The Hollister police station was transformed into Santa’s grotto on Saturday as more than 90 bikes and fitted helmets were distributed to local students. This is the fourth year the local police has hosted the bike giveaway.
“It started as an idea I had the first year I was chief to help kids, not just in Hollister but the whole county,” said Hollister Police Chief David Westrick. “I think that every kid should have the opportunity for a new bike at least once, no matter what.”
For the last three years of the initiative, the Hollister police has teamed up with San Jose-based charity, TurningWheels for Kids, which builds and donates bikes to children in the Bay Area.
Earlier this month, the organization hosted a bike building workshop where up to 2500 bikes were constructed by approximately 1000 volunteers and later distributed to 40 area nonprofits to give the bikes away to children in need. In its 13 years of operation the group has given away more than 35,000 bikes, according TurningWheels for Kids co-founder, Nancy Huff.
A group of Hollister police, youth in the Explorer program and department staff and family members attended the bike building event. In addition to the bikes from TurningWheels, the local contingent collected donations from people and businesses in Hollister.
“We brought a ton of donated bicycles and helmets,” said Westrick. Central Ag Supply, Cold Storage Crossfit, Whiskey Creek, Cheap Seats, Enterprise Academy of Martial Arts and many other local private donors readily gave.
“Not only did they provide a bike build team, some of the officers went to load the bikes,” said Huff. “[Chief Westrick] put a challenge out to the community and local businesses to provide in-kind donations—we have a raffle to raise money for next year to buy bikes—and they brought with them several baskets for gifts that Hollister businesses donated. That was going above and beyond and we appreciate that.”
On Saturday, a line formed outside the station door at 8am, the kids were ready and excited to collect their new bike.
The police department asked teachers in Hollister schools to nominate kids who they believed would benefit from a new bike. All of the names were then entered into a drawing and randomly selected by raffle.
There were an assortment of bikes to giveaway: pink ones, racing ones, cruisers, aqua blue ones with sparkly tassels dangling from the handle bars. All came with a big, red bow.
Safe Kids Partners, a collaboration of various agencies involved in health, recreation and public safety, provided safety lights for each bicycle and helped fit each child with the appropriate helmet.
“I do it, because I can and I have a staff that also believes we should give hope and help where we can,” said Westrick. “We don’t do it to be recognized or anything. We do it, because it’s the right thing to do. We love people, it’s why serve.”
It is also just a lot of fun.
“It’s always fun to see them come in with a big smile on their face,” said Carlos Rodriguez, one of three school resource officers that patrol Hollister schools.