The Spokes Group – A 2022 Holiday Update
Davidson “Santa” Gives Needy Kids the Wheels to Roll: There’s a new Santa in Town! Second Generation of The Spokes Group Steps Up
In December 2017, Bill Giduz wrote a story about The Spokes Group, a local non-profit founded by Davidson resident Andy Beard, that gives bikes to needy children in the Charlotte area. I spoke with Andy Beard to get an update on this amazing local effort. This year Andy Beard and The Spokes Group will provide 2,500 brand-new bicycles for needy children at Christmas.
It began 28 years ago when Andy responded to the call of the Christmas spirit, packed up a few toys, and delivered them to the Salvation Army. While there, he watched a client jump for joy on receiving a bicycle for her child. Andy remembers thinking, “If the cost of a bike could make somebody that happy, there are a lot of people in this county who have lots of money to buy bikes and make other households happy.”
He organized a bike drive within his company, 401K Administrators of the Carolinas, that financed 17 bikes. The next year he challenged one of his friends, Richard Dunn, to a “buy-a-bike duel” and they did 35. And the enterprise just grew and grew! They reached a major milestone when Andy challenged Richard to join him in financing 2,000 bikes in year 2000. Their current 28th season has increased their overall lifetime total to over 56,000 bikes!
“It’s been successful in part because everybody remembers their own first bike. My first bike was a Schwinn, and I can picture my dad finally letting me go. I went down the sidewalk and crashed, skinning my knee. Learning to ride a bike is an iconic rite of passage for children. Also, our board has always primarily consisted of salespeople, and our goal has been to keep things as simple as possible.”
The Spokes Group raises the funds to pay for the bikes and leaves the vetting of clients and distribution of the bikes to the Salvation Army Christmas Bureau, currently located in an unused former Wal Mart store on Old Pineville Road in Charlotte. A half-dozen long rows of tightly tucked bikes line one side of the facility.
“We partner primarily with the Salvation Army Christmas Bureau as a means of distributing the bikes to the kids. They vet all the people. It’s a simple concept. We order the bikes in September, raise the money in late October.”
“We set the goal and then raise the money. The overall cost is $100 or so. Since Day One, every penny donated buys bikes and helmets. There’s no administrative cost.”
“We have a branch in Raleigh and had a one-time effort in Atlanta organized by a couple who were getting married and instead of wedding presents wanted people to make donations to Spokes Group. They got 178 bikes.”
“The Salvation Army opens its Christmas Bureau doors in October, and mothers come by to register. They give a gift wish list from their children. We’ve gotten so much positive publicity through the years that a lot of them will put a bike on their Angel Tree wish list. Lots of businesses and churches will sponsor, and angel tree individuals from all around can pick those wish lists off the angel tree. In a four-day period, the mothers are scheduled to come to the Christmas Bureau and pick up their gifts – toys, food certificates, and many other things. If they didn’t get the bike on their wish list, the wheel is there and if it lands on a bike, they can get one that way, too.
“The wheel has been there since before us. Given the number of bikes available, we try for people in the last shift to have as good a chance as those in the first shift. We staff the wheel and spin it.” Participants’ excitement in spinning that wheel and winning a bike really pulls your heart strings. We’ve had such grand publicity that we’ll do 1600-1700 bikes via the wheel. There’ll be another 1,000 as angel tree bikes.
The future looks bright for The Spokes Group and local children wishing for a bike. Andy’s son, Will, is now the President of the nine-person volunteer Board. Will is a Managing Director-Investments at Wells Fargo Advisors. Dick Dunn’s son, Richard, is also involved in directing the effort.
Andy and his wife, Kim, have lived in Davidson since 1979. Their daughter, Hunter Busse, and her family also live in Davidson. Their son, Will Beard, and his family live in Charlotte. Andy, a 1968 Davidson College graduate received a special recognition at Davidson College’s 2016 graduation ceremony. Referring to Andy as “creator and sustainer of The Spokes Group, the citation noted that Beard “Does the work with a generous heart, and a relentless and devoted spirit that seeks to bring joy to worthy children at Christmas.”
When asked about his future involvement, Andy says that he plans to continue indefinitely. “It’s too much fun not to. It’s a joy to see other people become involved and light up. My role now is making suggestions and raising money. Will is the chief in charge.
“The Spokes Group is really about raising money rather than organizing bike giveaways. We always talk in terms of bikes, rather than dollars. I don’t get tired of it. Our board members’ job is to raise money, absolutely. We’ve got nine people raising money to buy 2,500 bikes.”
The home page of The Spokes Group website says “We’re Pedaling Joy.” And, indeed they are.
If you would like to delight a child at Christmas, consider making a contribution to The Spokes Group at https://www.thespokesgroup.com/