One South Dakota prison is helping to improve the lives of inmates and underprivileged kids in one fell swoop with a bike program that ensures that inmates learn a valuable skill while giving kids a sweet "new" ride, the Mitchell Republic reports.
As part of the Pedal Power From the Pen program at the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield, S.D., inmates refurbish used bicycles, which are returned to law-enforcement agencies, nonprofits and churches to then give back to their communities.
"The whole idea is to get those bikes into the hands of kids in South Dakota," Mike Durfee State Prison Warden Bob Dooley told the news site.
The program, which has been running for about 18 years, restores and donates about 1,300 bikes annually across the state.
Approximately 18 inmates work in the shop where the program takes place. Any inmate can request to work for Pedal Power and then complete an interview with the shop's supervisor, much like any other prison job. Inmates can be in the program for as long as they like, up until their release from prison. Inmates also don't have to have mechanical experience to participate.
"If an inmate has an interest, and they're willing to learn and they're willing to work hard, they're generally given a chance to work in various shops," Dooley said. It's all about providing valuable vocational training for inmates, and of course, to benefit kids," he said.
Inmates, Dooley said, like the program because they feel that they are "giving back to the community."
"The bike program is one way they can really make a difference," Dooley said.
Bicycles are also gifted to the children of inmates every December, with the children taking a "new bike" home after a holiday program.
But one of the biggest events is the Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner and Children's Charity Fundraiser. The event, founded by Gene Abdallah, an active member of the community who has served as United States marshal for South Dakota, is where a huge number of the refurbished bikes are given away. The annual dinner, held every November for the past 34 years, raises thousands of dollars for children's programs, the Mitchell Republic notes.
During Pedal Power's first year at the event, only 50 bikes were taken to the dinner. This year, Dooley anticipated taking closer to 500 bikes to the event, which was held Nov. 4. Agencies from across the state attend and are allowed to take as many bikes as they want, with some even bringing empty trailers. Nobody keeps count.
"Most of the time, we don't even know who they go to, and that's OK," Dooley said. "It's designed to get bikes to kids."
Read more at the Mitchell Republic.