‘Two-wheel’ love affair

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2007

SUNBURY – The truck was late, but the effort was right on time.

Last Tuesday morning, Jacklyn Phillips nervously paced the ground at the old Gates County Poultry Farm, waiting for the arrival of an 18-wheeler that was scheduled to pick-up 250 refurbished bicycles to be shipped overseas as part of her Bicycle Ministry. The truck didn’t arrive until after lunch.

“It’s worth the wait,” Phillips said. “I did feel bad about making the (Gates County Correctional Center) inmates wait around all morning, but they were gracious enough to return after lunch and help us load the truck.”

Last week’s shipment marks the fourth load of bicycles sent overseas. The latest shipment is headed to Cambodia, all destined to put a smile on the face of a needy child just in time for Christmas.

Phillips explained that nearly 50 percent of Cambodian children have lost limbs due to landmines. Many of the bikes shipped from Gates County are fitted with training wheels to help those particular children maintain their balance.

Apparently, the efforts of the Gates County organization are well-received overseas.

“We work with World Vision to ship the bicycles,” Phillips said. “The correspondence we receive from World Vision is always very positive, leading me to believe that what we’re doing here in tiny Gates County is having an impact in countries overseas.”

For the past 10 years, Phillips along with her husband, Bill, have repaired used and unwanted bicycles and sent them to needy children. That effort was sparked by the story of a Virginia man who worked two jobs to buy his children bicycles, only to have them stolen, Phillips decided to start an organization to provide toys and bikes to needy children.

Phillips said the toy initiative was dropped after she realized the bicycles were what the children wanted.

“We sent out the word that we would accept all types of bicycles,” she said. “Wal Mart stores have been a very active partner, usually sending us a few new bicycles for every shipment. Others are used bikes that come in from all over northeastern North Carolina and southside Virginia. We repair those worth saving, sometimes using the parts off the ones that are in bad shape.”

Over the years, Phillips estimates more than 1,750 bicycles have been sent (with the help of organizations like World Vision and The Angel Tree) from the Bicycle Ministry to children around the world, including Zambia, Nicaragua, Cambodia and children in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

Phillips said bikes are used in Zambia for missionaries when they visit AIDS victims that may be located five or six miles away. Not only do the bikes provide transportation for the missionaries, but they could potentially save a life as well.

“Before our first bicycles arrived, the missionaries would have to pick-up a sick child in their arms and walk them to the nearest medical facility,” Phillips said. “The bicycles helped to transport those children.”

Meanwhile, Phillips is working on another project, this one of the four-wheel variety. She has secured a used ambulance, donated by Bertie Ambulance Service, to be shipped overseas to aid the missionaries in their work with AIDS patients.

“It’s sitting in my front yard as we speak,” Phillips said. “It runs good and it’s in great shape. All I’m waiting on is the word from the missionary I’m dealing with in Zambia to work out the details to have it shipped.”

Additionally, Phillips said she had a room full of donated medical supplies she will place inside the ambulance.

Phillips thanked GCCC Officer Frank Harrell and the five inmates for their help in loading the bikes. She also encouraged anyone with used bicycles or who would like to make a donation to her ministry to call 357-2295.