By Dan McDonald
For Hometown News
MERRITT ISLAND -- When you combine one man's junk with another man's needs, you sometimes really do give a person a treasure that can change lives.
That's the concept behind Merritt Island's House of Hope Ministry program, Hope Cycles, which refurbishes and donates used bicycles to those in need, so they can have reliable and affordable transportation.
"We did a study and found out that if we gave someone a car, it would cost nearly $2,000 per year to keep it on the road," said Stephen Young, executive director of Hope Ministry, at 334 Magnolia Ave. "If someone is homeless or has a low-wage job, they just can't afford that.
"So we decided to give away bicycles," Mr. Young continued. "We give the bikes away for free, and we also repair and maintain the bikes for free. It's a program that allows a person to get reliable transportation, so he or she can find a job, make appointments and hopefully turn his or her life around in a positive way. There's a great need for the service."
One of the local corporate sponsors that helps fill that need is a trash hauling firm called 1-800-GOTJUNK, owned and operated by Kim and Stephen Cunningham.
"We haul away junk that people don't want from Brevard County to Vero Beach," said Mrs. Cunningham, a lifelong Merritt Island resident, whose father, Ned Kellar, was a minister at Georgianna United Methodist Church for 28 years.
"We found that we were frequently getting bicycles, and we try to recycle as much of the material that we move, as we can. We're so happy to be able to donate the bikes we haul to such a worthwhile program. We're pleased to be a small part of the Hope Cycles program."
"We're always pleased when we have anyone donate a bicycle to us," Mr. Young said. "There is a lot of need. Last year, we gave away 448 bicycles, and we repaired another 612. Obviously, to have a corporate donor is very important to allow us to make the donations that keep people on the roads."
One of the local recipients of the bicycles is Donny Hart, 48.
"I have a bad knee and was actually having trouble getting around," said Mr. Hart, who volunteers to help the Ministry. "Because I got a bicycle, it really helped me get around. And, in my case, it was also like therapy. Since I've been riding the bicycle, I'm able to get around much better now. My knee doesn't hurt, and I'm able to walk with hardly any limp.
"I know first-hand how important having a bicycle can be," he added. "You feel very helpless when you're down on your luck, and you don't have transportation. A bicycle helps a homeless person get a job or to move a little further down the road. It gives a person a way of getting around that is affordable and reliable. It's a big leg up."
Anyone with bicycles or bicycle parts they would like to donate, can call (800) GOTJUNK, Space Coast Franchise, or call the Ministry at (321) 453-0318.