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Neighbors Helping Others

For one man, A bicycle means more than just a way to get around

Travis Williams has been through some hard times in his short 33 years. He has made mistakes in his life which he now looks back on and regrets, but that hasn’t dampened his spirit. I met Travis in December of 2013 when he showed up at the police department. Travis was living at a local men’s shelter and he needed a ride. We see a few men each week at this time of year who need an “escort” to the men’s shelters in the area. The shelters have curfews and nobody is allowed inside without a police escort. Most of the men who need an escort have no excuse for being late. Some give excuses, but officers quickly figure out that the men are lying and have been out with friends or hanging out doing anything other than trying to better themselves. Travis was different.

Travis Williams
Travis Williams

I questioned Travis about his reason for being out past the shelters curfew. The shelters have very limited resources and space, and they try to give those spaces to men who are actively working to improve their situation. Travis claimed to have a job at a local “Mom and Pop Grocery”. I told him I would get him into the shelter this one time, but after that he would have to prove he was actually working and not just wasting people’s time. Travis showed up at the police department two days later with a note from his employer which verified his hours. After that night I started giving Travis rides from the grocery store when I could and I offered my cell number and business card. Travis used my information to prove to the shelter that he was working late so he could get into the shelter without a police escort when I wasn’t working. I discovered that Travis has been attending church, working to get a second job at McDonald’s, and looking for a small apartment so he could get out of the shelter. Travis was in need of a bicycle for transportation. A local community outreach group gave Travis an old bicycle months earlier, but it was stolen despite a chain he used to attach it to a tree.

It was at that point I began looking for a bicycle for Travis. I decided to turn to my neighbors for assistance and was very happy when many of Almond Glen’s residents stepped up to offer money to purchase a bicycle. I received an immediate offer of an old bicycle, but the offer fell through when the owner discovered the bicycle had serious damage that could not easily be repaired. That’s when Jonathan and Karen Penree came forward with an offer. Jon told me that he and Karen had a practically new bicycle sitting in their garage. They offered to donate the bicycle to Travis without ever meeting the man they would be helping.

Travis shows off new bike
Travis shows off new bike

On January 9th I took the bicycle to the police department and cleaned it up. As the departments bicycle instructor I was prepared to work on any donated bicycle, but the Penree’s bike needed only a touch of chain lube, air for the tires, and a quick wash. I then drove to the grocery store where Travis works and presented him with the bicycle on behalf of the Penree family and the neighbors of Almond Glen. Travis was ecstatic and at one point commented that he was going to cry. I watched Travis fight back tears while he grinned from ear to ear and inspected his new bicycle. Travis said over and over, “God is good, God is good”. I won’t lie, my smile was all that held back my tears.

There are many instances of charity and good will in our neighborhood. Neighbors have donated money to causes, join in on walks to support research, and given money and time to help others. Few things are as personal and direct as helping a specific person with a specific need. To my fellow neighbors who so quickly offered support, Thank You. To the Penree’s who so gave with such generosity, Thank You. Please accept these photos of Travis and his bicycle as his way of thanking you for what you have done for him.

Rob Smith

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