The Linton Community Development Corporation offered a free ride -- in fact, five of them -- to area kids, via the Linton Community Food Pantry.
With Christmas still two months away, LCDC officials played Santa Claus early, donating five reconditioned bicycles to the Pantry which they obtained through Shifting Gears, a program which enables inmates in Indiana prisons to repair bikes for those in need.
Shifting Gears is a partnership between Bicycle Garage Indy, Volunteers of America and the Indiana Department of Correction.
The program reconditions used bicycles and refits them through work done by offenders in Indiana prisons.
Now, the local food pantry's board of directors must determine how the child-sized bicycles are distributed, said Albright.
"We're going to leave that up to the food pantry," LCDC President Jared Albright said. "We applied for the program and we were approved a week later. It felt like partnering with the food pantry is the best way to go."
Albright intends to present the bikes to the pantry at noon today with board members of the 501 (C) (3) organization, Vice President Byron Goodman and Secretary-Treasurer Chris Wathen.
"We want to make these available to the kids who need bikes but couldn't otherwise have them," Albright said
"They're not brand new by any means, but (offenders) go through them and make sure they're safe and functional. They have new tires, new chains and they work on the gears."
Bicycles are also available for older riders through the program, Albright said.
"The Shifting Gears program isn't limited just to children's bikes, but we thought they would be a good target for our first application," he said. "Once this works out with the food pantry, we intend to apply for another round of bikes."
The grant application was submitted and received approval in late summer, just before the Linton Music Festival on Labor Day weekend.
"I actually read about the program in The Indianapolis Star, where they were saying they needed organizations to take bikes," Albright said.
David Atkins, pastor of the Linton Assembly of God Church, said the pantry board is still determining how to distribute the bicycles and select recipients.
"Our board will be working through that," he said. "I apologize I don't have more details."
Atkins said the bicycles are sizes suitable for elementary school children.
The community food pantry, housed just north of St. Peter's Catholic Church, provides food for residents of the 47441 zip code.
In addition to St. Peter's and the Assembly of God, seven other churches contribute to the multifaith antry's effort: The Linton Church of Christ, Linton First Christian Church, Linton First United Methodist Church, New Covenant Ministries, and Trinity Lutheran Church.
The group of churches also organizes a summer food program which ensures local kids won't go hungry. Additionally, the effort's cultivating a community garden and maintains an office in the lower level of Regions Bank for Coordinated Assistance Ministries (CAM).
"We've a variety of things. We continue to expand our ministry," Atkins said. "We have the food pantry and the thrift store...this is the first time I recall bikes going through, but we will continue to try to be a blessing to people and make a difference in people's lives."
Shifting Gears, now in its fifth year, began at the Pendleton Correctional Facility in February 2006. This year, the program relocated to Putnamville Correctional Facility.
Organizers hope it offers offenders a chance to develop training and pride in their work which might enable a more successful re-entry into their communities after their sentence is served.
"This program not only helps reclaim bicycles and place them with children who need them, it also gives the offenders an opportunity to develop useful job skills that could improve their chances of becoming productive citizens upon their release from prison," said J. David Donahue, former commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction.
The program aims to teach offenders new skills utilizing donated used bicycles which are repaired, renovated and then distributed to underprivileged kids and others who need rides.
Used bicycles can be donated through Bicycle Garage Indianapolis to the Shifting Gears program. Bicycle Garage Indy has received and donated over 3,600 bikes since the program's start. Of those, around 2,610 have been refurbished and distributed so far.
Volunteers of America issues tax deductions for the donated bikes.