This is the time of year when the generosity of ordinary people is in the spotlight. The requests of food pantries and homeless shelters replace the news about the Redskins offensive line and take their rightful place on page one, above the fold. Most charities, however, operate not just during the holiday season but all year long.
The "Local Living" section in the Thanksgiving edition of The Washington Post ran a story about a quiet charity that I had never heard of. It's a Fairfax county bike shop that refurbishes donated bikes and then gives them to children who cannot afford to buy their own.
Here's the twist: The bike mechanics are students from Herndon Middle School. The repair shop is a trailer behind their school.
The lucky recipients are kids whose families participate in the Neighborhood Resource Center, a joint effort of the town of Herndon and Fairfax County that offers comprehensive services to Herndon neighborhoods that need assistance.
The middle schoolers stay after school one day each week to learn bike repair and how to transform a discarded pair of wheels into something to be coveted. By the end of the year, they can even earn a bike of their own. Some who already have bikes donate their earned bikes to the Resource Center. Others who are without wheels keep the earned bikes for themselves. The kids from the Resource Center get free bikes. Everyone wins. Bikes that are not salvageable are disassembled and used for parts. According to the Post, the shop's goal is to restore 40 bikes this year. Currently, the junior mechanics are working to deliver 10 bikes to the Resource Center before Christmas.
If you get a shiny new bike this holiday season, please don't throw your old one away, even if it's a clunker. Give it a second life. Take it to the main office at Herndon Middle School, 901 Locust Street, in Herndon, Virginia, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. There are some eager middle schoolers there, equipped with wrenches, rags, and technical expertise. They have big plans for your bike. It's called re-cycling. Herndon is accessible from the Capitol Beltway (Route 495), the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267), and Leesburg Pike (Route 7).