Bonita resident donates bikes for the community in need
Steve Nicks hasn’t been spending his retirement as a golfer, as many local residents do.
He has spent it fixing bicycles — for a good purpose.
Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Nicks started volunteering over 15 years ago at a local nonprofit that took donated bikes, made repairs and gave them to residents of the community in exchange for community service hours. The organization primarily worked to give bikes to school kids and inspired Nicks to eventually create a project focused on giving bikes to foreign exchange students who go to the local university.
“These guys taught me how do to everything with a bike and for that I’m eternally grateful,” Nicks said. “My project was incredibly rewarding because I’d meet all these foreign students and in five years, I had given bikes to kids from 43 different countries.”
A resident of Bonita Springs for over six years, he has donated almost 1,500 bikes to the local community.
“There were a lot of bicycles that were sitting in people’s garages either that they didn’t need, inherited, got too old to ride or were broken and didn’t want to fix,” Nicks said. “I had to tap into that supply chain and that’s where it took off from there.”
Nicks’ bike project is fully self-funded and he fixes the bikes at his home in Bonita Bay.
“He has a good place in Bonita Bay to get those bikes, a lot of people come down and move in with good intentions of bike-riding but as you age a lot of those bikes just end up in some garage or some storage area,” said Councilman Chris Corrie, also a resident of Bonita Bay. “It’s nice to know that he takes those in and refurbishes them, gives them new life and then gives them to the poor.”
Currently, Nicks is partnering with the local Salvation Army to choose recipients. He has also worked with organizations such as New Horizons and Literacy Council Gulf Coast.
“He came to us and we explained the need that we saw with a lot of families because they don’t have a car for one reason or another,” Salvation Army Social Service Program Coordinator Sarah Rafiq said. “Bonita Springs is bike and pedestrian heavy in the downtown district, so this is the main way for many families to get around to stores or jobs.”
The waitlist for one of Nicks’ bikes stands at around 35 people, and locals will make the list if they don’t have any other means of transportation. Once the bikes are dropped off at the Salvation Army each week, the organization starts calling families on the list.
“We let them come in and pick one, we’ll have the bikes lined up in the room and then they come in so they can make sure they’re comfortable, the height is good and whether it’s handbrake or peddle brake,” Rafiq said. “It’s cool to see them have that choice with it.”
Although Nicks finds great satisfaction to fix up the broken bikes for the good of the community, he prefers to not be involved in the physical giving of the bikes.
“The warm and cuddly feeling makes me uncomfortable,” Nicks said. “I feel that it’s awkward as a comfortably well-off guy and I just don’t like that dynamic.”
However, Nicks can be found some weekends watching his kindness in action in the downtown Bonita Springs area.
“I got an email from (Rafiq) at the Salvation Army and she said I’ve got to come to downtown on Sundays,” Nicks said. “All I’ll see are ‘Steve Bikes,’ which means bikes with bright blue locks on them. It’s very neat to see that in a visual way.”
Corrie emphasizes the importance of recognizing the people who dedicate so much time to the less fortunate of the community.
“It’s efforts like this that pretty much go unnoticed but it’s an important part of our community and an important part of what people in Bonita Bay are all about,” Corrie said. “It’s a good reminder of how we all can help out those who are less fortunate.”
This story was produced by Democracy Watch, a news service provided by Florida Gulf Coast University journalism students. The reporter can be reached at email@example.com.