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Man Refurbishes Hundreds of Bikes for Kids in Need: “No Child Should Go Without!”

The way Jeff Pew up-cycles old bikes is inspiring!

After strolling the Buckroe Beach boardwalk, Jeff Pew and his girlfriend Ginneen steered their bikes toward their Hampton, Virginia, condo.

“Over there!” Jeff pointed as they rounded the last corner.

There, at the curb, lay an old beach cruiser bicycle with a broken pedal and two flat tires. “I bet I can fix this, and somebody can get some good use out of it,” Jeff said and rolled it along with his own bike the last block home.

“I feel like a kid again!” the 45-year-old city facilities manager quipped as he oiled the rusty chain, remembering his own first bike — a beat-up hulk he’d found in a gravel pit near his Canton, Ohio, hometown.

Jeff had grown up poor but, recognizing his potential, his church had paid the tuition so he could attend private school. But the school was on the far side of town, which meant long bus rides back and forth, and all of Jeff’s friends lived far away—too far to walk. But once he had fixed up the bike, using his late grandfather’s tools, the trip was easy and fun. Every day after school, he rode all over town, thrilling in newfound freedom and independence.

And now, wheeling the refurbished cruiser bike outside, he hoped he could pass that gift along to someone else.

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Trash to treasure

Only minutes after Jeff placed the cruiser at the curb with a FREE! sign, a teen from the neighborhood spotted it and climbed aboard.

Watching him ride away, grinning ear-to-ear, warmed Jeff’s heart, and he told Ginneen, “I want to do that again.”

For many kids, a bike is a dream gift, and their excitement shows in their huge smiles
For many kids, a bike is a dream gift, and their excitement shows in their huge smiles

A few days later, a neighbor put out two old bikes for trash pickup and Jeff scooped them up and carried them to his back patio. He spent a few weekends repairing and repainting them, and they too were scooped up quickly when he placed them at the curb.

Jeff posted what he’d done on the Next Door app. I’d love to do even more, if you have any bikes you want to get rid of, he wrote, and the response was overwhelming with donations of bikes and money to help pay for new tires and such.

Now, Jeff's neighbors and friends pitch in to donate bikes
Now, Jeff’s neighbors and friends pitch in to donate bikes

A true joy ride

Soon, Jeff had a fleet of 60 bikes to make shiny and new — but where to store them? As the city’s facilities manager, he spends a lot of time at the police station, and when they learned what Jeff was doing, they offered him an unused shed. “Let me know when you have one all fixed up,” an officer told him. “There’s a little boy who lives behind me I’d love to teach how to ride.”

Even local police officers help with giveaways
Even local police officers help with giveaways

Jeff used parts from three donated bikes to deck out a great starter bike for the officer’s neighbor. Then he took several more refurbs to a church bike ride fundraiser so they could give them away.

When his neighbor SeeSee’s car broke down, Jeff gave her a bike so she could get to and from work and not lose her job. He also gave a bike to struggling single mom Kristy Scott for her 7-year-old daughter, Nora. “She was always asking me to get her a bike, but I couldn’t afford it. She loves the bike Jeff gave her. She rides it up and down the driveway for hours at a time.”

When Wanda Monroe, community manager for the 140 units at Sunset Creek, asked the local police to help out with the complex’s Christmas party, they reached out to Jeff, who provided bikes to give away. “Jeff also told me to let him know about any child who needs a bike and he’ll bring one over,” Wanda says.

For some, a bike is a way to get to and from work
For some, a bike is a way to get to and from work

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Over the past year, Jeff has given new life to dozens of discarded bikes, and he has a shed full of others awaiting repairs. He’s also filing to become an official nonprofit so he can apply for grants and shift his bike giving into even higher gear. In the meantime, whenever he spots a trashed bike, he tosses it into Ginneen’s pickup and takes it home to rebuild or use for parts.

Jeff with a happy recipient of one of the dozens of refurbished bikes he’s given away
Jeff with a happy recipient of one of the dozens of refurbished bikes he’s given away

Modestly, Jeff stays in the background when a child receives one of his bikes. “It means a lot more when a bike comes from a parent, family friend or another adult mentor,” he says. “I know from experience what an important milestone it is for a kid to receive that first bike and learn to ride. The whole world just opens up to you. It’s a rite of passage no child should ever have to go without.”

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