Inmates at Richmond's Vance Unit giving back by restoring bikes for children

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by Larry Seward / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on December 11, 2013 at 12:11 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 11 at 12:20 AM

RICHMOND, Texas – A group of inmates at the Carol S. Vance Unit are on the road to redemption, by doing something for special children this holiday season.

They are restoring bicycles for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get one for Christmas.

The inmates are fixing everything from brakes to rusty chains – making sure all 900 bicycles work just right.

“Pretty soon they’re gonna be having wings I think…,” Jimmy St. John, an inmate, said.

It’s like Santa’s workshop in prison.

“I took away from my community for so long… doing things that I did. And now I’m able to give back to a community,” Allen Watson, another inmate, said.

Watson is doing time for drugs, while St. John is in for robbery. However, unlike others locked down in the Vance Unit, these two have perhaps the most sought after job: crafting gifts for children in need.

“It’s a joy I get, an inner feeling. Because it makes me feel better about myself doing something positive in life instead of bad track. It helps me every day,” St. John said.

If you call them elves, then 71-year-old Peary Perry is Santa.

“I got about a hundred volunteers coming up from a warehouse,” Perry said.

Perry is not an inmate. He just volunteers, finding broken bikes, bringing them here for repairs and then finding folks in need.

“Because that’s what we ought to do for each other. We ought to try to help each other,” he said.

“All of those bicycles that you saw would have ended up in the landfill. They would all end up as trash or just thrown away. So if we can convert them and give them to kids who don’t have a bicycle it’s a good thing,” Perry said.

It has brought smiles to local families in the past. With truck loads of part donations from Huffy and inmates working four-hours a day, this sea of cycles could help more than ever.

Come Christmas Day, 200 of these bikes will be given to kids during city-wide club’s Christmas feast at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The rest will be given away through other non-profits.

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