On a roll: Seven Hills’ Bicycle Recycle Project donates 30 bikes to Camp Fire victims | TheUnion.com

On a roll: Seven Hills’ Bicycle Recycle Project donates 30 bikes to Camp Fire victims

Ever since the Camp Fire tore across the north state earlier this month, donations have been flooding into the area from all over the United States.

Many truckloads have made their way from Nevada County donors, not just drawing attention to the fire victims, but to the need for services throughout the year.

Steve Gillespie, a teacher at Seven Hills and the instructor of the school's Bicycle Recycle Project, has witnessed the power an extended hand can offer someone who has been displaced.

For the past two years, Gillespie has been combining his passion for cycling with the giving spirit by leading three classes of students in their repair and refurbish of used cycles to distribute to the homeless.

Inspired by recent events in Butte County, the classes recently donated 30 bicycles — 15 adult, 15 childrens' — to those who have been affected by the Camp Fire.

"A man named Tom Soto called me out of the blue and said, 'Hey, I know you have bikes, and I am organizing deliveries to Camp Fire victims,'" Gillespie said. "'Would you be able to throw some bikes into the mix?'"

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The answer was a resounding yes.

"When I asked the kids, raise your hands if you know somebody who was affected by the Camp Fire, over half the class raised their hands. It's real close," Gillespie said. "The Camp Fire, because it's local, really resonated with people."

Generally, the 28-year teaching veteran said, the bikes the classes are almost constantly working on are either sold at Habitat For Humanity's ReStore shop or donated to homeless in Sacramento through the organization Loaves & Fishes.

Once a year, Gillespie accompanies student mechanics to the valley for a special voluntary field trip. The first half of their day is spent working on the bikes of the homeless, replacing tires, fixing brakes, whatever needs to be done.

The afternoon finds the kids actually holding a giveaway of the bikes they had been refurbishing throughout the year.

"Some of (the kids) cry," Gillespie said. "It does so much. It completely changes their opinion of the homeless. Some of these guys are gruff and maybe smell a little bit, but they just want their bike worked on.

"And they are so appreciative. They just look at these kids like they're gods. They come down there and donate their time on a Saturday and the kids actually get to physically give a bike they worked on to a person, and that can be life changing. It makes a huge difference."

Gillespie said the Bicycle Recycle Project accepts donations of bikes throughout the school year, summers excluded, and asks that anyone who has such donations drop them off to his classroom after checking in with the school's office, any weekday between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

The project was started by Seven Hills counselor Steve Davis 18 years ago, and Gillespie took over instruction of the program after Davis' retirement two years ago.

"I have adult volunteers who come in and assist me, and if it weren't for them the program couldn't function," he said. "I can't do the class by myself. There have to be other mechanics in there. Some of them have been doing it for years."

At 6:30 p.m., Dec. 4, Gillespie and a handful of his students will be live on the air with the KVMR show Educationally Speaking, where they will be talking more about their bike projects and the impact they have had on the kids.

"Sometimes if one of the kids is having a hard time working on something, I remind them that they're not doing it for themselves. They're doing it for someone else," said Gillespie. "Kids are altruistic. Kids care about other people. They know they're going to learn how to work on a bike, but they also know — and it's emphasized throughout — that these bikes go to help people and change lives."

Bicycle Recycle Project instructor Steve Gillespie can be reached at sgillespie@ncsd.k12.ca.us.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.

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