Bibliobike deliveries inevitably cross paths with other folks working to improve the community. Read on to meet two.
Like The Salvation Army, the Summer Food Service Program in the Garnet Ridge neighborhood was cut short due to low numbers. The day it ended, Tracey Massey stepped in to continue delivering lunches to the kids who arrive religiously around noon each day. Tracey is the adult and child nutrition coordinator for the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. Each weekday morning she drives to the Food Bank and puts together nutritious sack lunches, then delivers them to the kids in Garnet Ridge. Since she has taken over, the menu varies a bit compared to food distributed at the beginning of summer. Tracey says she follows the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines when selecting items. The kids get excited about what’s in the sack, and Tracey says, “Each time is like opening a stocking.” I’ll see her and the kids again tomorrow.
On a humid Friday at Broad Acres (rain on Thursday), a man with a camera approaches the rig while I pack up. With a smile, he says he’s been meaning to catch me during one of the deliveries. Danny Davenport introduces himself as the Athens Housing Authority property manager for Rocksprings and Broad Acres. We talk at length about how to engage young residents in community building at home and school. He tells me that he’s interested in growing fruits and vegetables. A handful of well-intended blueberry bushes he planted were “ripped up,” so I recommend asking residents what they would like to plant, and invite them to take part in the process. (It’s all about agency.) Danny tells me about a new partnership with the Athens-Clarke County Community Tree Council, which will plant more trees in the neighborhood. He snaps a photo and hands me his card. Trees, fruits, vegetables and literacy? I think to myself as I pedal past. We’ll stay in touch.
In addition to learning about the human condition when I meet people during visits around the community, I also discover things about bikes. Sometimes the hard way.
Last Monday’s delivery to The Salvation Army was a bloody one. Delayed a bit due to rain, the regular crew was already there waiting for dinner outside the cafeteria when I rolled up. Just after I unscrewed the pins near the rear hub and unhooked the bike from the trailer (one of the first logistical tasks), I noticed that a kid squeezing and sucking the last drops from a juice box was getting fruit punch all over the cart, books and somehow, me. Or so I thought.
Turns out I managed to slice the tip of my ring finger on a disc break rotor and smear blood on just about everything I touched. I held a washcloth against it to stem the flow and the concerned kids quickly took up organizing books on the shelves. Five minutes later, a kind Tolkien fan named Jenny emerged from the building wielding Band-Aids, which she wrapped around my finger with great care.
The rest of the evening went well. I chatted at length with a number of folks, including a homeless man named Will, who, like me, has fond and not-so-fond memories of South Georgia and North Florida. Nine people walked away with books, and I made it back before the darkening sky opened up. Tonight I’ll return to the Salvation Army with requests for Judy Blume, The Hobbit, and a copy of David Pelzer’s A Child Called “It,” a harrowing story about abuse. I’ll also be mindful of the disc rotors.
The day I met Tracy, the site manager for Summer Food Service distribution at The Salvation Army, the program was shuttered due to low turnout. I happened to catch Tracy and three other women walking out of the cafeteria on that last day (June fifth), so I delivered the usual elevator pitch. She explained why lunches would no longer be served, then invited me to bring books around dinnertime.
“On any given night, between six to eight families stay here. We serve dinner from five to six, and people start showing up around four.”
“I’ll see you next Monday.”
Drenched in sweat, I pulled into the parking lot behind the cafeteria a little before four. A woman poked her head out of the door and gave me a curious look. I introduced myself, explained the strange rig, then set everything up.
Initially, mostly men walked up and situated themselves on the concrete benches. Most knew each other, and a few asked about the Bibliobike. Many mentioned how much they looked forward to showering after dinner.
During the next hour, moms, dads and kids joined us as the group swelled to around forty. I gave away thirteen books in all – many to adults planning to pass them along to young family members. A man with a long grey braid named Mike chose a book about dinosaurs for a nephew which sparked a conversation about places to find fossils in Georgia. Another man selected two books for a grandson in Chicago. Some moms sent their children over on their own to select books. Others chatted while helping their kids choose. From illness to prison stints, snippets of conversations throughout the evening revealed a range of struggles rooted in poverty.