Gila County officials met to participate in distributing refurbished bikes to needy families. Pictured are: (front row, left to right) Charlotte Farr, representing CPS; Mark Essary, Houston-Mesa Fire Dept.; Chief Steve Montgomery, DPS; Jim Rasmussen, Payson Fire Dept.; Sharon Winters, landfill manager; Mary Lou Weatherly, superintendent, Tonto Basin School; Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin (back row) Don Engler, Payson Police Dept.; Shane Johnson, Pine-Strawberry Fire Dept.; Keith Brown and Gary Hohs, Payson Fire Dept.; Todd Bramlet, Payson Police Dept.; and not pictured but also participating in the bike distribution were: Hellsgate, Beaver Valley and Whispering Pines fire departments.
Photo by Andy Towle.
For the eighth year in a row, the Gila County Recycling and Landfill department has spearheaded a program to refurbish bikes for underprivileged children.
Every year, bikes collected from the landfill, or donated by the public and Payson Police Department, find a new lease on life through the refurbishing program.
Inmates from the Department of Correction (DOC) offer their talents to rebuild and redecorate the bikes for distribution through DES, Public Safety Departments, American Legion, and local fire departments.
The team of DOC experts repaints and replaces parts on bicycles such as new seats, tires, tubes, and handgrips. All parts are purchased by the Gila County Recycling and Landfill management department using funds from recycling and donations from BHP Copper and FreePort McMoRan. The Hike, Bike and Run Shop in Payson helped to find parts.
The refurbished bikes not only bring joy to the children, but to the inmates who rebuild them as well.
One inmate said that although he can’t be with his children at Christmas, building bikes makes him feel closer to them, said Sharon Winters, manager of the recycling and landfill department for Gila County.
The program distributes bikes throughout the county. This year, northern Gila County received 50 bikes.
In Payson, the fire department will distribute about a dozen bikes through its Christmas for Kids program, said Monica Savage, secretary for the department.
After the children spend an afternoon with a public safety officer purchasing winter clothes and necessities, the children attend a party at Santa’s Workshop where bikes, toys, games, and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap await them.
Early this month on Dec. 6 and 7, needy families came to the Payson Fire Department to qualify for the program. In order to qualify, parents must have proof of income, (AHCCCS or food stamps may be used), and proof of guardianship, (birth certificate or school record).
The Christmas for Kids event takes place on Dec. 19 and 20.
At the Houston-Mesa Fire Department, new Fire Chief Mark Essary received four bikes, but has not had the time to develop a program.
“When I was at the Whispering Pines Fire Department, we planned ahead to find families. I unfortunately don’t have a program here yet. I hope to put something together by next year,” he said.
For this year, the fire department has put out the word through the Caballo Club. It has also approached community members who know the area well.
The Houston-Mesa Fire Department serves Mesa del Caballo, Freedom Acres and Wonder Valley.
Anyone who knows of a family that could benefit from receiving a bike for their child this holiday season, please call the Houston-Mesa Fire Department at (928) 472-7908.