The Salvation Army's annual "Bikes For Kids" program, held in conjunction with Kraynick's Bike Shop, begins Thursday and needs your help to succeed.
If you have a "gently used" bike for children aged 3 to 12 that no longer is being used, how about donating it to the program to brighten the Christmas holidays for needy youngsters.
Take it to Jerry Kraynick's shop at 5003 Penn Ave. in Garfield between 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. any day except Wednesday or from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
Kraynick and some volunteer bike mechanics will tune up each bike. Bikes that have been "gently used" will make their work much easier. The Salvation Army will distribute the bikes through its Worship and Service Centers to children throughout the area in time for Christmas.
Here's what those bikes meant last year:
"We had a mother burst into tears when we offered her the chance to pick out a bike for her children," said Capt. Pam Armour of the Allegheny Valley Worship and Service Center in Brackenridge.
"She was a single mom of three, and her son had begged her for a bike for Christmas. She had just lost her job and had no idea how she was going to do it, but she hated to disappoint her son.
"So the chance for a free bike was an answer to her prayers. She just couldn't believe that, in addition to the other things we were offering [for Christmas], bikes were also available," Armour said.
Sandra Wolfe, case manager at the Steel Valley Worship and Service Center in Homestead, said a mother and her three sons, "clean and mannerly but shabbily dressed," came in last fall to sign up for the Christmas Assistance program.
The mother was the primary bread-winner because her husband, the boys' father, had died suddenly two months earlier. She told Wolfe that "the thought of Christmas gifts seemed almost impossible."
When the woman returned and was offered three bikes, "she broke down in tears right there," Wolfe said. "She said she and her husband had talked about getting the kids bikes for Christmas, but, when he died, that thought went out the window.
"She thanked me over and over again. She said she was sure that her husband was watching from heaven and was just as happy as she was. After the holidays, she called to tell me how much the boys liked their bikes and that they were the perfect colors and fit."
Mary Anne McFeely of the service center in Mt. Lebanon said a single father of four children aged 2 to 10 came in last October to complete a Christmas Assistance application.
"All the kids, two boys and two girls, wanted bikes," McFeely said. "We told the father we couldn't make any promises. We said we'd see what we could do."
The bikes arrived around Thanksgiving, and McFeely called the father with the good news.
"I told him the bikes were used. He said he didn't care. He picked them up the next day. He said he was going to give them to the kids right away because the weather was so pleasant."
McFeely said she later visited Kraynick's well-stocked bike shop to deliver dozens of hand-written and printed thank you notes from parents and children.
Kraynick said he will accept donations of "gently used" adult bicycles that will be repaired and sold to support the Bikes for Kids program. He said he also would appreciate the help of volunteer amateur and pro bike mechanics to help tune up the children's bikes.
Information: www.salvationarmywpa.org; 412-446-1500 and 412-361-0888.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.