Tampa nonprofit seeks bicycles to donate to needy ahead of holiday season

A Tampa Bay nonprofit geared toward donating bicycles to the needy is hunkering down for increased demand for the holiday season.

Pat Simmons and a small group of volunteers spend hours working on a variety of bicycles. 

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Some bikes are brand new, but most are older. Some are colorful kids’ bikes, while others are complex mountain bikes. Every bike has been donated. 

"The need has gotten much greater this year," Simmons said. 

Simmons founded Bikes For Christ in 2016, which has helped put thousands of bicycles into the hands of people who need them most. The non-profit works with case managers, employers and social workers from over 100 organizations in five counties of the Tampa Bay area. 

"The case manager is already working directly with an individual, so they know if that person is serious or not about making the right decisions for the better," Simmons said. "That bike is going to allow somebody to get to a job, get back and forth to work, get to the grocery store, put food on the table and feed their family 365 days a year."

Some of the organizations Bikes For Christ works directly with are Metro Ministries, ECHO (Emergency Care Help Organization) of Brandon and several local elementary schools. 

The organization has provided around 320 bikes annually in the last three years, but they surpassed that number in September this year. Simmons estimates that they will provide over 450 by the end of 2023. 

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He said he thinks inflation is a key component to the rising need, which increases the workload for the all-volunteer organization. 

"Most all of the bikes we get need some type of work," Simmons said. 

Work includes changing tire tubes, tightening and loosening cables and fixing frames. Repair work is done in a 300-square-foot workshop. 

"Our biggest need right now is a new shop," Simmons said. "It would allow us to bring in more volunteers, which in turn would allow us to turn out more bicycles."

A new shop is one of the biggest goals for next year. Right now, they are preparing for the holiday demand. 

"With every bike that we send out, we ask that the case manager sends a picture and a story back on that person," Simmons said. "Just to get the pictures back and then some of the stories of how that bicycle is going to help them overcome their hardships - that’s incredible and that’s probably the biggest blessing."

For more information on Bikes For Christ, click here.