Fixing unused bikes to put sparkle in children's eyes

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Attention Pittsburgh. Attention Pittsburgh suburbs.

Be on the lookout in your attic, basement, garage or shed for bicycles that can be donated to needy children 3 to 12 years old in The Bike Before Christmas program coordinated by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and Kraynick's Bike Shop.

If the bike needs a tune-up or a little work, Jerry Kraynick and other volunteer bike mechanics will get it in good working order in time for the holiday season.

Contributors are asked to take bikes that can be used by young children to the closest Pittsburgh police station, the Special Deployment Unit or Mr. Kraynick's shop during regular business hours.

"I had the shop-vac out for the annual cleaning the other day and I can see the carpet now," Mr. Kraynick, 64, said with a smile. "The shop is almost organized and I'm excited, I'm ready to go. All we need are the bikes."

The Special Deployment Unit, which includes the mountain bike patrol, is at 312 S. Main St., West End. Bike patrol Officers Melissa Gutch and Matt Lackner, who are handling the Christmas program, work there. Hinkel-Hofmann distributors donated space to store the bikes. Churches and special service agencies determine who receives them.

Although Mr. Kraynick's shop brings new meaning to the word cluttered, the amount of work done there year-round is impressive. He handles the difficult repairs. He assures customers they can do the minor repairs, lends them the tools to do those repairs, gives them a work stand in the back of the shop and is available to repeat instructions or answer questions.

He makes money on the major repairs he does himself and by selling accessories and parts, of which he has thousands, to the do-it-yourselfers. He doesn't sell new bikes. But he does sell some donated adult bikes that he reconditions to buy parts he needs to repair the children's bikes for the Christmas program.

It began in the fall of 2004 when police Officer Kevin McNamara from the East Liberty station walked into the shop, said there were some unclaimed bikes at the station and asked if Mr. Kraynick would "tune them up" so they could be given as Christmas presents to youngsters whose families couldn't afford to buy them new ones.

Mr. Kraynick repaired 30 to 40 bikes the first year, 160 the second year and 230 last year, thanks to several amateur and professional bike mechanics who volunteered their services. He'd appreciate their help again this year.

"They did a great job, and the kids really appreciated it," said Officer Gutch, 38. "You could see the sparkle in their eyes."

Officer Lackner, 34, the father of four, has been involved with the Christmas program since the beginning.

"It gives me a lot of satisfaction," he said.

The two officers and Mr. Kraynick, each of whom learned to ride a bike in childhood, share a common belief:

Every child should have a bike -- and a helmet.

But they need help to make that happen again this year.

Mr. Kraynick's shop at 5003 Penn Avenue in Garfield is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, except Wednesday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Bikes also can be dropped off at the city's five police stations. Their locations are:

Zone 1, 1501 Brighton Road, North Side; Zone 2, 2000 Centre Ave., Hill District; Zone 3, 18th and Mary Streets, South Side; Zone 4, 5858 Northumberland St., Squirrel Hill; and Zone 5, Penn Circle West at Broad Street, East Liberty.

Lawrence Walsh can be reached at or 412-263-1488.


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