By Mr. Simon Hupfer (Franconian News)February 28, 2014
Bamberg, Germany (26 Feb. 2014). -- While U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg prepares for closure, Soldiers of the installation's headquarters and headquarter's detachment (HHD) ran into a problem while cleaning up the area. While Families left the garrison, dozens of bicycles were still chained up and rusting in the housing area.
"Many Soldiers and Families left the garrison last summer; entire blocks of housing units are empty. But we still had bicycles sitting in the racks in front of the empty apartments," said Sergeant First Class Stephen Wendt. In cooperation with the local military police, found bikes were labeled with a message informing potential owners that the locks would be cut and the bike removed after two weeks.
"I held on to them for another 30 days to make sure no one would come back and claim them," Wendt said. Now, cleaning up the Bamberg garrison has turned into a charity project in support of a Bamberg project for youth and young adults.
"Originally, my wife suggested we find some place to donate the bikes instead of just dumping them into the recycling center," said Wendt. Private First Class Douglas Miller, a military policeman at USAG Bamberg, and Staff Sergeant Patrick Dickens supported Wendt's idea from the beginning and after a couple of phone calls, they made it happen. The Soldiers helped collect the bikes in a warehouse and load them on a pickup. Over 60 bikes, mostly rusty and non-serviceable, were donated to the city of Bamberg's project called "Streetwork", among them mountain bikes, kids and BMX bikes, trikes, scooters, and three-wheelers, as well as adult city bikes.
Katharina Kroecker, a qualified social education worker at Bamberg's youth welfare office, is thankful for the three truckloads of old bikes. "We have a bike repair shop here at our youth center where the kids learn how to maintain and repair bikes. They can customize their own bikes here," Kroecker said. Some of bikes will be transferred to children's homes in Pettstadt and Bamberg, according to Kroecker, and help children in need.
"Streetwork" is designed to teach young adults new skills and get them off the street doing something meaningful and worthwhile, explains Thomas Lauterbach, a master craftsman for motorbikes and bicycles, as well as a healthcare support worker. Lauterbach and his colleague Thomas Neubert, both enthusiastic bicyclists, run the bike repair shop with a pedagogical concept.
"During the project, we have the chance to spend many hours, 5-7 hours per bike, with the youth. It becomes a trust-building measure." Lauterbach enjoyed working with the U.S. Soldiers, he said. "It was always a nice partnership, very cooperative and low maintenance."