Overcast, 59°
Weather sponsored by:

Pedaling hope for the Christmas season

Groups repair discarded bikes for J.P. Hall Children’s Charities Christmas Party

Posted 12/7/23

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The stacks of bicycles at the old Volunteer Fire Department are not shiny or new. An unsuspecting custodian could make the mistake of throwing them out. But for volunteers in …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Pedaling hope for the Christmas season

Groups repair discarded bikes for J.P. Hall Children’s Charities Christmas Party


Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The stacks of bicycles at the old Volunteer Fire Department are not shiny or new. An unsuspecting custodian could make the mistake of throwing them out. But for volunteers in Green Cove Springs, the pile represents a potential for Christmas joy, a present under the tree for a family that could not afford otherwise.

From a clutter of rusted wheels, metal frames or bent handlebars, there are spare parts that can be repurposed into a safe, perfectly sound bike any child would be thrilled to ride away on.

Seven volunteers from Green Cove Springs and the James Boys from Orange Park Methodist Church have been working tirelessly all year so that any child can take a bicycle home from the J.P. Hall Children’s Charities Christmas Party on Dec. 16.

Last year, the two groups delivered 740 bikes to the Clay County Fairgrounds for the toy giveaway. Every child who wanted a bike got one.

The volunteers reached out across the county. Bicycles came from Orange Park and Green Cove Springs police departments, Clay County and Jacksonville sheriff’s offices, residents and NAS Jacksonville. Some repairs are as simple as a new tire or brakes. Others are more labor intensive. The ones battered beyond repair are cannibalized for spare parts.

“Why do this? Because it gives children who would not otherwise have a bicycle, a bicycle,” Richard Knoff said.

“When you think about it, when you were a kid, what was the best thing you got for Christmas? It was a bicycle, and a lot of these poor families can’t afford to buy a kid a new bicycle, especially now. I’ve done this for 35 years, and it’s been the same over time.”

Fred Phelps helps in Green Cove Springs. He started because he didn’t want to sit at home with nothing to do. Through volunteering, he found camaraderie and fulfillment.

“We don’t have a name for our group,” he said while chuckling. “Maybe we need a name. We should just name it ‘Richard’ because he gets so involved with everything he falls into. You can hardly say no to that man.”

Fixing as many as 400 bikes a year takes a lot of dealing-making. Knoff gets grants and donations from nonprofit groups, and that money buys new parts. Knoff said that higher-end bicycles are often sold because the money for one bike can buy enough parts to fix five more.

Bikes in unsalvagable condition are sold for scrap metal.

“Every dollar goes back into this,” he said.

Both groups will start delivering their bicycles to the fairgrounds on Dec. 14. Newly refurbished bikes in Green Cove Springs are stored at Fox Manufacturing on the second floor of a World War II aircraft hanger.

Knoff and Phelps said work will continue until the Christmas party. Every bike that gets refurbished is another opportunity to make a child smile.

“We’re going to try and fix up as many of these as we have here,” Knoff said while pointing to a menagerie of bikes of all shapes, forms and conditions. “So, we give away all the bikes that we can, starting with the best bikes that we pulled out of all this mess. And when I say the best bikes, the easiest stuff to fix before Dec. 16.”

Phelps said all bikes are mechanically sound when they leave their shop. Most have new or barely used tires. All have reflectors and working gears and brakes. Rust has been removed, and the moving parts will be fully lubricated.

Knoff said the goal is to deliver a bike that will last at least two years.

“The last thing you want is to have it break down because if it does, they probably can’t afford to get it fixed,” he said.

Anyone who has an unwanted bicycle can drop it off at any Clay County Fire Rescue station.

“Or they can call me,” Knoff said. “I’ll come get it.”

His number is (904) 699-1072.

Imagine how, for hundreds of children, the favorite gift they could ever unwrap for Christmas is right now collecting dust in a garage or shed. Richard Knoff and Fred Phelps think about it every day.