Police, community bond over bike giveaway program
Alitta Williamson couldn't believe Pittsburgh police would give her children free bicycles, helmets and water bottles.
"I think it's wonderful. Human kindness is not dead, "said Williamson, 44, of the North Side, as she loaded a bike into her car Saturday.
Police each year recover hundreds of lost or stolen bicycles, in all sizes and condition, said Chief Nathan Harper. Others are donated to the police department's bike give-away program.
"There were always a lot of bikes in the evidence rooms," he said as members of the department's mountain bike division helped anxious children find a bicycle that was right for them. Bike officers suggested that the bikes be made roadworthy and returned to the community.
Police gave away almost 300 bikes yesterday in a program that they said helps foster better community relations.
"It's a joyous occasion. We like to see joyous occasions," Harper said. "We're in the business of building bridges, not walls."
The recipients of the bicycles had been predetermined based on contact with local churches.
Officers clearly enjoyed playing Santa for a day.
"It's very rewarding. It gives us great pride to help these kids out," said bike officer Matthew Lacknar.
The program is a collaboration between the police department and the business community, Harper said.
The bicycles were repaired by Jerry Kraynick, who owns a bicycle shop in Garfield. The Allegheny County Health Department's Traffic Safety Division donated helmets that were handed out to each child who received a bike.
Water bottles were donated by REI, and Hinkel-Hofmann donated storage space for the bicycles. Giant Eagle donated cookies for the event.