'Project Santa' Ready to Roll Again for Local Youth
Christmas may be months away, but Earl Wright is reaching out to helpers across Moore County and beyond to collect bikes for the annual Project Santa giveaway.
Project Santa makes Christmas merrier for local needy children by providing them with new or gently used bikes that have been collected, repaired and refurbished by Wright and his “elves.” The bikes are distributed Christmas morning.
Organizers are putting the word out about the bikes in hopes that they won’t be flooded with last-minute donations that need to be cleaned up and/or repaired before they are given away.
The most needed bikes are those for the smaller children.
“We need bikes for the little guys,” said Sharon Council, who helps organize Project Santa. “We are in need of boys’ and girls’ bikes 12 inches to 16 inches tall.”
Over the years, Wright, with the help of the community, has given away close to 2,000 bikes, and the number of bikes given away through Project Santa has increased each year.
In 2007, 35 bikes were given away. Last year nearly 500 were distributed. In recent years, children and their parents have gathered in the parking lot of Bo’s Food Store in Southern Pines hours before bikes are given away.
Seventeen years ago, Wright coined the name for his work — “Project Santa” — as he drove his truck through the “projects” of Moore County handing out toys and bikes to kids on the streets at Christmas.
Each year, with the help of the local community, Project Santa grows. This year, Wright, who never owned a bike as a child, is hoping to collect 600 bicycles.
He has told The Pilot in the past that his memory of yearning to have a bike he could never afford has motivated him to reach out to the community and help needy children.
Wright noticed old bikes and toys peeking out of garbage piles after people moved out of the homes he was cleaning. That’s when he got the idea to turn other people’s trash into treasure for the children in his neighborhood.
He brought new life to old bikes using parts he bought with his own earnings. He diligently polished dirty toys and made them look new again.
Bill Smith Mazda, 10999 U.S. 15-501 in Southern Pines, across from Walmart; Bo’s Food Store in Southern Pines, 750 SW Broad; and Santa’s workshop, 291 South Mechanic St., are drop-off locations for bikes this year.
Cash donations, which are used to buy new bikes, and other items, like tires, oil and chains, are also welcome to get the bikes ready to be given away. Donated bike helmets are also accepted.
For information about donations, call Wright at (910) 639-9506 or Council at (910) 639-4048.
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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