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Patrick Fire Department on a roll with donated bicycles

Staff Sgt. Rene Garza of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron pulls a tire from a wheel hub as he fixes bicycles for the Patrick Fire Department's Bike Program. The program donates used bikes to local charities for distribution to needy individuals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman David Dobrydney)

Staff Sgt. Rene Garza of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron pulls a tire from a wheel hub as he fixes bicycles for the Patrick Fire Department's Bike Program. The program donates used bikes to local charities for distribution to needy individuals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman David Dobrydney)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Have you got an old but usable bicycle in your garage you're not riding anymore?

A good way to keep it rolling is the Patrick Fire Department Bike Program. Overseen by Crew Chief Rob Norris, the program collects old bicycles of all sizes, refurbishes them and delivers them to local charities for distribution.

Mr. Norris helped start the program in 1990 with four other volunteers.

"We just wanted to do something for the local community," he said. "It started off small, but it has grown and grown."

That first year there were only 12 bicycles to give out. Since then, the program has given away approximately 1,000 bicycles, with 20 members of the fire department helping to repair between 100 to 150 bikes each year.

Larger bikes with racks are sent to Daily Bread, a Melbourne program that distributes them to the homeless. Child-size bikes are sent to Project Hope, a migrant outreach program in Sebastian.

The bikes are also sometimes given out to those who simply ask for them. "We had a contractor here once who lived in a local trailer park," Mr. Norris remembered. "He saw the bikes and asked us if he could buy six of them for some kids in his neighborhood. We said, 'We won't sell them to you, but we will give them to you.' So he loaded his truck with the bikes and took them home. About a week later, just before Christmas, we received the most heartfelt thank-you notes written on every kind of crazy paper you could imagine. One was from a mother and it was written on a brown paper sack."

The program operates strictly on outside donations of bikes, parts and tires. The collection goes on year-round, with actual repair and distribution taking place during November and December. People living on base can bring donations to the Fire House. Those living outside the base may bring donations to the South Gate to be left with the personnel there.