An auxiliary branch of Santa’s Elves makes Gila County home and are as dedicated a crew of toy makers as those stationed at the North Pole.
But these Elves wear orange, working year-round to brighten Christmas with new bikes distributed to children in low-income families each December.
The program, sponsored by Gila County Public Works Landfill & Recycling Program, is now in its 16th year — a specialized shop where Department of Corrections inmates repair and rebuild bicycles.
Hired by Gila County at 50 cents an hour, the inmates recycle bikes saved from the landfill, found abandoned — or donated to the effort.
The program has many partners: Gila County Health Department provides a safety helmet with each bicycle, an ongoing commitment to community health and safety.
This year 105 bikes were distributed Tuesday, Dec. 10. Gila County Supervisors Tommie Martin, Woody Cline and Tim Humphrey joined Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd; county manager James Menlove; and staff from the Public Works and Health Departments; along with representatives from Arizona Department of Corrections; the Town of Payson; Payson Fire Department; the Hellsgate Fire District; Payson Rotary; Time Out, Inc.; Arizona For Children; the Angel Project; and other partners working together in a Christmastime collaboration distributing free bikes to kids from low-income families.