ST. CHARLES - Before he started collecting bicycles to give away, Max Heide didn't realize just how much of a difference the simple contraption could make.
But after three years of distributing donated used bikes to needy children and adults, Heide, a volunteer at Hosanna Lutheran Church in St. Charles, said he now understands what he had overlooked for many years.
"There's a big need you just don't recognize, driving around in nice cars, or flying on our jet planes," Heide said. "It's very humbling to see people having to walk to work, to just do the basic things of life."
Saturday, Heide and fellow volunteers Melanie and Ken Hutter organized the third annual Bikes for Tikes used bicycle collection event at Hosanna Lutheran Church on Randall Road, just south of Red Gate Road, in St. Charles.
Donors have contributed about 100-130 bicycles each year, to be distributed to needy families.
On Saturday, donors had dropped off about 65 bicycles by about 11 a.m. Volunteers would also be on hand Sunday morning at the church to collect more.
"They come from all throughout the local area here," said Melanie Hutter, who attends and volunteers at Hosanna Lutheran. "We'll have parents bringing in bikes that their kids have outgrown, or grandparents who bought one for a grandchild, and it's not used any more, or just people who have a bike they just don't need or want anymore.
"It's a great excuse to get rid of some clutter from the garage."
This year, the bicycles will be distributed to needy families whose children attend Perry Elementary School in Carpentersville, said Hutter, who works as a teacher for children with special needs at Perry.
In previous years, used bicycles had been distributed to children and families in Rockford.
Heide and Hutter noted that the bicycles can fill a number of needs, including providing children with a fun way to get exercise, providing teens with a means of transportation to extracurricular school activities, or giving adults without a car a faster way of getting to work or the grocery store than walking.
The event is the latest charitable venture for the church, which also operates a food pantry serving about 2,500 people each week from its building.