Freewheeling, a Clintonville program that provides Christmas bicycles to children in needy families, is beginning its third year.
The program got its start when Vernon and Maxine Beall donated new bicycles at Christmas through Goodfellows to boys and girls in disadvantaged homes. Members of Clintonville Masonic Lodge 197 quickly endorsed the program when they learned of the activity and is the primary sponsor of the project. Vernon serves in the Lodge 197 as junior deacon.
Freewheeling has rapidly expanded with community support. Originally, Goodfellows distributed bicycles and its volunteers have agreed to continue that tradition. Local churches that adopt families, or that have youth programs, also now receive bicycles.
A boy or girl can be recommended privately when the family cannot afford to buy a bicycle. Beall said all requests thus far have been fulfilled.
The expanded program brings added cost. Beall gave a piano concert last November at the United Methodist Church. Donations were divided between Freewheeling and the local food pantry. Playing piano more recently at the Manawa Masonic Center for 125 Shriners and guests helped purchase needed parts and bicycles.
Work must start early in spring. Late October and November temperatures numb fingers and hands making it too cold to work with metal tools. Beall, who is retired, admits working on bikes takes most of his time and the physical labor can be demanding in an unheated garage. As many as 40 bikes are worked on every year.
“With Lord’s help, I’d like to continue the program for another year,” Beall said. “We have a new program to be introduced later that will offer bicycles to more boys and girls.”
Beall gave credit to the local newspapers for much of the program’s success. He expressed appreciation to several people who contribute help. Some lend tools or use a personal truck to transport bikes. Tom Lederer and Charles Geiger help through Goodfellows. Geiger also helps by storing bikes in his barn. Police Chief Terry Lorge helps in many ways including repairing numerous flat tires, something Beall admits he has trouble doing.
Beall says that without volunteer help, and support of the Clintonville Masons, Freewheeling would be severely restricted.
“Our Lord said the poor would always be among you, and to treat a neighbor as yourself. Local masons and the community are trying to do that,” Beall said. “All bikes are given anonymously, but knowing that many local boys and girls will have a bike on Christmas morning gives a warm feeling on a cold day.”
Donations to the Freewheeling program can be made at Fox Communities Credit Union in Clintonville.