Getting from point A to point B, and the importance of transportation in our daily lives, is a routine task that may often get overlooked by those with working automobiles. What happens, though, when you have no motorized vehicle to rely on, when a bicycle is your sole means of transportation and said resource gets stolen?
That is the scenario residents of Newton's New Hope Shelter had to deal with recently, as a number of bikes were stolen from the homeless shelter and left some there without their only means of getting to work on a daily basis — something local real estate agent Tyson Weidenbener couldn't stand for.
"I really don't feel right about somebody kicking somebody else when they're down; stealing from a homeless person is about the lowest thing you can do," Weidenbener said. "For a lot of those people that are using those bikes, they're using them to get to work so they can better themselves and move out of the homeless shelter. If they can't get to work, how are they going to make the money to support themselves on their own?"
Weidenbener quickly put out a call to action after hearing about the incident, posting a request on Facebook asking his friends to consider donating their old bikes to help make up for the loss — noting he had some bike locks to contribute to the efforts to prevent future thefts.
After a few days, Weidenbener realized he had a few of his own bicycles that could go towards the cause, supplying New Hope with both the bikes and locks.
"I figured, these are bikes I'm not using anymore, it's the very least I could do to give them to somebody else and help them better themselves," Weidenbener said.
Upon dropping off the bikes at the shelter, the significance of the gift was made clear, as multiple residents expressed their gratitude to Weidenbener and explained just how integral they were to their daily commutes (especially in the hot summer months).
Encouraging friends to think about giving back in similar ways, Weidenbener pointed out how their unused possessions could be of great help to those in need. Director of New Hope Shelter James Wilson seconded that, noting those kinds of donations make up about 90 to 95 percent of goods used by residents — ranging from toilet paper to bicycles.
"It all adds up and helps us to care for those people a little bit better," Wilson said.
Since that donation by Weidenbener, others have poured in for New Hope, with Ellsworth Correctional Facility recently delivering a number of refurbished bicycles to the shelter and a new rack also being received.
Helping better the community has always been important to Weidenbener, whether through physical donations or through time commitments to groups like the Newton/North Newton Historic Preservation Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission. While he noted there was not any specific inspiration that sparked that mentality, he admitted it has only been stoked through the shared philosophy of his employer.
"Working for RE/MAX, they really encourage community involvement and helping make Newton a better place, and I really agree with that," Weidenbener said. "I think that if we live here, we should be doing what we can to make this a great town for everybody else to live in."
Passing that attitude on to his children is also important to Weidenbener and something he routinely encourages, whether supporting those in need or simply taking to the streets to clean up litter. Even small steps can help improve the community, which is why he encourages everyone to take part in that process.
"Anything you do helps. It doesn't have to be a monetary donation, it doesn't have to be something tangible; just dedicating your time sometimes is enough," Weidenbener said. "If you have the time, if you have the means to do that, do it."