Centinela inmates refurbish bikes for needy kids

December 23, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

The spirit of giving during the Christmas season comes in all shapes, sizes and from all directions — even from behind bars.

For the past six years several vocational programs at Centinnela State Prison west of Seeley have been joining their efforts and skills to refurbish bicycles and donate them to the community during Christmas.

The event was spearheaded by six inmates participating in the small-engines repair vocational program, who worked with other inmates in the auto shop, auto body paint, automotive upholstery and machine and welding shop programs. Together they have refurbished 102 bicycles this year.

About the same amount of bikes is refurbished each year.

"It's a way of giving back and contributing to society," said inmate Michael Story, 30, one of the six men participating in the small-engines repair program this year.


Story has worked in the program for about two years.

Damon Hall, 23, said: "It's a good thing to do this for a child out there during Christmas. It's also good for us because we become a productive part of society."

"We can make a difference in someone's life. If we only help one child then it was worth it," he added.

Hall is another of the six men who organized the program this year.

John Pappas, vocational instructor of the small-engines program, said: "It was a yard effort," referring to other prison vocational programs that helped refurbish the bicycles.

"I have great respect for these six men and the other programs for spending hours working on these bicycles," he added.

The bicycles come by donations from prison staff members and some organizations.

Local businesses also contribute by providing parts and accessories.

Pappas praised Finish Line Bike Shop for its support and help during the bicycle refurbishing.

"It gives us a satisfaction to give back," said Pappas.

This year, the Sears department store in El Centro donated 22 bicycles that had been returned to the store.

"We heard about the program and how much it helped and decided to join. It was a way we could give back to the community," said Bob Diaz, Sears manager.

He said he looks forward to donating again next year.

The bicycles are given to underprivileged families through different service organizations.

Prison staff involved in the program tell the service clubs how many bicycles they have to be refurbished and the clubs select the families from their files.

The bicycles were given away Friday at the El Centro Chamber of Commerce.

>> Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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