Local Mom Starts Non-Profit to Provide Bicycles for Children & Teens

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Last year a friend of Janna Phillips’ daughter would stop by her house to visit on his way home from school. It was usually around 5 p.m. and Phillips noticed that every time the seventh-grader arrived, he still had his backpack with him. One afternoon she asked why he didn’t drop his heavy bag at home after school. The student explained that he was on the football team, and walked home from practice every day because his mom worked and couldn’t pick him up.

“That’s five miles – why don’t you ride your bike?” Phillips asked.

Turns out, he didn’t have one.

“It kind of took me by surprise,” says Phillips, who realized how much time the boy would save by pedaling to and from school rather than hoofing it. That evening she and her husband purchased a bike for their daughter’s friend. Though it felt good to pay it forward, Phillips couldn’t help thinking of all the other students in the area who may face similar circumstances.

“I knew there must be other parents who are doing their best to make ends meet, but a bicycle simply isn’t on their radar of things to buy,” says Phillips, who began brainstorming for ways she could get bikes into the hands of those who needed them.

Phillips’ husband, who works for the City of Greenwood, mentioned that the City typically has quite a few unclaimed bicycles that end up in a scrapyard or are sold via auction. Phillips approached the chief of police with a proposal called Pedals of Joy.

Phillips told the chief she’d refurbish the bikes, then hold a community event and give them to people who could use them. The chief liked the idea and happily donated the bikes to Phillips. The Shelbyville police department followed suit and donated some too.

Acquiring bikes is one part of the project. Finding the manpower to repair and restore them is another, and has turned out to be the trickier piece of this endeavor or Phillips.

“I have a few gentlemen who pick up three bikes at a time and return them a month later, then pick up three more,” Phillips says. “Finding volunteers to help with repairs has definitely been the biggest challenge.”

Most repairs are minor, including replacing seat cushions and hand grips. The chains, tires and tubes are also checked on every bike.

“I don’t keep anything I can’t personally repair myself,” says Phillips, who estimates that she spends roughly three hours a day working on some aspect of Pedals of Joy – either doing bike repairs herself or reaching out to potential volunteers. In doing so, she has met cycling advocates who have offered to collect needed parts. She also met a Whiteland resident who donated one of her barns to Phillips for storage space. In addition, Johnson County REMC, an electric power utility company in Franklin, gave Pedals of Joy $1,000 to help pay for helmets.

Currently, Phillips has about 90 bikes. She hopes to have 200 by May, split evenly between children and teen sizes. On May 16 from 9 a.m. until noon, Pedals of Joy leaders will invite community members to come to the Greenwood Amphitheater to pick up a bike.

“People will sign a waiver to take ownership of the bike,” Phillips explains. “Then the children get to pick out their bicycle, which will be sorted by size. They’ll also get fitted for a helmet and receive safety instructions from first responders.”

Phillips feels it is important to involve firefighters and police officers in the event.

“I want kids to know that these men and women really care about them,” says Phillips, a stay-at-home mom of three children.

Phillips notes that if Pedals of Joy finishes the event with extra bicycles, she will invite parents without transportation to take a bike.

“Some people have said to me, ‘I can’t believe you came up with this idea. It’ll take you forever to get it all done,’” Phillips says. “Yes I’ve taken this leap, but if you have a passion for helping to change a child’s life, it’s worth it.”

Now Phillips’ children get to see what it means to give back, to have a passion and to follow through on it.

“My oldest sometimes chuckles and asks, ‘Mom, what did you get yourself into?’” Phillips says. “But I’m just hoping this can be a positive thing for our community.”

For more info on Pedals of Joy, visit facebook.com/pedalsofjoy. If you are interested in volunteering or wish to donate a bicycle, helmets, reflectors, bells or other accessories, contact Janna Phillips at Jannaphillips36@yahoo.com.

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