LANCASTER – At least 300 local children will wake up Christmas morning to brand new bicycles sitting by the Christmas tree. The surprise comes courtesy of the Antelope Valley Sheriff’s Boosters Club, with help from Walmart and Antelope Valley Harley Davidson.
“The Sheriff’s Boosters club donated almost 200 bicycles, and Walmart donated over 100 bikes that were returned from customers or needed minor repairs, and then AV Harley Davidson repaired the bicycles for free,” said Pastor Rob Dietzel of Grace Chapel, which oversees the community homes in Lancaster’s Neighborhood Impact Program.
The bicycles were distributed this week to the city’s eight Neighborhood Impact Homes and earmarked for the children who attend the homes’ after school programs, Dietzel said. The parents did their part Saturday morning.
“We invited the parents to come in and build the bikes because we want to get to know the parents, and the bikes are a tool for us to build a relationship with these parents,” Dietzel said. “Another reason for the parents to build the bikes is so parents can take some ownership. There’s some dignity in knowing they were part of this process, instead of ‘here’s a free bike.’”
The Mariposa Community House was transformed into “Santa’s workshop” Saturday morning, as parents and community volunteers came together to build the bicycles.
Lancaster resident David Harvey put together two bicycles for his daughters, ages 10 and 11. He said both his girls were regulars at the Mariposa Community House for more than a year, and that the after school program kept them inspired and motivated.
Harvey said the bicycle donation was a welcome relief when he needed it most.
“It’s an enjoyable thing because it’s a surprise, and it just brings the spirit of Christmas when things just happen out of the goodness and kindness of one’s heart,” Harvey said.
Lancaster resident George Johnson heard about the effort and decided to donate his time to assemble the bicycles.
“It’s important to help out, especially since there are not a lot of father figures in the homes,” Johnson said. “The mothers may not know how to do this, so I’m putting it together for them so they can just come and pick their bikes up.”
Lancaster Community Relations deputy Miguel Ruiz was also on hand to help the effort. He said it was important for children to see sheriff’s deputies positively involved in the community, especially during the holiday season.
“Sometimes there’s a false impression out there that law enforcement [officers] are bad people or there is a misconception that they’re not trustworthy,” Ruiz said. “This is one of those positive reinforcement-type events that we take part in on an annual basis to let children know that law enforcement is here to help them and to protect the community.”