Gates couple aids tsunami victims

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 6, 2005

GATES – At least one Gates County couple is determined to be a part of the solution to the logistical nightmare facing rescuers who are trying to get supplies to the survivors of last week’s tsunami in Indonesia.

Jackie and Bill Phillips of Gates are watching the news closely and just like everyone else, they watch as the death toll climbs higher than the 121,000 people counted dead in the devastating event.

&uot;There’s help streaming in from many sources, but they don’t have any roadways left and getting supplies to the people is almost impossible,&uot; said Jackie Phillips. &uot;Bill and I have come up with an idea that could help at least 1,000 people get to medical supplies and food and water.&uot;

Jackie Phillips is perhaps best known for her annual Christmas Bicycle Ministry in which she and her husband gather junked bicycles all year to help Santa out at Christmas. With help from merchants and industry across Gates County, from Ahoskie, Murfreesboro, Elizabeth City, and Suffolk, Va., they gather the bikes, repair parts and gain necessary funding to purchase the parts and equipment and then turn it all over to the inmates at Gates County Correctional Center. The inmates work magic on the rusted out and damaged junked bikes, restoring them to showroom shimmer.

This year alone, the Phillips’ were able to generate 112 bikes for Santa to deliver Christmas morning.

Jackie Phillips is a woman of faith and she believes that she and her husband can be of more help.

&uot;I truly believe that with what’s happened in Indonesia, the people, the merchants, the businesses, the industries, and the inmates will all want to join us in trying to help the Indonesian people,&uot; she said. &uot;From what we’re reading in the news, tons of supplies are backlogged in Indonesia, with thousands of boxes filled with drinking water, crackers, blankets and other basic necessities piled high in an airplane hangar nearly 300 miles from Banda Aceh, the wrecked main city in the disaster zone. No one can get to the supplies, however, because they have no transportation.&uot;

That’s where the Phillips’ plan to attack the situation.

&uot;Even before the tsunami, the people of Indonesia depended basically on bikes for transportation,&uot; said Phillips. &uot;That nation is so crowded and so poor that there are very few vehicles used. By giving them at least a thousand bikes, Bill and I feel that we are doing what we can to help them. I would pray that others across our area would help us in this effort.&uot;

Phillips said several others have joined her in this effort including Eddie Harrell’s Hardware in Ahoskie and Cycle Gallery of Elizabeth City. Both have given parts at cost to the effort. A.T. Byrum Trucking has also offered to transport the bikes to a warehouse owned by H.L. Evans of Ahoskie. The bikes will be stored there until they have a shipping date.

As noted by Bill Phillips, buying parts, even at cost, to repair the bikes takes funding. Just like their Christmas Bicycle Ministry, the Phillips’ are asking for donations to the Ministry’s fund set up at Wachovia Bank of Ahoskie.

Mail checks or money orders to Wachovia Bank, PO Box 827, Ahoskie, N.C., 27901, and earmark them for the &uot;Bicycle Ministry.&uot;

Phillips is also known as the &uot;Bird Lady,&uot; and she and her husband share their farm with more than 700 birds of all types and all nations. They, like the bicycles, are mostly rescued creatures – those that people decided to get rid of because they are too expensive to keep or too loud. As the &uot;Bird Lady&uot; said, no one knows how loud a parrot or macaw can be until they try to live with one.

The birds, and a few domestic animals, are all housed in the Avian Zoo and Rehabilitation Center at the Phillips farm. She is licensed and certified as a rescue agent for the creatures, all of which must be fed. Part of the feed funds are derived from those who visit the avian zoo and leave donations behind once they’ve seen some of the most wonderful and exotic fowl to grace the earth.

&uot;As a help to the Bicycle Ministry, we also take 10 percent of all donations and sales of pet supplies to put toward repair costs for the bikes,&uot; said Phillips. &uot;We welcome visitors to the Bird House and we do take school students on tours by appointment. We hope that we have many visitors who will consider leaving a contribution to help others in desperate need.&uot;

To contact Phillips, call 357-2295. Call also for appointments to visit the aviary and zoo.