The Sumter Landing Bicycle Club, in association with The Village Bicycle Club and the Florida PANTHERS Tandem Club, held its annual bicycle collection event on Friday morning at Lake Miona Recreation Center.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office also works with this project, donating the refurbished bikes to those in the community most in need.
“We get close to 300 bikes donated,” said Dave Lawrence, a member of the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club who organized the event.
The donated bikes are cleaned, then taken for a test ride. The necessary repairs are made and then the bikes are taken for a second test drive. When they pass inspection, the bikes are put in the trailers provided by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.
“After two decades, we have the system down pat,” Lawrence said. “We have doubled the number of volunteers this year. We have about 40 people out here this morning,” he said, adding that all of the work on the bicycles is done by volunteers.
Another new addition this year is having 18 League Cycling Instructors assessing needed repairs.
“These folks are real experts who have been trained,” Lawrence said. “They are doing our test rides and helping us diagnose what needs to be fixed on the bikes.”
New Sumter Landing Bicycle Club President Holly Dates was one of those instructors who was testing the bikes.
“This is my first year participating,” she said. “I am speechless at all the bikes coming in this morning. The care, compassion and enthusiasm of Villagers is really something.”
Dates said the volunteers worked as a team to refurbish the bikes.
“This is the true Christmas spirit,” she said. “It is the true sense of what Christmas is all about.”
Sumter County sheriff’s Master Sgt. John Farfaglia agreed.
“To see this outpouring of support is great,” said the 20-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, who recently transferred to The Villages Annex near the intersection of County Road 466 and Morse Boulevard.
Some of those donating bikes brought them in because they no longer wanted to ride. But others got caught up in the holiday spirit and wanted to contribute to those who have less, so they donated brand new bikes.
That’s what Village of Summerhill residents Fred and Corda Oehling have done for the last few years.
“We enjoy it. Our little ones are not so little anymore,” Fred said, as he and Corda dropped off two new bikes for young children.
“We know there are a lot of little kids who need a bike and we want to help them have a good Christmas,” Corda added. “We like to give back.”
In Cliff Seliga’s case – like many of the folks who donate – he realized he just wasn’t using his bikes anymore.
“At this point in my life I would rather play golf,” said Seliga, of the Village of Santo Domingo.
Seliga, who donated three bicycles, found out about the event while dropping off donated Christmas decorations at the Sheriff’s Annex.
“It was perfect timing,” he said. “I was in there yesterday and found out it was today.”
Those interested in donating bikes don’t have to wait until December to drop them off, as they can be delivered any time during the year to the Sheriff’s Annex at 8035 CR 466, near the intersection of Morse Boulevard, during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. The bikes are held in storage and brought out during the December donation day to be cleaned, refurbished and donated to a child at Christmas time.