does have a price tag.
“Our biggest problem is getting bikes donated and money donations for repairs … those little costs add up,” Strauser said.
The Elks bike program chairman Marvin Johnson is in charge of all the repairs.
Johnson said the shape of the bikes varies from almost brand new to bikes that have been left outside for years.
“Repairs can be in an up to $100 range,” Johnson said. “There’s so many different things that can need replaced.”
Strauser said the average amount spent per bike is approximately $10.58. Johnson also said he hopes the community will become more involved in the program by donating funds or bikes.
“I just don’t think it’s well known enough,” he said.
He also mentioned that he hopes to see more children’s bikes donated so the program can also focus their efforts on the children of economically disadvantaged families and not only on adult transportation.
He added that kids in the community outgrow their bikes or graduate to a higher mode of transportation, leaving their bikes to hang up in garages unused while there are other children who would use that bike as transportation or recreation.
“I’d like to be there for those kids who don’t have much,” he said.
Last year, the Elks bike program repaired and gave away 128 bikes.
Penrice recognizes the Elks bike program as essential for homeless shelter residents as it makes Sheridan much more accessible.