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Wheel deal: Doing a good turn  for housing authority residents

**REVISED CAPTION correct last name spelling** Cordell W. Cady Jr. 4 takes his bike home as Housing Authority Elg(HAE) gave

**REVISED CAPTION to correct last name spelling** Cordell W. Cady Jr., 4, takes his bike home as the Housing Authority of Elgin (HAE), gave away 36 bikes to 21 families in its first ‘Smiles for Christmas’ Project at the Centre of Elgin Tuesday. December 18, 2012. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 21, 2013 3:49PM

ELGIN — The purple 26-inch Schwinn cruising bike that Tremeisha Gray was given Tuesday night might be a little big for the 10-year-old girl.

But the bike she has now is just too small for her, said her mother, Derina Davis. The new bike, if kept up, should serve her youngest daughter for many years to come.

Tremeisha’s new bike was one of 36 given out to 21 families this week, part of a program sponsored by the Elgin Housing Authority.

The first-ever “Smiles for Christmas” program asked parents to attend a financial education workshop on holiday spending and budgeting, held by Elgin State Bank, said EHA Executive Director Damon Duncan. All of the families that participated were then entered into a drawing for bikes for up to two children.

Enough bikes were donated or purchased, however, that everyone who asked for a bike could get one, Duncan said. Those bikes were given out at The Centre of Elgin Tuesday night. Each child also could have their picture taken with Santa Claus right after they picked up their bike.

Some children, however, just hopped on their new bike and rode around first.

In addition to the bikes, each child was given a helmet, and Elgin police Officer Kevin Snow registered the bikes before families left the building. If the bike is ever stolen, and later found, registering the bike means the owner can get it back, Snow said.

Serial numbers are also attached to the registration information if the sticker has been removed. So, Snow said, if a bike is found and the serial number is in the system, the bike can be returned.

Donations and discounts

The bike giveaway idea came from EHA staff, Duncan said. Several vendors who work with the organization donated either bikes or cash for bikes, he said, and several of the stores offered discounts for the purchases. Some also donated bikes, Duncan said.

Tremeisha said she had ridden her small bike on Monday night to an aunt’s house and was looking forward to riding the bigger bike soon. But the seat probably needed to be lowered first, she informed her mother.

“It really is a blessing for people to give this,” Davis added. She has five children at home and is working a part-time job now.

Her children already know there won’t be a lot of Christmas presents this year, either, she said.

“They understand,” Davis said.

Before children got their new bikes, they also got a short lesson on bike safety from Tom Armstrong, who sits on the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Council. If the bikes are kept inside and the tires are kept full of air, they should last families for a long time, Armstrong said. He suggested the apartment buildings keep an air pump available to families for that purpose, too.

For kids, he said, bikes provide more than just something to do outside.

“The bicycle is the ultimate freedom machine,” Armstrong said. He noted that his own father, now 89, still rides his bike regularly.

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