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Making transportation more accessible

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SPACE: Campbell’s Recycling is currently using a basement to store the bikes that Kirk recently bought from a county auction that are awaiting repairs.
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KIRK: Gabriel Kirk points outsome of the bikes they’ve started working on.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

When Huntington County Systems of Care coordinator Gabe Kirk met with community members and providers to identify barriers within the community, one of the first things that came up was is the issue of transportation.

He said they noticed transportation is an issue for people being able to get to a variety of places including work, probation appointments and meetings with Department of Child Services (DCS) to see their children.

After identifying the problem, he said they spent a lot of time trying to figure out what they could do to help alleviate the issue.

Meanwhile, Antonia Sawyer, a Systems of Care coordinator in Miami County had noticed the same issue and created a program that provides alternative mode of transportation using bicycles. The program is called Life Cycle.

Through all of that, Kirk, along with Mayor Brooks Fetters, Huntington Area Recreational Transportation Association’s (HARTA) Pete Eckert, Pastor Zen Hess of St. Peter’s First Community Church, Pastor Diana Teusch of First Baptist and other community leaders came up with Campbell’s Recycle of Huntington, to refurbish and redistribute bicycles.

There are a few goals which lie within the program. First, Kirk said he makes services available at First Baptist Church on Thursdays from 3-5 p.m. to help repair bicycles that people already own.

Secondly, they are able to give bikes away through referrals from various agencies, doctor’s offices, companies etc., to someone who needs that mode of transportation.

“Anyone can make a referral, an employer can make a referral, a doctor, a service provider – just about anybody,” Kirk explained. “I need their name, their address, phone number and how they would benefit from the bicycle.”

He said they recently gave their first bike away to someone who had first tried to bring a bike to work on, but it was beyond repair. Through a collaboration with an agency that assists him, they were able to give him a bicycle.

“He’s thrilled. He loves his new bicycle, and it gives him the ability to get out,” Kirk said. “That’s the only way he had to get out and get away from home and exercise and get places and things like that.”

Kirk said they also hold “tune up days” on the first Sunday of each month form 3-5 p.m. for people to come in and get help with bicycle repairs, the next work day being November 4.

Overall, Kirk said they hope to be able to help people become more independent. He said with Life Cycle in Peru, they’ve given away 100 bicycles and have seen a reduction in people who aren’t following through with services they needed because they now have reliable transportation.

“When you are limited on your ability to get places, it makes you more dependent on other people. By providing somebody with a bicycle we give them independence,” he said. “ … It’s not a hand out it’s a hand up. It’s a way to help people be able to achieve their goals.”

Kirk said he recently attended a county auction and brought back a number of bikes for them to get working on. For any community member who wants to help out with the program, Kirk said it’s completely voluntary and runs on good will donations. Anyone who has old bicycles they no longer use can bring them to the church on Thursday evenings as well.

Flyers can be found at places such as Pathfinder, Love INC., the Bowen Center, Youth Services Bureau, DCS, Probation, Huntington First Baptist Church, or people can email recycle.huntington@yahoo.com.