HARTFORD, Conn. (WWLP) – Bob “the Bike Man” Charland made his biggest cross-state bike donation Thursday helping people experiencing homelessness.
After donating nearly 2000 bikes in western Massachusetts, Bob was called upon by the Hartford Police Department to assist in getting bikes to people experiencing homelessness.
“We’ve had some success in the past by going to Greenfield and Deerfield by giving these bikes to these individuals and they’re able to step up in life and do a little bit more for themselves,” Bob Charland told 22News.
“I’m trying to get a bike because I don’t have transportation to go to work and I work 15 to 25 miles away from Hartford,” Jose Luis-Rolon, a man experiencing homelessness in Hartford told 22News.
Bob donated 100 bikes to people in Hartford but it wasn’t just bikes. He also donated backpacks filled with supplies and clothing. He couldn’t do it alone, youth in the Roca program in Western Massachusetts helped build the bikes and put together the backpacks. The Roca program encourages community service instead of incarceration for local residents.
“It feels great just to see this and how it did all fall together,” a member of the Roca program, David Ballaid told 22News.
“Roca is an organization that believes in more community service and stuff like that versus jail time,” Charland explained. He’s been involved in getting members of the Roca program to do their community service in his Pedal Thru Youth shop.
Youth court Judge Maureen Walsh took the day off to come help with the donation. She’s worked closely with many of the Roca members as their judge. “It’s such an incredible feeling when you work towards positive goals,” Walsh told 22News. She said she hopes the day encourages the program participants to know “that change is possible.”
Police Officers from multiple departments helped pull off the donation endeavor. Bob the Bikeman says it helps connect community members with the officers.
“I care for each and every one of these guys. And when you talk to these guys today, they’ll tell you what law enforcement officers do on a daily basis to take care of these guys,” Hartford Police Homeless Outreach Officer, Jim Barrett told 22News.
He’s worked with those experiencing homelessness in the city ever since he met one man who was a veteran living on the street. Being a veteran himself, he told 22News that he felt the “No man left behind” mantra applied even after his military career.
“It feels good, thank you. I really appreciate it, it will go with me real far,” said Tajuana Peoples after receiving a bike.
Attendees were also able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Johnson & Johnson shot while there.
So far, Bob has donated 1,652 bikes here in western Massachusetts, this is an expansion of his services.