By Grace Hirdes
Like most American towns, Lake Wales has people in need and people who are willing to give of their time and resources. Unfortunately, there is usually a wide gulf between these two groups of people. That is where the Lake Wales Care Center comes in. They help bridge the gap, enabling one group to reach the other. Care Center staff and volunteers give of their time and talents…in a most practical way; as the Lake Wales Care Center would say, they become the
“PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE!”
The Lake Wales Care Center is a faith-based community service organization which demonstrates Christ’s love by building bridges between people in need and people with a desire to serve. Out of all the programs they offer, one of the newest is a bicycle ministry.
Dwayne Goldman, operator of the bicycle ministry tells us, “One of our favorite things to do at the bike shop is to connect our neighbors in need to a source of reliable transportation. Almost all of the ones that have gone through our bicycle assistance program have left with a great big smile on their face.”
Goldman was not always into bikes, but one day while visiting a homeless ministry in Tampa, he was introduced to their bicycle enterprise. He thought how cool it would be to do something like that in Lake Wales, but had no idea where to even begin. After a few days, a donation came through the thrift store back door with a new copy of Park Tools Bicycle Repair Manual 3.0. Dwayne took the book home and started reading through and watching repair videos.
Dwayne shares, “On Thursday of that very week, one of the neighborhood kids almost ran over me at our thrift store. I teased her about her driving and she shared with me that her brakes didn’t work. I decided to see what I could do to help, so I grabbed a couple tools and remembered a few of the illustrations and lo and behold, I got them to work.” He then learned that one of the Dundee volunteers used to own a bike shop. They talked about starting out working on bikes one day a week, and before long, bicycle donations started flooding in. Now they work three days a week on bikes, have a monthly community ride, and partner with a local special needs school to do “on the job” training. They are also able to take the donations that come in, repair them to use for their assistance programs, and sell them in the thrift store or online.
The opportunity to fulfill the Care Center motto works perfectly in the bicycle ministry: “people helping people helping people.” Whether you’re donating your bike or your time, you’re helping your neighbor in a direct way. These bicycles are not just for leisure. For so many, it is their main mode of transportation to work, school, or even the grocery store. When you purchase a bike, it helps keep the ministry going. All the funds from bikes that are sold in the Care Center Thrift Stores go directly back into the bicycle ministry.
One of Dwayne’s favorite memories from the bicycle ministry was when “One of the neighbors that we recently helped with a bike had it stolen. We took the information, serial numbers, and detailed description of the bike to the local police. Less than two weeks later, the bike was found and we were able to get the bicycle back to its owner. This was a big win for our community, and for one that often feels that the world is against him, that day he felt he mattered and was important.” If you would like to learn more about this ministry, consider joining them on the 4th Thursday of the month for their monthly Community Ride.
Even though the bicycle ministry is an exciting part of the Care Center, they’ve been able to reach their community through several other resources as well, such as short-term financial assistance, clothing, food, furniture, a free clinic for those without health insurance, a pregnancy care program, a community kitchen to provide food for Sunday lunches, and tutoring in math, reading, and GED preparation. They also help with home repairs for local homeowners not physically able to do the work themselves, a community garden, and food and gifts for families during holiday season.
Volunteer, Eric Graham, shares with us, “I cannot tell you how many times working at the Care Center blessed me personally. From being able to help someone in need to being able to stand and cry with someone who had lost a loved one. I have a million stories, but one that stands out to me is when I had gone to pick up a sofa that a lady was donating to the Care Center to bless someone else. When we got there, I knew that there was something more to this donation, and I found out through talking with her that her husband of 30 years had passed away about 3 months earlier. We stood and talked and cried together as I felt her pain and I was able to be a shoulder in her time of need. Then, when we began to move the couch for loading, something fell out of the bottom of the couch and hit my foot. I looked down and saw a beautiful emerald ring on the floor. I picked it up and handed it to her and she immediately broke down sobbing. That was the ring her husband had given to her for their last anniversary together and she thought she had lost it a month after his death. We cried together some more. See, that’s the thing, it is so much more than just donations and moving couches or thrift stores and bikes. It is about doing life with people and being there when someone needs someone to cry with.”
If you’re interested in getting to know more about this organization and becoming involved in serving the community of Lake Wales, there are two ways to support. First, volunteer. You can contact the Care Center at 863-676-6678 for more information on volunteering. Second, you can donate, whether it’s financially, items for the thrift store, food, or medical supplies. Visit them in person at 140 E. Park Avenue in Lake Wales and find a way to be a person helping a person helping a person.