Written by: Maya Washburn
Palm Beach Post

JUPITER — Children’s eyes lit up as they gazed at the lines of gleaming bicycles in the parking lot. They gasped and squeezed their parents’ hands when they found out that one of them would soon be theirs.

Many of them had never owned a bicycle before.

In all, Jack The Bike Man gave away 110 bikes and 10 scooters, along with 110 helmets, at the El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center in Jupiter on Wednesday, Dec. 20, five days ahead of Christmas.

The West Palm Beach-based charity has repaired and donated bikes to people in need since 2007. For years, it hosted an annual December giveaway at its headquarters in West Palm Beach.

The past two years of holiday giveaways have been different. Jack The Bike Man had to move to a different shop when the rent at its old location rose too high. Their current shop is smaller and on a busy road off Dixie Highway that makes it difficult for scores of visitors to come by at once.

Jack The Bike Man gives away about 400 bikes this month

So the charity now visits nonprofits across Palm Beach County to deliver the bikes right to those who need them. In the two weeks leading to Christmas, it will give away almost 400 bikes to people at five different sites.

Their first bike giveaway of the holiday season took them to Speak Up for Kids in West Palm Beach on Monday, Dec. 11, to deliver 25 bikes.

They then dropped off 100 bikes on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth Beach, 100 bikes on Saturday, Dec. 16, at St. John Fisher Catholic Church in West Palm Beach and 110 bikes on Wednesday, Dec. 20, at El Sol. They will finish out the deliveries with around 50 bikes at Esperanza Community Center in West Palm Beach on Friday, Dec. 22.

Alejandro Hernandez, Jack The Bike Man’s executive director, said his crew chose El Sol because of the need of the people it helps. El Sol provides job training to those who have immigrated to northern Palm Beach County, most of them from Central America and southern Mexico, and many of them need a bike for their main mode of transportation.

Adults who receive bikes, scooters as joyous as the kids

Bertha Velazquez, 54, went to the giveaway to pick up a bike for her 11-year-old son. By the time it was her turn in line, the bikes in his size were already given out, but El Sol and Jack the Bike Man plan to help get him a bike in time for Christmas.

Velazquez is one of the first women to accept landscaping jobs out of the 100 or so people who go to El Sol each day to pick up work. She plans to earn her GED soon and is taking education classes offered by the organization.

“Anything I am able to give to my son on Christmas brings him joy,” said Velazquez, who moved to Jupiter 22 years ago from central Mexico. “This event means that Santa is still coming. It doesn’t matter how much mom is struggling.”

Some adults received bikes and scooters at the event, too. Their glee matched that of the children.

Gerilet Saint Louis moved to Jupiter from Haiti 10 months ago and is a day laborer through El Sol. He gushed with joy as he picked out a hot pink scooter and immediately rode it around the parking lot after picking it up.

“I was very surprised to be able to get this scooter today,” Saint Louis said. “I am so excited and feel like a kid again!”

Original article appeared on: Palm Beach Post website