By RANDY SCOTT
Special to The Stand
TRI-CITIES (Dec. 18, 2013) — If you were lucky enough as a kid to wake up on Christmas morning to a brand new bike, you will know how approximately 1,700 kids in the Tri-Cities area will feel during this holiday season, thanks to UA Local 598 Plumbers and Steamfitters, their signatory contractors, and a whole bunch of volunteers.
In an effort described by Local 598 Business Manager Pete Nicacio as the “closest thing to Santa’s workshop in the Lower 48,” more than 100 Local 598 members were joined by more than 300 students from four area high schools to uncrate and assemble 1,300 bikes last Friday, which were given out to kids on Saturday as a part of the U.S. Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” program.
Most of the students had never assembled a bicycle so each work station had a craftsman there to teach the students. By the end, these high school students had gained a new-found confidence in building things with their hands.
The event, billed as the 4th annual “Fitters Bikes for Tikes,” has grown since the first effort four years ago, which started with 121 bikes, grew to 522 bikes the second year, more than 1,100 the third year, and hit 1,700 bikes this year. Each of the bikes included a bike helmet for the proud new owners.
The build took place at Benton Franklin County Fairgrounds in Kennewick on Friday morning, Dec. 13 and took about four hours with all hands on deck to complete about 1,300 bikes. The rest of the bikes will be given out unassembled as they were recently ordered and not expected to arrive until later this week.
The bikes were all purchased by Local 598 and their signatory contractors. Additional funds were raised on jobsites and through donations from the business community and individuals. More than 1,000 completed bikes were then handed over to the Marines’ Toys for Tots for distribution to the kids. The remaining bikes were donated to various local charities.
Among the many other community volunteers who helped out were members of the IBEW, Teamsters, Energy Northwest employees, Areva employees, Shriners, and various local business and government officials. After the morning’s whirlwind of assembly, lunch was donated and served to the crew by “Country Gentlemen” Restaurant.
The schools that supplied the largest groups of Santa’s helpers were Kiona-Benton City High School, Richland High School, Columbia (Burbank) High School, Jubilee Boys Ranch, and Tri-Tech Vocational School.
UA Local 598 and their signatory contractors would like to thank all of those involved in the bike build and also those involved in the fundraising effort to purchase the bikes and helmets. Many thanks to the community and all those who came together to make a Happy Holiday Season for so many kids!
Randy Scott is Executive Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Association of the UA Plumbers & Pipefitters.