By Patrick O’Grady
It’s not all Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Iron Hammer for theU.S. Army these days. Sometimes, it’s Operation Santa Claus.
And sometimes, Santa needs a little help from the civilians.
Just ask Sgt. David Wilson, the head elf for Operation Santa Claus’sbicycle-distribution program at Fort Bliss, Texas, near El Paso.
“I decided to check out the Operation Santa Claus program that the Armydoes here at Fort Bliss, and it turns out they have hundreds of bicyclesand parts in need of a loving mechanic,” he said. Wilson asked to be reassignedto the program, and one week later he found himself in charge of 600 bikesin need of repair, a few volunteers “and a bunch of crappy non-bicycletools.”
With Christmas bearing down on him, Wilson let out a shout to friendsin the sport: “I need help.”
Flat tires are a big issue in this border town, and Slime stepped upwith four gallons of tire sealant and pumps. Finish Line is contributingproduct, too, and Park Tool is supplying the hardware Wilson needs to gethis four battered workstands up and running properly.
Next week, Wilson will meet with the OPSANTA board of directors; hehopes to get the go-ahead to buy a large rolling tool chest with drawersand locks, an air compressor and a parts washer.
“I never thought I’d get this much support,” Wilson said. “The generosityhas been outstanding, and things are starting to come together quickly.”
But he’s got 150 bikes going out to the local boys and girls clubs onDecember 12, and they all need something, right now. Wilson said the shop’sprimary chore is “the single-speed kid’s bike with coaster brakes,” andhis most pressing needs, in order of priority, are:
Tire sealantKids helmetsGood 12-, 16- and 20-inch tiresTools (cone wrenches, truing stand, large channel locks, metric allen tools,cable cutters)LubricantsGripsReflectors and hardwareTraining wheels and parts
“The program is non-profit, so all donations can be deducted,” Wilson said.“If anyone wants to make a donation, I can fax them our non-profit-statuspaperwork. Upon receiving the product, I can send a receipt.”
And it’s not just a one-time holiday thing. Wilson said the Fort Blissbike shop “has huge potential as being a great resource for the communityin El Paso” – a city where the 2000 Census found 23.8 percent of the populationliving under the poverty threshold – and he already has plans for certifyingvolunteers “so not just any joker is ‘tuning’ a bike.”
If you can lend Wilson a hand, or know someone who can, his addressis:
Operation Santa Claus
ATTN: SGT David Wilson
Ft. Bliss, TX, 79916
For more information, contact Wilson at email@example.com.