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By Wilkine Brutus

Posted Aug 9, 2019 at 9:12 AM   

Jack “the Bike Man” Hairston was in the middle of talking up hard-working, underprivileged students when a jubilant boy, a fan from the community, interrupted the interview to greet him. It was a serendipitous moment ripe for the occasion.

It’s yet another year of giving away thousands of free bicycles and helmets to people on the margin, “underprivileged kids, adults, and the homeless.” Throughout the years, Hairston’s not-for-profit program in West Palm Beach, located inside of a 15,000 square foot warehouse, has offered various initiatives for locals in need of transportation, often given in exchange for community service hours and volunteer work.

And with the help of SouthTech Academy, a vocational school in Lake Worth, Hairston included an art component, providing student-artists creative space to paint and design bike frames – a form of productive escapism for teens. The community service project’s goal: “keep their minds occupied and busy, open their minds to different ideas and activities.”

“Each year I take a dozen or so frames that were rusted, bicycles ready for the recycling, and I take the frames to the school and I meet with the students a couple of times a year, three or four times a year, Hairston said. “And when I meet them, I encourage them to be creative. “But after the deadly 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the quest for mere creativity were coalesced with a call for purpose and unity. Art became a coping mechanism. Students, emotionally troubled upon hearing the news of the Stoneman Douglas massacre, wanted to combine art and remembrance by dedicating a bike specifically to the victims and their families.

In light of recent mass shootings, the positive gesture and message seems all the more urgent.

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