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Zonta connects women in SWFAS Transitional Living Center with bicycles

By Staff | Dec 28, 2010

The Bicycle Ministry, directed by Ken Nies at the 1st Baptist Church in downtown Fort Myers, outfits women from SWFAS with bicycles. Pictured from left is Jodi, Allison, Eloise, Belinda, Robin and Patty.

Christmas came a week early for the women at the Southwest Florida Addiction Services (SWFAS) Transitional Living Center(TLC), when they arrived at the Bicycle Ministry at the First Baptist Church in downtown Fort Myers.

Ken Nies, Director of the Bicycle Ministry, played Santa Claus and provided refurbished bikes to the delighted women from TLC.

Zonta learned about the Bicycle Ministry, which focuses on providing bikes for the homeless, from a newspaper article back in April. The Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva, which has had a long-term relationship with Southwest Florida Addiction Services (SWFAS), providing both grants and hands-on service to help women transition from addiction to self-sufficiency, asked Nies whether bikes could be provided to SWFAS women. The answer was an enthusiastic yes.

Nies was familiar with SWFAS and the good work they are doing in these women’s lives and was happy to help them transition to recovery and work by providing them with bikes. Courtney Donnell, the TLC supervisor, brought seven women over to the Bicycle Ministry on Friday. Ken and his guys had been busy fixing up a batch of used bikes just received from Tarpon Bay Explorers bike shop on Sanibel.

Nies outfitted each woman with a bike, adjusted the seat, put on lights and a lock and chain, and gave them a few safety tips. Dan Moser, who’s a certified cycling instructor and longtime cycling advocate in Lee County, came over to the SWFAS campus on Tuesday to give them helmets and introduce them to the basics of bicycling safety.

Ken Nies, the Bike Ministry Director, adjusts the bike seat for Eloise.

The women were very excited about having wheels, both for transportation and exercise.

” It is so wonderful that someone took the time and thought of us,” said Eloise. “It’s a big deal today since a bike is often our only available transportation. These are awesome bikes — nice and sturdy!”

Another participant, Patricia, said, “This will make it easier to go to work and to church. No… it will make it a lot easier! I love bike riding. I will also use my new bike for leisure and exercise.”

“For them to think of transportation for us is so thoughtful, I am so grateful,” she added.

This volunteer program is a real win-win-win for the Lee County community. Individuals and bike shops donate bikes and equipment to the Bicycle Ministry, which trains homeless people in how to refurbish bicycles, then provides the bikes to the homeless and other individuals in need, who, in exchange, agree to perform community service for charities.

Ken Nies, center, signs out the bike to Belinda, right, accompanied by the Courtney Donnell, SWFAS Transitional Living Center Supervisor, left, and Darla Letourneau of the Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva.

The new bicycle owners now have a reliable mode of transportation so that they can get to work and around town. Who knew a used bike could provide so many benefits?

The women of SWFAS say a special thank you to the Tarpon Bay Explorers of Sanibel for donating the bikes. If you are interested in donating bikes to this good cause, contact Ken Nies at (239) 458-0075.

The Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva is a service organization of professional women working together to provide hands-on assistance, advocacy and funds to strengthen women’s lives on the islands, in Lee County and around the world through Zonta International.

For more information, visit www.zontasancap.com.