For most people, theft of property feels like a violation. Robbie Pruitt admits that when his mountain bike was stolen last September, he got angry, but soon, his emotions changed. After letting go of his anger and frustration, he found himself on the path of compassion.
An avid motorcyclist, Pruitt’s first priority was replacing his vehicle, but when he went shopping for bikes, he found options were slim. The inventory shortage got him thinking: What if the lack of bikes was related to the pandemic, and if the person who had taken yours had done so because they really needed transportation to get to work?
With that thought in mind, Pruitt, an assistant rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Leesburg, Virginia, came up with a plan and posted it on a local Facebook group. Pruitt offered to repair bikes free of charge for anyone in need.
He also called for unwanted bikes, which he would repair, again for free, and then donate them to people who could actually use them but did not have the budget to buy a bike.
On the day the post was published, Pruitt ended up with an inventory of 30 used bikes. The initial influx was followed by more than 500 inquiries from people who had bikes to donate or that needed to be repaired soon after. By the end of 2020, Pruitt had restored more than 140 for donations or to be returned to their owners at a ratio of roughly 60 to 40%.
Pruitt doesn’t review applications, but tries to target donations to families who are really struggling. Her journey has also gone beyond simply fulfilling a material need to becoming an opportunity to show children in her Loudoun County neighborhood the nuts and bolts of fixing their own bikes.
“All the kids in the neighborhood spend a lot more time doing something practical,” said Pruitt’s neighbor, Danny Offei. The Washington Post. “Almost everyone in the neighborhood has a bicycle now, and he helped ride those bikes.”
In addition to practical skills, Pruitt lessons teach resilience and teamwork, build self-esteem, and foster feelings of community. In fact, forging friendships is one of the greatest assets of Pruitt’s calling.
“You are certainly providing a service, but it is not the bikes,” said the father of three whose goal is to lead by example. “It’s the relationships in the community. It’s the impact you can have on people. “
Pruitt hopes to integrate his “bike ministry” into his church as a regular activity once the pandemic has been contained. Meanwhile, the regular team of helpers who gather in their backyard after their remote school days are grateful for an outing that allows them to channel their energy in a positive direction and gives them a sense of accomplishment.
“Honestly, it feels great,” said eighth grader Hakim Aburami in an interview with WDVM News. “Being able to help people in this whole situation is a really great experience.”
(WATCH the WDVM News history for Pruitt history.)
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