ALEXANDRIA — For kids in a small town, leisure days are spent zooming to friends' houses on a bike.
It’s the first taste of young adult freedom.
But for parents who can’t afford a new bicycle it can mean their children lose out on that fundamental summer fun.
Scott Bates knows what it’s like to go without — especially at a young age.
“I grew up a pretty hard life,” Bates said.
And it’s those memories, as well as a mission to give back to a world that helped to get him back on track later in his adult life, that pushed him to put his “jack of all trades, master of none,” skills toward rebuilding bikes to give to adults and kids in need.
“Remember your first bicycle, how excited you were when you got it,” Bates said. “I just want to give that to kids as much as I can.”
Since 2006, Bates has run Bicycles4Kids of Madison County out of his garage workshop giving away more than 3,500 refurbished bikes over the years.
“I have no problem having 200 bikes in my garage,” he said.
He added, laughing: “I took over the garage, and my wife is a little mad she can’t fit the car in the garage anymore.”
Bates accepts bikes from across the county either when kids grow too tall for them or if a child or adult moves on from riding.
“What I do is kids who have outgrown bikes, or they had their bikes sitting out all year and they don’t work anymore, so I try to have them donated to me,” he said. “I take those bikes, fix ‘em up and make them rideable.”
Most bikes come from community members who know about Bates’ organization, but he’s happy to take any salvageable bikes from anyone.
With his Facebook page, Bates then waits for a family to reach out for help. It’s not just kids. Bates accepts bikes that can go to parents to ride with their children, homeless people or people on work release to get to work.
Once someone reaches out he asks for sizes, ages and color preference and sees if he has a bike that fits.
“I usually just check out their Facebook page and talk to them to determine if I can help them,” Bates said.
For Bates, the hours spent in the garage are his way of paying back for times in his life where he wouldn’t have worked to help others.
“I was a juvenile delinquent from age I could get out of the house … in and out of juvenile centers and one day I just realized all these people were trying to help me so why can't I just figure out a way to give back,” he said. “I figure it gets me in God’s goodest graces.”
Anyone in Madison County with a bicycle to donate or in need of a bike can reach out to Bates on his Facebook page, Bicycles4Kids of Madison County, or call 765-808-2397.