City employees spent the past several weeks at the Burbank Recycle Center using some elbow grease on a stack of nearly 80 bicycles to distribute as gifts to needy families.
In preparation of the Burbank Salvation Army Toy and Food Distribution on Dec. 20, city employees helped repair and revamp the bicycles for distribution.
"When families come in to fill out the Angel Tree tags, they usually include what the kids need, like socks, shoes and other clothing," said Salvation Army Lt. Kari Rudd. "But what the kids want is a bicycle — it's the tree topper of all toys."
The program has grown exponentially since last year, when just 10 bikes were distributed, organizers said.
None of the children or families scheduled to get gifts on Monday know their wishes will be granted.
"It's as if the children asked Santa specifically for what they wanted, and the city of Burbank has pulled through," Rudd said.
Around 25 bicycles were collected by the Burbank Police Officers Assn., with the rest gathered by city employees who contacted friends and neighbors.
"I'm sure there are millions of bicycles sitting in garages that are hungry to get back out on the street," said recycling coordinator Kreigh Hampel.
The Burbank Recycle Center served as a home base for much of the repairs as city employees gathered to replace flat tires and clean chains.
"Flat tires are almost a given and a simple flat tire put some of these bicycles to rest for years," Hampel said. "We were all having fun with it, though, and it doesn't seem like a chore."
Burbank firefighters donated the parts needed to fix the bicycles, and the police association donated helmets, as well as locks for the older recipients.
"If you could see what these bicycles used to look like," said Deputy Fire Marshal Jorge Martinez. "Now they look like they're store bought."
With about 20 bicycles remaining after the donation to the Salvation Army, Hampel said he hopes the city will begin implementing programs where children can learn to fix and earn a bicycle, as well as offer safety and tune-up classes.
"We're just moving in a great direction and we're all thrilled about it," Hampel said.