by Robin Gallaher Branch … Commercial Appeal June 21, 2014
At Hope Presbyterian bicycle ministry, values for life are along for the ride.
Yes, Oasis Bike Shop gives away bikes – but rarely.
“No child is ever denied a bike,” said Bill Jurgens, who finds and repairs bikes for Oasis Bike Shop. “However, the most likely way a child – or an adult – gets a bike is by working for it.”
“Earning a bike provides value for it. It gives them a sense of ownership,” said Jurgens.
The program started with Jurgens volunteering in a reading program at Oasis of Hope, a ministry of Hope Presbyterian Church. “I was reading with children after school and became involved in the lives of a family of four and others. Another volunteer donated two bikes to some children, but the bikes were quickly stolen,” he said.
A short time later Jurgens picked up some bikes at a yard sale, fixed them, and gave them to children in the family he read with. “I’ve always been good with my hands,” he continued, “and I figured out how to repair them.”
However, right after those bikes were repaired around Christmas 2010, three of the four were broken. “I went home discouraged.”
Nowadays, bicycle recipients do 10 hours of volunteer, service-oriented labor. “For example, an adult can supervise children in a neighborhood trash pickup campaign,” Jurgens said.
The bike program, which started in 2011, operates out of Oasis Appliance on Thomas Street in North Memphis. Also a ministry of Hope Presbyterian Church, the store offers refurbished appliances at discount prices.
Jurgens feels he was led to do this ministry by the Lord, and points to the “coincidence” of reading and entry in The Upper Room, a daily devotional magazine. The entry said that children prayed and thanked God for lots of things and ended with God for bikes.
Shaking his head, he laughed at the memory. “It was as if God was telling me something. It really hit me.” From there on, he became intentional about a bike ministry.
The program developed one bike at a time until a warehouse was required. Now hundreds of bikes, in various states of need and repair, hang on hooks by their wheels in the storage area.
Other people heard about it and contributed. An anonymous donor from First Evangelical Church contributed $10,000 for a trailer. This has meant that up to 40 bikes can be transported, so children can enjoy bike outings to places like Shelby Farms Park.
With the process of matching a child or an adult with a bike come lessons in maintenance, bike repair and safety. Children age 16 and younger receive a helmet, because the law requires children to wear helmets. All recipients get a cable to lock up the bike.
It’s easy to describe a bike as an essential element of childhood. “Bikes help children live up to their potential,” Jurgens said. “Bikes give children mobility. Without a bike, they’re not keeping up with their friends.”
A bike can be an essential for an adult, too. Larry Watt earned a bike with 10 hours of volunteer service in the bike shop. He finds his bike helps keep him fit and mobile.
“It means good health,” said Watt. “It’s everything. It’s helped me lose weight. It keeps me young. It ought to be mandatory for everybody to have a bike.”
Around 400 bikes are in stock. International Paper recently gave 10 new Schwinn bikes valued at about $220 each. But most bikes are donated or are “finds” rescued before a trash pickup.
“It takes somebody who knows how to repair a bike 10-12 hours to make it safe and roadworthy,” Jurgens said. He credits the work of volunteers like Bobby Blackmon and Ted Partin for manning the shop. Oasis Bike Shop also provides part-time employment for two Manassas High School students. “They learn business skills,” Jurgens said.
A former Marine who works as an arborist, Jurgens often drops by the bike shop between appointments to look at trees around town. “Memphis is a tree city,” he adds.
He attends Hope Presbyterian Church, and has been influenced by Eli Morris’ urban ministry. Morris said he has watched the bike ministry grow and admires it for its stability.
“Bill combines Christian compassion and a business plan,” Morris said. “He intersects faith and business. That’s a valuable combination. Bill connects well with people living on the ragged edge of life.”
Jurgens shakes his head at the praise, saying, “I like doing things for people. I want my life to count.”
The ministry is in the process of rebuilding 29 bikes for Binghampton Christian Academy for the children who live in the school’s dormitories.
Jurgens and Syd Lerner, Executive Director of Greater Memphis Greenline, sometimes partner in their civic outreaches.
In this case, Oasis Bike Shop supplies the bikes and Greenline the helmets, Lerner said.
Lerner calls Jurgens “an interesting combination of a Christian spirit and a true business guy.” From their work together, Lerner notes Jurgens’ consistency of character: “The way Bill serves God is by serving others.”
For more information, see the website, http://www.oasis-of-hope.com/Oasis-bike-shop.htm.
Young riders learning about bicycle safety, maintenance
Syd Lerner, Executive Director of Greater Memphis Greenline, and Bill Jurgens, Director of Oasis Bike Shop, recently conducted an introductory bike safety and maintenance session for a bevy of 8- and 9-year-old boys, all dormitory residents at Binghampton Christian Academy.
During the lively session, Lerner drilled them in the ABCs of bike maintenance: “Check the air, brakes and chair before each ride,” he said with emphasis.
Singling out a child in an orange shirt, Lerner said, “Orange is a good color to wear when riding a bike. The people in cars aren’t thinking of you. So you have to think about them” by being as visible as possible.
The children brainstormed about why they have to wear a helmet. “It prevents brain damage,” one energetically said. “Right,” Lerner replied. “And it’s the law for children 16 and under.”
The children tried on helmets and learned how to adjust them. Jurgens and Lerner taught them to two-finger technique for wiggle room at the eyebrow and ear.
Displaying a bike from Oasis Bike Shop that needs repair, Jurgens patted the seat and said that a bike should be kept in a sheltered area like a shed.
A child raised his hand and asked, “What if pieces of your tire are coming off?” Jurgens smiled and answered, “That means your tire has dry rot and you need a new tire.” A bike with a bad tire is unsafe.
“When is it NOT your fault if you have a flat?” Jurgens asked the boys.
“When you run over some glass!” the children exclaimed!
“Right!” Jurgens replied. Then he told the children how necessary it is to check the air in the tires and displayed the “pinch test.” He squeezed the back tire in the display bike and found that his fingers met in the middle.
“Flat tire!” the children squealed.
He warned the boys that low air can lead to major repair and maybe injury.
Oasis Bike and Greenline are partnering in donating 29 bikes and helmets to the dormitory residents of Binghampton Academy. Additional sessions on bike safety and maintenance will follow this summer.
If you would like more information regarding this ministry, email Bill. Stay up-to-date by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter and checking our website for pictures, videos and current information.