Spreading joy: More than 100 volunteers work to inspect, build bikes going to kids in need

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — More than 200 bikes will be going to kids in need for Christmas as part of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. But before they do, hundreds of volunteers with JEA are making sure they’re ready to go.


Michael Hinson is a volunteer with JEA, putting his mechanical engineering background to use in this take on Santa’s workshop, set in the space that used to house JCPenney.

“We kinda look forward to it like kids do for Christmas!” Hinson said. He’s working to assemble and inspect as many children’s bikes as he can. They were donated to the Salvation Army so they can go to kids this Christmas as part of the Angel Tree Program.

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Even though JEA covers some volunteer hours, Hinson is also using his own vacation days to see this through.

“When you feel passionate about something, you just gotta fulfill that passion,” he said.

This year, 124 volunteers have joined this Bike Brigade.

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“Over 60 years ago, I received my first bike,” Hinson recalled. “I remember the feeling I had the day I received that first bike. I’ll never forget it. It was amazing.”

“There’s just a great feeling when you put these together,” he shared. “And you know some child is gonna experience the joy that I felt, or something similar to it.”

These efforts started eight days ago, and in less than 24 hours, parents will be picking these up.

By Thursday, volunteers will have gone through about 275 bikes.

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“Many families may have to sacrifice some essential needs and say, ‘I can’t provide for my child this Christmas.’” said Major Keath Biggers, area commander for Salvation Army of Northeast Florida.

“Thankfully, we have enough gifts to take care of them,” he added.

More importantly, they have volunteers who are making sure the gifts are ready to go.

“If you’ve got kids and it’s Christmas morning, you want that kid to be able to hop right on that bike and ride it and not worry about the brakes not working properly or needing air in the tires,” Hinson pointed out.

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“Those are things that we hope that they never know that we do but we know in our hearts that we did them,” he emphasized.