Bicycle theft is a common crime in McPherson, with 11 bikes stolen in the month of September alone.
“This one was obviously stolen,” McPherson Police Detective Stacy Snyder said, pointing to a wheeless, handlebar-free bicycle frame coated in cheap gold spraypaint. “They tried repainting it so it wouldn’t be recognized.”
Many stolen or abandoned bikes end up in a pen behind the McPherson Law Enforcement Center where they’re kept in case the owners might come searching for them.
The great majority are never claimed. They do not, however, go to waste.
In 1999, Ellsworth Correctional Facility established the Bicycle Repair and Refurbishing Program.
The program, which employs 12 Ellsworth Correctional Facility inmates, is devoted to repairing and refurbishing bicycles so they can later be donated to less fortunate individuals throughout the state of Kansas.
“When the pen is full,” Snyder said, “we call the Sedgwick County Department of Corrections. They come pick them up and deliver them for refurbishing.”
The refurbished bikes are distributed on a statewide level, rather than brought back to the localities that sent them.
Ellsworth Correctional Facility Public Information Officer Todd Britton said the program supplies between 900 and 1,200 bikes every year throughout the state, and distributed 150 in the last week of September alone.
“Any agency or organization can call us here at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility and make a request,” Britton said. “A local church may say they need a bicycle for a needy child so he or she can have transportation to school, and we’ll get it ready so they can come pick it up.”
The program also supplies bicycles to national and international charity groups, Britton said.
“Last year, we gave close to 400 bicycles to Orphan Train,” Britton said, “and we work with Wheels for the World out of California who distribute wheelchairs and bicycles to less fortunate people all over the world. We’re also in the process of trying to send bikes overseas to the troops.”
Since the program started, it has distributed more than 10,200 bicycles.
The program also refurbishes donated bicycles.
Agencies and individuals wishing to contact Ellsworth Correctional Facility to inquire about its Bicycle Repair and Refurbishing Program can do so by phone at 785-472-5501.