Bikes arrive in time for Christmas
By Shelley Smithssmith@salisburypost.com
For the seventh year in a row, Gerry Wood Autocentre teamed up with the Salisbury Police Department to distribute more than 100 bicycles to underprivileged children of Salisbury.
Gerry Wood donated 125 bicycles, and the Police Department donated the helmets. More than 40 volunteers donated their time.
The deliveries took place Wednesday morning, with police officers and volunteers loading up vehicles and hitting the roads to various neighborhoods.
Officer Wiley Lamm, coordinator of the operation, received nearly 300 applications for bicycles.
“I wish we could give a bicycle to all of them, but we have to sort through the applications and choose the most needy children and families,” said Lamm, who added that seeing a child’s smiles when getting a bicycle is why he continues to help.
Chiquita Smith’s son, Khalil Rankin, was chosen for one.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s helping a lot of single parents trying to make it. It helps out a lot.”
Khalil said he can’t wait to take the training wheels off and ride it around the neighborhood.
“I’m going to ride it today,” he said.
Aryonna Smith, 6, and Deneka Cherry, 7, were so excited when they saw their bicycles, they attempted to jump the railing on their front porch instead of waiting for the bikes to be wheeled around to the front.
“I thank God that he blessed me with my bike,” Aryonna said. “It’s a princess bike.”
Deneka’s brother, Devonte, was also excited to receive his bicycle.
“It’s got my favorite color on it,” he said. (His favorite color is orange.) “On Christmas, I’m going to take it for a ride.”
“We just thank God that the police department and dealership give something out for kids,” Shirley Sanders said. “This is something nice the police department is doing for the community of Salisbury.”
Charlette Rodriguez has three children of her own and takes care of her cousin’s two children. And she has one on the way, so she had nothing but praise for the police department and Gerry Wood for giving to those in need.
“I think it’s really nice,” Rodriguez said. “It’s helped out a lot.
“Christmas this year is really tough, and this is something nice for us and the kids. It’s good to have a place to go when you need some help.
“I hope that one day when I get back on my feet I can donate and help someone else in return.”
Lt. Rodney Harris, who runs the Salisbury Police Explorers, said he was thankful the Explorers want to help.
“The Explorers look like heroes to some of these kids,” Harris said. “It really makes a difference.”
Harris said he was thrilled to hear Christmas and Christian music playing in the homes he visited on his first trip.
“You can tell that because of the economy, people are more faith-based,” Harris said. “It’s definitely what the Christmas spirit means. The kids and parents are unbelievably grateful. It makes me know that they do appreciate it.
“Ninety percent of the time when we deal with people, it’s negative. Two parents told me today that their kids were so infatuated with the police ó that’s a good thing. And there’s no way I would purposely change their minds.”
Police Explorer Tanisha Johnson, 16, said her favorite part of helping is seeing the children’s faces.
“One little girl had no idea she was getting the bicycle,” Tanisha said. “She was shocked. Speechless.”
Brad Wood, general manager of the auto dealerships, said the plan is to continue giving back to the community because they want to help families while supporting the community’s relationship with the police department.
“There’s nothing like putting a smile on a kid’s face during Christmas,” Wood said. “It’s an excellent way of improving relationships in the community with the police department.”
– – Wood’s employees also get involved.
“They love it,” he said. “People want to be part of an organization that gives back, especially during the holidays and these economic times.”
Wood also donated teddy bears that were given to children who weren’t ready for a bicycle.
Police Explorer April Honeycutt wants to continue helping each year.
“It makes me feel good because we’re giving someone who might not have a good Christmas a gift that might last a lifetime,” she said.
Carlos Ellis, a sergeant with the Police Explorers, said giving the bicycles brings back memories of his childhood.
“As I was growing up, I didn’t have a Christmas, either,” Carlos said. “Now I’m giving back.”
Donte Hoover, 17, has been giving his time since the bicycle giveaway began seven years ago.
Hoover was selected ten years ago to “Shop with a Cop,” and ever since, has tried to give back.
“Since they gave me something, I thought I’d help them give back,” Donte said. “It’s heartwarming to see the little kids get their bicycles. I like seeing their expressions.
“I like to know that I made someone’s Christmas. Every kid deserves to get at least one thing for Christmas.”
The helmets given to each child were part of a grant the department received eight years ago. They have now run out of helmets.
Anyone interested in donating a new helmet to the Salisbury Police Department is asked to call Lamm at 704-638-2092. The helmets must be new, and must match each child’s age/size.