Friends indeed for kids in need

Kickstand provides the joy of bike ownership to area children

Friday, March 5, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 10
By Rhiannon Potkey

For the father of three, it enabled him to get to his job and put food on the table. For the high school sophomore, it helped her get to class on time every day. For the fifth grader, it gave him a sense of freedom and wonderment.

Owning a bike can be a life-enhancing experience.

Kickstand Community Bike Shop tries to make sure income level doesn’t exclude anyone from the benefits of having a bike.

For the last decade, the nonprofit has given back to the Knoxville community by fixing up used bikes to distribute to people in need.

“It really warms my heart to give someone a bike, especially a kid. Their eyes get big and they grin and go, ‘Wow!’” says Kickstand director Paul Laudeman. “I remember my first bike and how I felt being able to go ride it everywhere. It’s such a good feeling. I love it.”

Kickstand partners with local organizations and schools to identify adults or children in need of a bike. Each recipient needs a sponsor letter before they are provided with a bike.

Run by an all-volunteer staff, the nonprofit operates out of Fourth United Presbyterian Church in Knoxville Tuesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons. Kickstand takes donated bikes from the community and rebuilds or repairs them to distribute.

It provided 357 bikes to individuals in 2020 alone.

Kickstand Knoxville volunteer Paul Laudeman begins a repair by making sure the tires will hold air. “There is so much need for bikes, and many people just can’t afford one,” he says. The non-profit is located behind at Fourth United Presbyterian Church on North Broadway.

-- Photo By Michael Patrick |The Ledger

“The church has been very generous over the years in giving us more space, and we have slowly expanded,” Laudeman continues. “More and more folks hear about us and donate bikes or come to volunteer. We are just slowly growing and trying to keep people rolling.”

Kathy Mack partnered with Kickstand when she was the director of the YWCA’s Phyllis Wheatley Center. Laudeman would bring a truck full of bikes to the center annually to give to the children. Kickstand also provided helmets to wear, locks to protect the bikes and taught the kids about bike safety.

“He would come in here with the bikes, and it’s like Christmas for them. The kids would be like, ‘It’s my bike? I can have it?’ Then you would see them going everywhere on that bike,” says Mack, who was recently hired as the city of Knoxville’s Community Engagement Manager.

“It really gives our kids a sense of freedom and is a great way to keep them healthy and give them exercise. They absolutely love having a bike.”

Jayauna Turner, 16, had never owned a bike before she received one from Kickstand through the Phyllis Wheatley Center.

“I was just surprised because I didn’t think somebody would just give away bikes to random kids. But it’s been great,” says Turner, who attends Austin-East High School. “I ride around the neighborhood with my bike now, and we do family bike rides with some of the other kids.”

Along with distributing bikes, Kickstand teaches the recipients how to maintain and repair them. The nonprofit has erected bike stations around the city that have tools attached so people can try to repair their bikes if they can’t bring them to the shop during open hours.

Tim Wheeler, left, surprises Kickstand with a donation of about a dozen repairable bicycles.

-- Photos By Michael Patrick |The Ledger

“A big part of the work is teaching bike repair,” Laudeman points out. “Anyone who gets a bike, if they have a problem, we encourage them to come back and we will show them how to fix a flat tire or tighten a pedal. Some people don’t have the money to get a bike fixed. We have a whole shop full of tools and parts.”

Anyone wanting to donate bikes is asked to email ahead of time to make an appointment. Kickstand doesn’t want people leaving bikes outside because they can get stolen.

“We take all bikes and all bike-related stuff. We don’t discriminate,” Laudeman says. “Almost every bike has some usable parts on it. We can take the seat off or keep that for the next bike.”

Tim Wheeler arrived at Kickstand in early January with his truck loaded with 12 used bikes. The Blount County resident found them near a mobile home he rents out, and was looking for somewhere to donate them.

“I really liked their mission and what they are all about. I would rather give it to them so they can pay it forward than try to make any money off the bikes,” explains Wheeler, who has a blended family with 14 children, including six that are adopted.

“I will gladly take any bikes we have in the future to them. I want to support something like this as much as possible because it does so much good for others.”

During the holiday season before Christmas, Kickstand held a writing contest for children that wanted a bike. They received nearly 50 replies from schools throughout Knoxville.

Paul Laudeman begins a repair by checking the seat post. “I love cycling and helping others enjoy cycling,” Laudeman says.

-- Photos By Michael Patrick |The Ledger

The kids wrote letters explaining why they wanted a bike and where they would ride the bike. They described the wind whipping on their face and the enjoyment of riding with friends and family. They wrote about exploring neighborhoods around the city or racing friends down the street.

Before the contest ended, Bike Elf in Maryville contacted Kickstand with 300 bikes to donate.

“Once that happened, we just said every kid’s a winner,” Laudeman recalls. “It worked out perfectly because it would have been very hard to choose since all the letters were so great.

“It was really wonderful to see them all get bikes.”

Laudeman loves hearing about what happens after people get their bikes. One elementary school student lived just outside the bus zone. His mother either had to drop him off at school at 5:30 a.m. on the way to work or else he had to walk.

“The kid was not making it to school on time, and the school liaison asked me if we could get this kid a bike to really help them,” Laudeman says. “After two weeks, they told me the kid was getting to school better now and on time. That was fantastic.”

The feeling of getting their first bike is something most kids never forget.

Ashé Moulden, 15, didn’t even know how to ride a bike before Kickstand gave her one last summer at the Phyllis Wheatley Center. After a few days of learning, she realized how much she had missed.

“That moment was very special for me because I was tired of being one of the only people in my friend group to not be able to ride a bike,” Moulden says. “I really appreciate all the good work Kickstand does in the community and their kindness. It means a lot to people.”

For more information on Kickstand, go to http://www.knoxbikecollective.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/Kickstandknoxville/