Robert Branch’s motivation for his annual holiday endeavor is pretty simple.
“Every kid needs a bike,” said Branch, who fixes up castaway bicycles and delivers them to the less fortunate. He dropped off a truckload for Surry County kids on Friday.
“I sit and think when I was a kid,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing usually under the tree. That’s something you remember for ever.”
About 73 Surry County households will have the chance to make those memories this year, thanks to the efforts of Branch, Chuck Harmon of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC, and the Surry County Sheriff’s Office.
The bike project began a few years ago.
Branch, of Trinity, drives a delivery truck for the food bank and makes frequent pickups from Walmart stores in the region.
He noticed that bikes returned to the retailer were thrown away if they were broken or if something was wrong with them.
Well familiar with the great number of kids in need, Branch asked Walmart to donate the bikes instead.
He’d make any necessary repairs and, through the food bank, find them a good home.
Harmon said the organization has delivered the refurbished bicycles to an agency in a different area year.
“This year was easy for us,” he said. “Surry County is getting the full Santa Claus effect this year.”
The spokesperson said the county’s participation in a summertime food drive and the quality of the sheriff’s Give A Kid A Christmas program drew his attention.
“We just commend Surry County for their generosity year-round,” Harmon said.
Susan Rodgers, a major with the local Salvation Army, made a similar observation.
“This is a very giving community,” said Rodgers, explaining that the Salvation Army serves as a hub to coordinate numerous gift-giving programs in the area including Give A Kid A Christmas.
“It makes for a great opportunity for different ways to contribute,” she said.
On Friday morning, local deputies, Harmon, the sheriff Branch and his delivery partner, Jamie Reyes, unloaded 73 bicycles at a Salvation Army storage facility.
“This is the best part of being sheriff,” Atkinson said, wheeling one inside.
“The thing I was really amazed about when I got here, these are all new bikes,” he said, having expected the equipment to show more wear and tear.
“Certainly we couldn’t afford this,” the sheriff continued. “It just goes to prove once again the Lord is going to provide if we do our part.”
The bicycles are no doubt an incredible boon for the sheriff’s annual gift donation program, but with 375 food boxes to fill and more than 600 children on the list, donations and volunteers are still needed.
A group will meet Saturday morning at Surry Central High School at 8 a.m. to fill food boxes.
“We’ve never tried to fill more than 250,” Atkinson said. “It’s going to be a big day for us.”
Interested volunteers can also show up on Tuesday at 8 a.m. at the Mount Airy Walmart to help shop for the children.
“We can’t have enough help,” the sheriff said.
The agency is hurting most for cash donations.
“We’re about $18,000 off where I’d like to be,” he said, adding that he’s confident that local residents will rise to the challenge.
“We’ll be taking donations right up until Christmas. It’s a lot of food, it’s a lot of presents, it’s a lot of kids that need.”
For more information or to donate to Give A Kid A Christmas call the sheriff’s office at 336-401-8900.
Checks can be made out to “Sheriff’s Christmas Fund,” and mailed to P.O. Box 827, Dobson, 27017, or dropped off at the sheriff’s office at 218 N. Main St., Dobson.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.