Long Island Gives Back

by Bette Bass
Summer 2011 InGear

Long Island RPCVs at work on April 16th, 2011

Long Island RPCVs at work on April 16th, 2011

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Long Island began over 20 years ago as a way to meet and reconnect with other former Peace Corps volunteers, and for the first few years was primarily social. Every year we would set aside a portion of our dues to contribute to a worthy cause. After awhile we decided that we wanted to do more. At that time, one of our members, Kathy Williams Ging, heard about Pedals through an RPCV friend who lived in New Jersey. In October of 2003, due to efforts by Kathy and Charles Bevington, we had our first collection in Hicksville, at a location that was supplied by Brian Richardson. We got to meet Dave and successfully collected 33 bikes. At our annual business meeting later that fall, we decided to make this an annual group effort. After deciding to switch our collections to the spring, we had our next collection in April, 2005. It has become an important part of our group’s activities every year since.

Over the years we’ve supplied 892 bikes and about 10 sewing machines, and enough money to cover the $10 per bike cost, usually with an additional cash donation. Many of us have been involved throughout this journey. Kathy Williams Ging, Linda Restaino Merola, Tom Montalbano, Charles Bevington and I (Bette Bass) have been coordinators through the years. We’ve held collections in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, so that more people can be involved, and we can have a larger pool of potential bikes. We have used parking lots all over Long Island, including Hauppauge Middle School, the Massapequa Public Library, a bank in Huntington, a sailing association in Sayville, a Temple in Port Washington, and a bicycle shop in Rocky Point.

We have partnered with other organizations as well: Hauppauge Middle School, in Hauppauge NY, provided a space and held cookie sales and other fund raisers for two years. Linda Restaino Merola was instrumental in obtaining the space for us. We collected so many bikes at our Huntington bank location that Linda and her husband Lou Merola stored about 30 bikes at their house overnight since they didn’t all fit on the Pedals truck. The Wet Pants Sailing Association Juniors, of Sayville, came out in force one year under Tom Montalbano’s lead—this was probably our most scenic spot, right on the water in Sayville. Last year, as part of their Mitzvah Sunday, we partnered with several Temples in Port Washington. Jerry and Nancy Federlein, both LIRPCV members, coordinated the Mitzvah Sunday. This year, Rocky Point Cycle, in Rocky Point, supplied our space. They also accepted bikes before the collection date. Lyn Dobrin, of Lyn Dobrin Ink, another LIRPCV member, has handled all of our publicity, and we have had numerous newspaper articles, radio announcements, and this year, an appearance on an NBC cable news show with Chuck Scarborough.

Over the years, we have come to regard Pedals as our own. Some of us have purchased our own tools to process bikes. Many of us have made mini collections, driving around the area picking up bikes and donations as we go. Tim Ging, Larry Hohler, Linda and Lou Merola, Tom Montalbano,and Jerry and Nancy Federlein, Bill Reed and Mary Watros have done this almost every year. Jennifer Monahan and Michael Kretschsmann have rented a small truck and brought 10 to 12 bikes and a few sewing machines a year from the East End. This has given us access to even more people and bikes. I (Bette Bass) discovered a real talent for making sure people give their $10 per bike. I enjoy explaining why it’s so important for everyone to donate. My favorite activity is using the photos Pedals sends to show children who are donating a bike just why it’s so important and how much difference it makes to other children. I feel that we’re starting a new generation of caring, giving people. As individuals, Pedals has really struck an emotional chord with each of us. We all, whether we returned 45 years ago or last week, know that transportation is one of the keys to having a better life all over the globe. Most of us were in rural areas where there are very few cars, and buses are a sometime thing. The time and effort put into just getting from one place to another takes a toll on the whole family. The addition of sewing machines to our collections was very welcome—providing someone the means to earn a living is a wonderful gift. The Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Long Island is already planning for our next collection in April, 2012.

Happy 20th anniversary to Pedals for Progress, as we celebrate Peace Corps 50th Anniversary as well!!

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