MARS — Those who can turn a wrench and appreciate a good cause have an opportunity to help disadvantaged children all over the county.
Lizzy’s Bikes, a four-year-old nonprofit organization that started in Mars, is looking for new members to spend a minimum of two to three hours per month fixing up bicycles and tricycles for county children aged 2 to 12.
Jack Liebau, treasurer of the Lizzy’s Bikes board of directors, said the group currently has about 10 members. He said three of those members fix up the bikes that are donated for distribution.
“If we have a lot of people and we all do a little, we can get a lot done,” Liebau said.
Because of its annual fundraiser and generous donors and sponsors, Lizzy’s Bikes has the revenue to buy new bikes and helmets for distribution. So in addition to workers, Liebau said the organization is searching for needy youths to match up with bikes.
The group now works with food banks and churches throughout Butler County in finding children who need a bike, Liebau said. They also offer an application on their website that residents can fill out and submit.
Liebau said since giving its first bicycle to a little girl named Lizzy at Easter 2010, the group has provided 426 bicycles and tricycles to needy children in the county.
“We’ve got a little track record after four years,” Liebau said.
He said the group last year boasted 13 donors in the platinum, gold and silver sponsorship categories. The platinum level sponsorship is a donation of $1,000 or more, gold is $500 or more and silver is $250 or more.
He said the smaller donations from individuals are every bit as important as the sponsorships, which mainly come from corporations, businesses and community organizations.
“Without these people, we’d be hard-pressed to keep going,” Liebau said.
He said 85 cents of every dollar in the group’s budget goes toward buying bikes and helmets for needy kids in the county.
Lizzy’s Bikes has agreements with Bell Helmet as well as Huffy and Kent bicycles for buying discount merchandise for distribution to the needy, Liebau said.
But more important than the financial end of Lizzy’s Bikes, Liebau said, is the delight of the children who receive the bikes, and the appreciation of their families.
He recalled a couple referred at Christmastime 2012 to the organization by the Portersville Food and Fellowship for People Food Cupboard.
“They are a nice, hardworking couple,” Liebau said.
He said the applications for bikes for the couple’s four children were processed quickly, and they were notified that the bikes were ready. Asked if they needed them to be delivered, the father said they would pick them up in Mars.
Liebau said when the couple arrived to retrieve the bikes for placement under the tree, it was clear they were a disadvantaged family.
It was offhandedly mentioned that the organization had 13 more bikes to deliver to the county’s northern municipalities for Christmas that year.
“Instead of just taking their bikes, they would not rest until they made the trips in their pickup truck and delivered all 13 bikes to all those people,” Liebau said.
He said the mother helps others in the northern section of the county to fill out applications for bikes from Lizzy’s Bikes, and the father met families in various locations that Christmas to deliver the bikes.
“And they’ve tried to help us ever since,” Liebau said.
Marilyn McElhinney, volunteer director at the Evans City Food Cupboard, said she gives every new family who comes for their monthly food allotment a sheet containing information on Lizzy’s Bikes and how to apply for a bicycle. She also placed a large sign by the monthly sign-up sheet that says “free bikes.”
McElhinney recalled a recent instance when a member of Lizzy’s Bikes came to the food pantry with a shiny new bike to talk to those coming to get their food.
“He went out of his way to do that, and he was great with the clients,” McElhinney said.
She is impressed with the amount of time and effort the members of Lizzy’s Bikes puts in to provide free bikes to needy children.
“I think it’s wonderful that they started that in Mars, then expanded, and now they have expanded it even further,” McElhinney said.
She also appreciates that the group has bikes available immediately, instead of placing families on a waiting list.
Liebau said being part of Lizzy’s Bikes has been gratifying over the past four years.
“We’re not saving lives, but I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of these kids getting these bikes,” Liebau said, “and it puts a smile on their face.”