CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. – Employees of County Waste and Recycling in Clifton Park took a break from their work last week to make like Santa’s elves and assemble bicycles that would be donated to local charities.
Instead of sitting in front of computer screens, making sales calls or driving company trucks, many of the company’s 200 employees spent a few hours recently assembling pink bikes, green bikes, and black bikes that would become the highlight of some youngster’s Christmas.
The program began seven years ago when workers at one of the company’s locations answered a community need. The Clifton Park location began donating bikes and helmets five years ago when employees answered the requests from a few local charities. That first year they purchased, assembled, and donated 50 bikes.
The number of bikes has increased with each passing year. This year’s total was 211.
The ever-changing group of County Waste elves were divided into two sections working in two rooms of a single building. One group did the initial assembly work while a smaller group made final checks and adjustments before rolling the bikes into an empty garage staging area.
“We started at 11 a.m. this morning and we’ll probably finish at 5 p.m. tonight,” said Mark Ceresa, district manager for County Waste Clifton Park. “Each bike comes with a helmet. They’re going to eight different charities this year. Each one will get a mix of girls and boys bikes. One of them is the Boys and Girls Club of Troy.”
Ceresa estimated the company had donated more than 700 bikes and helmets to local charities in the last five years. The bulk of the bikes requested are mainly for younger children but he noted that in recent years there have been a growing number of requests for bigger bikes, mountain bikes, the full size ones with the fat tires.
“They’re mainly for teens in foster care,” Ceresa said. “They leave home and take very few items with them, mostly clothing. Most of the time their bikes get left behind. It’s more than heart breaking to hear the stories so we make sure all the requests are filled.”
To get the funds to buy the bikes, employees hold fundraisers during the year. As the holidays get closer and the needs are finalized vendors are asked to contribute. The company matches the total. This year a total of $12,000 was raised.
“The vendors have been very supportive,” Ceresa said. “This is a special time of year. We bring the bikes right to where they’ll be delivered and we give them to the kids. We share the thank you cards and photos we receive with the vendors. We like to get them to see just how special it is for the kids to get the bikes.”
Company account manager Tanya Papinier has seen the bikes being delivered and knows just how special a time it is. She and 11 others were hard at work on the initial assembly last week.
“Last year we delivered the bikes to the Troy Boys and Girls Club on their holiday party and it was the greatest feeling, awesome,” she said. “There were lots of screams of excitement. It was cute.”
Papinier was working on the bikes right next to her son Bryan Sidney, 16, a student at Voorheesville High School. He was helping with the assembly work as a way of getting community service credit for school.