Syracuse's holiday bike giveaway needs donations

Hundreds of used bicycles have been renovated and are ready to give away, but they're looking for over a thousand more before Christmas week (photojournalist Andy Wolf)

There has been a holiday bike giveaway in Syracuse for 21 years, and one is planned for Christmas Week this year, but the organizers are concerned that donations of used bikes are not coming in fast enough.

When we visited the State Fair Dairy Cattle Building on Tuesday, it looked impressive: almost 800 bikes already refurbished and ready to go, and hundreds more waiting to be repaired, or to be dismantled for parts.

Jan Maloff, who founded the CNY Family Bicycle Foundation and oversees the giveaway programs, says he'd like to have 2,000 bikes ready to give away when they set up at Syracuse's Fowler High School on December 23rd.

As we watched, people stopped by to drop off bicycles. Their tires are pumped up and they sit for 24 hours to see if the tires are sound. Then, each bike is evaluated. The 'keepers' are tagged with information on what repairs/replacements need to be done. The 'unsalvageables' go into another area, where they'll be scavenged for parts by the crew of volunteer repairers.

Jim Decker, who's retired, has been volunteering for three years, and says he does it to give back to the community.

Carl Scott is a ten year veteran of the repair crew. He says he loves to see the kids light up when they pick a bike out for themselves.

John Farnach, who's been volunteering four years, says the repairs are done by trial and error, but he says it's not a complicated job to make the repairs.

Maloff says there are still bikes out there, in part because children outgrow theirs and get new models, but also because lots of people have old ones that they keep around. The CNY Family Bicycle Foundation is a not for profit, so donations of bikes (or bike parts and repair supplies, and cash to buy those supplies) are tax deductible. Maloff says he also welcomes volunteers (they teach the skills).

The donations are being accepted at the State Fair Dairy Cattle Building, 10-6 every day until the week before Christmas. On Friday, December 22 the bikes will be moved to Syracuse's Fowler High School. The giveaway happens at Fowler, December 23rd.

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