Joseph Scanga noticed children living around the neighborhood near Hillside and Central who didn’t have bicycles when he opened his bike shop in 1973.
That Christmas, he began giving away refurbished bikes to those who lived near the Bicycle X-Change. It’s a tradition his son, Mike, continued Wednesday as the Bicycle X-Change gave away 50 bikes to children from elementary school to high school ages in a program through Communities in Schools of Wichita/Sedgwick County.
For more than a decade, Mike Scanga has worked with Communities and Schools and other organizations to give away bikes.
But it started a generation earlier.
“Dad had an eye for those kinds of things, and he’d know which kids didn’t have bicycles, and he’d make sure they got one,” Mike Scanga said.
Now, families sign up for aid at the 17 schools CIS serves, said Mandy Wilbert, the organization’s director of community relations. This year, CIS helped 115 families.
Some get aid through being “adopted” for Christmas by other families.
“Obviously, this time of year the need is high, but always we have more families than get adopted,” Wilbert said. “Some of our families need help but don’t qualify for other forms of assistance. We want to do something to help make their Christmas better.”
Those students get bicycles.
Like Santa, CIS keeps its naughty and nice lists. Students can improve their chances of getting a bike by maintaining good grades and attendance in school, Wilbert said.
Scanga said the Bicycle X-Change, 908 W. Douglas, receives donated bikes year-round. But they start getting used bikes in earnest and cleaning and restoring them for the Christmas giveaway around Halloween.
As the CIS lists come in, Scanga and his crew try to match different sizes and styles of bicycles to the boys and girls on the list.
Scanga said he estimates his shop donates more than $20,000 in bikes, service and accessories to schools, churches and other charities in the Wichita area throughout the year.
“We’re really into bikes. If it has two wheels, or even one, we’ll work with it,” Scanga said.
The Bicycle X-Change-CIS partnership is just one example of businesses and charitable organizations teaming up to help the needy during the holidays.
• Cargill will distribute $50,000 worth of turkeys for the Salvation Army of Wichita today and Friday. About 3,000 turkeys will be handed out to area families. • The Wichita Dream Center, a social-services organization based at Believers Tabernacle Church will be giving away 500 bicycles and 1,000 gifts to children Saturday at its “Believe in Christmas” event. Doors open at 10 a.m. and the event will begin at 11 a.m. at the Century II Convention Center.
• The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office will be delivering boxes of food to 600 families this week.