Story by Carmen Maroney, Community Resources Manager
Photo by Lt. Ron Ladd, AA/PIO
Valley State Prison
On Aug. 16, Valley State Prison held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its newly established Valley State Prison Bicycle Refurbishing Program. The event was attended by institution administration, staff and community members and included a tour of the bike-repair area by Sgt. J. Vanhoff and opening address by Warden Raythel Fisher, Jr.. The event concluded with the presentation of 30 like-new bikes to local agencies such as James Monroe Elementary School, Madera County Probation Department and Madera County Victim Services Agency.
In May 2017, Valley State Prison (VSP) implemented a new community service project inmate program and work program, the bike repair, that had been over three years in the making. The goal of VBRP is to collaborate with community partners to provide refurbished bicycles to local charitable and community-based agencies for distribution to those in need. Inmates selected for to participate in a self-guided, learning-based, positive environment where they gain an opportunity build skills in the area of bicycle repair, a beneficial community trade.
The program partners with community stakeholders to obtain donations of bicycles, bicycle parts, equipment and tools needed to operate. Prison Fellowship Ministries along in conjunction the Angel Tree Foundation is the major sponsor and has adopted the program as part of their local community benefit mission. Other vital partners include, but are not limited to Madera County Probation, and the Chowchilla Police Department.
The bike program is based on donations to benefit the community and the rehabilitative process by providing safe,refurbished bicycles. Donors have included the aforementioned partners as well as New Hope Community Church, and in particular Dan Caton of Clovis Bicycle who has generously donated bike repair parts, equipment, manuals and tools.
Fred Mendrin, Field Director for Prison Fellowship Ministries, has dedicated numerous hours to help obtain donations of bicycles, tools, equipment and supplies as well assisting in interviewing qualified inmate workers for the program.
The generosity of the partners has enabled the prison to establish a program to convert old bikes once refurbished to a like-new state. The program allows incarcerated men to use valuable rehabilitative job skills to provide bikes to children and families.
Inmate workers in the program are D. Velazco, J. Mendez, T. Layton and R. Gonzalez.
The program operation is a team effort at VSP including many vocational and educational instructors, Culinary and Vocation Sgt. VanHoff and Correctional Officers in this area as well as education area vocational instructors and staff who have come together to enthusiastically help build this program.
Inmate Rodolfo Gonzalez, who has worked in the program since the beginning, said, “Recipients were most blessed by these efforts and it was so worth it. I feel motivated.”