By BRIAN WALKER
COEUR d'ALENE — Fifth-grader Ashton Thompson’s summer is off to a fast start.
The Borah Elementary student has been wanting a bicycle to join or go see his friends, so when his name was among those drawn to receive a refurbished bike courtesy of the new nonprofit Lake City Bicycle Collective, Ashton was all smiles.
"It's exciting because I've been wanting a bike," he said shortly after being surprised with the orange bike at the end of a talent show at his school on Tuesday.
Giving restored bicycles to students and adults in need is why Tom Morgan started the nonprofit.
"I remember what a bicycle meant to me as a kid," he said. "My bike was my connection to everything. I couldn't wait for school to get out so I could ride with my friends. As far as I was concerned, a bicycle was a necessity."
Sarah McPherson, Ashton's mother, said her son wouldn't have a bike if it weren't for Lake City Bicycle Collective.
"I'm a single mom and I haven't been able to get him one, so this is awesome," she said.
McPherson is confident her son will make good use of the bicycle.
"We're new to Coeur d'Alene, so he should be able to find a lot of new places with it," she said.
The nonprofit has given out about 50 bicycles since it was formed in February, but with summer just arriving, the number should grow rapidly, Morgan said.
The nonprofit takes in gently used bikes, makes repairs and finds new owners for them by collaborating with other nonprofits, schools and churches. For the bikes that are beyond repair, parts are sold at a reasonable price to help the nonprofit operate toward its mission of giving bicycles to those in need.
In the process, the bicycles are also spared from consuming space at the landfill.
Kerry Erwin, a fourth-grade teacher at Borah, said the bicycles also help keep students active.
"We need kids out doing things, interacting, playing and exercising," she said.
Erwin said many students don't have bikes, as evidenced by the show of hands that allowed them to be entered into a drawing to win one of 10 free bikes given by the nonprofit. When the bicycles were rolled into the Borah gym, they drew excited reactions from the students.
Morgan had a running start on connecting kids with bikes via his job as an air conditioning and heating installer and repairman.
"My job takes me into people's garages and back yards," he said. "I see both people who have a need for a bike and who has excess and wants to get rid of bikes."
Morgan started making the connections about 15 years ago.
"I'd bring the bikes home, fix them up and then give them to another family," he said. "It felt good to do that."
With the nonprofit, Morgan, who is president of the group, has received a lot of support from his wife, Jamie, sister Rose Backs, Nancy Grissom, vice president Lindsay Patterson, repair volunteer Aaron Young and others.
"They're the go-getters," said Morgan, an avid bicyclist himself. "I just do the wrench work. My wife has been very tolerant of all the bikes in our back yard."
Morgan said local bicycle shops that sell new bikes have been supportive of the nonprofit's efforts and have donated parts such as tires and tubes.
"We don't compete with them at all," Morgan said.
The nonprofit, which will be represented at Family Day at Coeur d'Alene City Park this afternoon, also accepts non-motorized and non-electric scooters and new helmets. It uses a facility on Walnut Street in Coeur d'Alene for repairs and storage. Donations are tax-deductible.
"We're all volunteers, so a few of us show up on the weekends and we work frantically to get as much done as we can," Morgan said.
For those who can afford a used bicycle at a reasonable price, the nonprofit offers those for sale.
"If it's pushing pedals or parts, we can use them," Morgan said.
Need a bicycle outlet?
The nonprofit Lake City Bicycle Collective accepts gently used bicycles to distribute to area families in need. For more information or if you need to have a bicycle picked up, call 740-1502, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit lakecitybicyclecollective.org.