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Chris Smith: Blessed are those who get bikes to boys and girls in Santa Rosa, Cloverdale

It’s possible that a silver lining of this wretched pandemic will be that more people are out of the house, out of cars and are happily riding bicycles. And how grand that a fair number of those people are little ones.

Today I’d like to revisit what’s happened at the nonprofit Community Bikes, which a mere week ago was burdened with an overabundance of secondhand children’s bikes. And I’ll introduce a newly fledged kids’ bike angel in Cloverdale named David J. Maciel.

You may recall reading here on Feb. 25 that Community Bikes, which accepts donated bikes and then repairs them and sells them at good prices, had so many kids’ bicycles in stock that volunteers feared they’d have to dump them for recycling of the metal.

Following publication of that story, a couple of remarkable things happened.

A local person active in community service stepped up with an offer to donate $2,500 to any nonprofit that would purchase all of the kids’ bicycles at Community Bikes and give them for free to children in low-income families who’d like one. Pretty darned sweet thing do.

Then came this: For a couple of days, the Community Bikes shop on westernmost Sebastopol Road was inundated by parents who hadn’t known about the place, or who’d forgotten about it, and who wanted to buy nice, used, affordable bikes for their kids.

Juvenile bicycles that had taken up rack or floor space for months flew out of the door for as little as $15, with nicer ones going for as much as about $75.

“I would say we sold 40 to 50 of them, to be conservative,” said Sammy Nasr, who cofounded Community Bikes with Portia Sinnott in 2003. A 74-year-old retired printer, Nasr said the COVID crisis has wrought mixed impacts on the shop.

Like so many businesses and nonprofits, Community Bikes had to close its doors for a time, and still it has to limit how many people can be in the shop at one time. But the nonprofit also has benefited from a distinct uptick in sales and repairs thanks to so many stuck-inside people wanting to buy a bike or get theirs back in rideable condition.

“We’re getting a lot of people out on the road. That’s a good thing,” Nasr said.

He said kids’ bikes can stack up at the shop because parents are constantly donating them after buying new bikes as their children outgrow ones that often are ridden only little before they’re handed down. It did Nasr’s heart good to see so many kids’ bikes purchased and wheeled out last week.

“A lot of people left very happy,” he said.

With dozens of kids’ bikes quickly sold, there is no need for the benefactor who offered to put up $2,500 for the purchase and giving away of all the nonprofit’s kid-sized bikes to proceed with that offer. But this person is always doing something for Sonoma County and its children, and is actively looking out for the next opportunity.

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IN CLOVERDALE, David Maciel is a bike-avid retiree of 66 who just weeks ago had an idea.

Spotting a notice for free, used bikes, he mentioned to his wife, Brigitte, that it would be easy enough for him to pick up a couple of children’s bikes, restore them and make them available to kids who’d like a bike but can’t afford one.

And that was the beginning.

“It just snowballed from there,” Maciel said. “I’ve never seen anything take off so fast.”

He has by this time found, fixed up and found new homes for about 35 kids’ bikes.

“This COVID thing has really hurt people,” he said. He gave one pretty little bike to an elated girl whose parents wanted to buy her a new one but could not because they both were put out of work by the pandemic.

The day Maciel arranged to pass a bike to her family, he said, “She showed up at my house with her helmet on.”

Maciel shares stories about bikes he has picked up, restored and offered for free on the Facebook page Community Of Cloverdale CA, at facebook.com/groups/2108282612824460/.

He’s been struck by the willingness of people in greater Cloverdale to donate used bikes to him. “I’m getting some really nice bikes in here,” he said.

He’s opened a crowdfunding appeal to help him pay for the bicycle parts he has to buy. It’s at: gofundme.com/f/29bj8hi5g0.

Suddenly, if Maciel isn’t out riding his own bike he’s likely in the garage, fixing up a juvenile bike that he expects that any number of children of struggling families would love to have.

“It’s been a labor of love. It’s been a learning experience,” he said.

“It breaks my heart to see a kid without a bicycle.”

You can contact Chris Smith at 707 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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