Old Spokes Home

Retired policeman Harold Nuefang had a unique holiday tradition: Each Christmas, he would distribute used bicycles he had fixed up to children in need. But when the Tacoma, Washington, resident died in 2000, no successor stepped up to continue his legacy. 

That changed when a group of Marine View Presbyterian Church members decided to revive Nuefang’s charitable giving through an effort they called Bikes for Kids.

“Our small group decided, ‘Hey, we could take that on,’” says Don Cowan, Bikes for Kids co-director. “But we knew nothing about [fixing] bikes.”

Their lack of knowledge didn’t deter the volunteers. With tutoring from former bicycle repairmen, the group met their goal of refurbishing 100 bicycles in time for Christmas. By 2015, the Bikes for Kids crew had ballooned to 30 volunteers, and Marine View Presbyterian had supplied the ministry with a former manse that they converted into a bike shop. 

Bicycle donations come in from individuals, recycling events and area bike drop-off locations. To raise funds, the team will sometimes sell some of the best donated bikes at the annual Tacoma Bike Swap event. 

Expanding its team and forming partnerships with other charitable organizations gives the Bikes for Kids program the capacity to refurbish and distribute hundreds of bicycles. To date, the team has taken in 14,374 bikes, with some of them salvaged for parts and others sent to recycling. They distribute the bikes to people in the community through partner organizations.

Including Cowan, most of the volunteers are retirees who feel a sense of purpose through their participation in Bikes for Kids. About half do not attend Marine View Presbyterian Church but simply want to repair bikes for children in need.

“It’s been a good outreach in terms of getting other people involved,” Cowan says. “It’s about giving back. It’s about being part of something that is bigger than ourselves.”

Nadra Kareem Nittle
Nadra Kareem Nittletwitter.com/NadraKareem

Nadra Kareem Nittle has written for Outreach magazine since 2009. She has written about faith and other issues for a number of publications and websites, including the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, About.com's Race Relations website, TheLoop21.com, PRISM magazine and the Inland Valley Times. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles.