Hazelwood firefighter/paramedics have found a productive way to spend their down time which helps children in need. When they aren’t responding to Emergency 911 calls, they can be found at the fire station cleaning and repairing bikes for their annual Bike Donation Program during the holidays.
According to Capt./EMT Eric Kiehl, a 31-year veteran of the Hazelwood Fire Department, “We’ve been fixing up and donating bikes to needy kids for about 27 years. One of our firefighters used to work at a bike shop and we got all the bike parts donated to us to do the repairs. That lasted for about 10 years. Unfortunately, we lost this source for parts because the company stopped selling bicycles. Now, we have different organizations donating the funds we need to buy parts. And, if we run across bikes with bent frames, we salvage the parts and use them on another bike.”
Many of these bicycles are given to local families facing hard times that need a bike for one or more of their children. One group the firefighters have worked with on a yearly basis is a women’s group from the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd on Howdershell Road. They’ve been adopting families through the Lutheran Family and Children’s Services for the past 10 years. This year they adopted four families, consisting of 19 individuals. A bicycle was one the wish list of three young children. Members of this women’s group recently visited Fire Station #1 and picked up three bikes.
Another non-profit organization that the Hazelwood firefighters/paramedics are partnering with this year is the Burns Recovered Support Group, which helps to provide basic needs for families with a burn survival victim. This year, they adopted 15 families and five of them requested bikes for their children. President of the Burns Recovered Support Group Gary Hansen and his wife Linda stopped by Hazelwood’s Fire Station #1 to pick up six donated bikes to help meet the needs of their adopted families. In addition to the bikes, each family receives a set of new towels, enough sets and comforters for their beds, clothing, shoes, and non-perishable food items. They even help some families catch up on paying their utility bills.
Hazelwood firefighter/paramedics fixed up a total of 47 bicycles to be donated this year. The Hazelwood Police Department gives them some of the bikes after they’ve been released by court order after not being claimed for a period of time. Residents also bring them bikes they’ve found abandoned or bikes they no longer need since their children have outgrown them.
The remaining bicycles that aren’t donated to local families are delivered to Father Bob at St. Augustine Catholic Church in downtown St. Louis for his annual holiday program. He serves approximately 3,000 to 5,000 people who are less fortunate. Throughout the year, they send him letters requesting help during the holiday season. He responds by giving them gift certificates that can be traded in for clothing, groceries and some toys, including the bikes donated by Hazelwood’s firefighter/paramedics.