Make it count.
That’s how People of Faith Lutheran Church member Roger Rutledge lives his days.
And that’s also how he came up with the idea of the church’s Bikes for the Homeless project about a year ago.
“I’ve been in our church’s council for six or seven years now, and … I suggested the bicycle project,” he said. “And the (other) members liked that idea. They said, ‘Do you think you can make it work?’ And I said: ‘I’ve never seen anything broken that I couldn’t fix. Now, I’m not exactly a bicycle mechanic, but if we could collect bicycles, I think I could be the chief mechanic in charge of fixing them up and making them street worthy and safe to be donated to the homeless so that they could get to a job.’”
Since then, the ministry has donated 16 bicycles and currently is working on more.
“It’s giving back, helping people who might be down on their luck,” said Rick Kristoff, pastor at People of Faith Lutheran Church.
Every Wednesday and Friday afternoon, Rutledge works on the donated bikes. He harvests parts from bikes that can’t be fixed and uses them to get others working again.
“It doesn’t matter to me what shape a bicycle is in when it’s donated,” Rutledge said. “It might be good only for parts, but for me, it’s a treasure.”
Many of the donations that the ministry has received so far come from members of the church .
“We get bikes from different places, and then he brings them back here to what we call the ‘Faith House,’” Kristoff said. “It’s where our church offices are — which is really an old farm house, but we use it for our main church hub. In the back there’s a little shed. So, he refurbished that shed. He put solar lights and racks in there to put the bikes when he’s done.
“He works on the bikes, he changes tires, he looks at the gears, the brakes, and we’ve had some high school kids (who have) come here from West Orange High and other places that have worked as his assistants,” he said. “It’s been wonderful. … It seems to have taken all these many different arms, if you will, and it’s been a wonderful ministry.”
Sometimes however, there are parts that need to be purchased. Thankfully, the ministry’s fund designated for the project can help cover the costs for cable locks, as well as front and rear lights, among other parts.
“Everything comes from donations,” Rutledge said. “We’ll just keep collecting money from online donations.”
For the project to work, there is not need for much — just an unwanted or unused bike and the will to let Rutledge know so a drop-off or pick-up time can be coordinated. Matthew’s Hope agreed to collaborate on the project by providing transport for the bikes to be picked up when needed and to deliver the bikes when they are ready to be handed out.
“I want to make sure that (the bikes) go to adults who do not have transportation but instead use that bicycle as transportation,” Rutledge said. “(They) can use them to go on job interviews or go to work, even to go to the doctor’s office or something like that.”
On the side of the Matthew’s Hope truck that’s in charge of delivering the bikes there is a saying displayed that reads, “We don’t give handouts, we give hand ups.”
For people to get a bike through the program, Matthew’s Hope requires participants to complete 20 hours of volunteer work doing simple tasks such as putting clothing or sorted items away in boxes
“It’s easy labor in return for a bicycle,” Rutledge said.
Looking forward, the goal for the ministry is to create a positive impact in the lives of many.
“Being able to help the poor, the needy, that’s what we are all about,” Kristoff said. “My ambition is for this program to go on forever.”