Green Bay parish’s Lenten project collects nearly 80 bikes for homeless

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish also raises funds for overseas bike project

GREEN BAY — The hospitality area at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church is a little congested, for a good cause. More than 75 bicycles are parked in the space donated by parish members as part of a twofold Lenten project.

“We were talking about what to do for outreach for Lent,” said Sr. Marla Clercx, ANG, pastoral leader. “We always want to do local, national and international. Deacon Steve (Meyer) and Tony Pichler are doing Spokes of Hope, so we chose bicycles. The local (focus) is that people can donate bikes they are no longer using to Spokes of Hope. They will repair them and give them to our homeless brothers and sisters.”

Ken Ellis, left, Sr. Marla Clercx, Deacon Steve Meyer and Greg Partamian stand near St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish’s bicycle collection, a Lenten project that benefits Green Bay’s homeless. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

A single bicycle with a basket is parked near the ambo inside the church. Monetary donations are placed in the basket for Alternative Gifts International (AGI).

“Little kids throw coins in, so we put a liner in the basket to make sure it makes noise,” said Sr. Marla.

“The money will be sent through their office in Kansas,” she explained. “AGI will repair and ship bicycles to Africa for health care workers so they can get to their patients faster and see more people in a day. Also bikes for teachers and children, so they will have greater access for education.”

More than $1,100 had been collected for AGI by Palm Sunday. The cost is $38 to repair and ship a bicycle through the organization.

“The nice thing about our Lenten focus is you are not asking people only for money,” said Sr. Marla. “A lot of people have a bike somewhere that they didn’t know what to do with. It’s a broader way for people to get involved.”

In 2003, Deacon Meyer, who serves at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Pichler, co-founded Streetlights Outreach in Green Bay, the original ministry that is one of five now offered by Whatsoever You Do, Inc., which was formed in 2017. Volunteers with Spokes of Hope, a program of Whatsoever You Do, will do maintenance on the bikes and distribute them to people on the margins who are in need of reliable transportation for work, school and appointments.

“A lot of (the bicycles) are in really good condition and may only need a little air in the tires,” said Deacon Meyer. “There might be a few that we may be able to cannibalize for parts. They will all get implemented into that marginalized population.

“Public transportation is limited, especially on weekends,” he added. “I’ve talked to a lot of people on the margins and in the shelters who said this is their only transportation. This is how they get to and from work year-round.”

“People on the streets rely on three primary modes of transportation: their feet, the bus and a bike,” said Pichler. “Unfortunately, many people living in poverty cannot afford a bike or keep it in good repair. Spokes of Hope has repaired almost 500 bikes since September of 2015.

“The mountain of bikes that the parish has collected from its generous parishioners will be tuned up and distributed to the poor so that each person can continue on this journey called life,” he added.

The bicycle collection, facilitated by the worship committee, was initially scheduled to end on Palm Sunday, but was extended.

“We are going to leave (the bicycles) out for Easter Sunday for folks who aren’t here every week to see if they want to be part of the project,” said Sr. Marla. “Also, they can see what the parish is doing beyond our walls.”

The array of bikes has been a source of conversation after Masses, she added. A 1954 Montgomery Ward model will be auctioned at a Whatsoever You Do fundraising event. A few children’s bicycles were donated, which may be passed on to the Ecumenical Partnership for Housing.

Parish member Ken Ellis offered to pick up bicycles for those who didn’t have the means to get their donation to the church. He delivered an antique red Schwinn bike donated by a member of the women’s Bible group.

“I reached out and when the weather improved, she said, ‘You can get to the barn, so come and get it,’” said Ellis, a member of the parish since its origin in 1978. “The biggest thing was getting it down from the attic. Her husband put it up there years ago. The bike is in great condition.”

“It’s more of a personal thing giving a bike than just giving money,” said Deacon Meyer. “It’s a bike that I rode, that belonged to me and now I can personally pass that to somebody else.”

“We have a discipleship team that’s looking at how we can impact the community around us,” said Sr. Marla. “It’s part of what we are doing with Bishop (David) Ricken’s call to be missionary disciples. The bicycles are obviously doing that missionary discipleship.”