Recently Donated Bikes To Help Resettled Families Locally
Wheels are in motion to get dozens of donated bicycles into the hands of asylum seekers and refugees who have recently resettled in Jamestown. Volunteers and a locally-owned mobile bike shop are helping to make it happen.
The goal, according to the Rev. Luke Fodor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, is to help the city’s “new neighbors” with transportation as some have started jobs locally.
“The socioeconomics of the community are that about 20% of those who live in Jamestown don’t have access to a car,” Fodor said, “so getting from point A to point B is a challenge. The city has been trying to figure out all kinds of ways of addressing this.”
He added, “Our new neighbors have the same problem. They come to this new city trying to navigate — getting from here to there for work; to get their kids to school, the same things that we need to do for our daily business. We’ve been trying to figure out how to assist them.”
St. Luke’s has played an important role welcoming asylum seekers and refugees to the community. The New Neighbors Coalition, based at the church, has been working with the Buffalo-based Journey’s End Refugee Resettlement agency.
Fodor described the differences between asylum seekers and refugees in a March interview with WRFA radio.
“There’s a distinction between the two groupings of people,” he said. “Those who are asylum seeking have entered the country and asked for asylum based upon some exigency in their home countries. Legally crossed and presented themselves to the border guards and then been released under their own recognizance. That’s the legal process in the United States. And then they are then allowed to go where they want.”
He said the asylum seeking families are from Colombia while the refugee families are from the Congo.
“The goal is helping folks navigate and have that autonomy to move quickly and freely,” Fodor said. “It’s really a net benefit for all of us.”
Ali Johnson, who previously served as a part-time case manager, helped arrange donations of used bikes from the community.
“She helped make this connection,” Fodor said.
To ensure the bikes are in good working order, the church has turned to Matt Canby, owner of Pearl City Cycle. Canby is donating his time and labor to inspect each bike, with more than 20 already donated so far.
Just recently, Canby accepted the first dozen bikes. He runs his business out of his state-of-the-art van — a mobile repair shop that he started toward the end of July 2021.
“One of my main missions for starting Pearl City Cycle is to get more people on bikes,” Canby told The Post-Journal. “I think the bicycle is a very powerful tool — whether it’s getting someone to work, or getting someone to a doctor’s appointment, or just the exercise benefit of it — bikes can kind of bridge that gap in the community.”
Canby said he will give each bike a “tune up” to ensure road-readiness. Some of the parts will come from donations.
Fodor said partnering with Canby and his business made perfect sense.
“We know Matt is very committed to the community and has worked around helping with bike safety, and helping lead that charge was really important to us,” he said. “I also knew he was a community-minded person and would be able to think creatively.”
Once enough bikes have been inspected, Fodor hopes to organize a training session to instill safe bicycle riding with each donation.
“We’re just trying to help folks have that further sense of being part of our community and helping them to get from here to there — helping their economic stability and to help contribute to the workforce,” he said. “Many of our new neighbors have jobs already and are working to make Jamestown a better place.”