The Knights of Pythias hosted their annual Bikes for Boys and Girls event on Dec. 18, but three days after the event ended, Clarence Monette was still putting together bikes for Gulf County children.
“Oh no. It’s not over,” he said. “I’m still working on a few. We’re getting some calls asking if we still have more bikes. I put together two bikes yesterday, and they came to pick them up today. But we’re getting close.”
Every year, Monette and the Knights of Pythias work with local schools to donate bicycles to children around the county who would not otherwise receive such a gift for the holidays. Candidates are determined by teachers and school guidance counselors, and the members of R.A. Driesbach, Sr. Lodge number 77 spent months fundraising to be able to afford the children’s presents.
On Saturday, Monette said that 89 bicycles were going to be distributed to Gulf County children for the holidays. In the days that followed, that number would grow slightly.
“It would have been more if we had been able to get those 24 inch ones,” he said.
This year, the Knights of Pythias said that supply chain issues prevented them from finding bikes in larger sizes at a reasonable price point. Monette was able to find 9 at Walmart and a few more from a good Samaritan in Panama City. Still, he was hoping to have one or two more rounded up in the next few days.
Kenneth Monette, Clarence’s son and the lodge’s chancellor commander, said that despite the challenges, the event could be declared a huge success.
“We’re just glad to be able to do this every year,” he said. “And we got a lot of donations this year. We started early, like in October, and we made sure we did a lot of advertising and spread the word.”
Bikes were distributed in both Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka, and the Monettes said that almost everyone had come on Saturday to pick theirs up, and those who hadn’t received theirs in the few days that followed.