Walking the Walk

Br. Juniper Crouch

Br. Juniper Crouch, OFM

Bicycles bring freedom

As he prepares to move from Houston to New Orleans, Juniper Crouch will spend one last weekend volunteering with a group that is dear to his heart.

Man and boy fixing bicycle

Young volunteer Ethan Chagaris with David West. Photo courtesy Freewheels Houston

In April he discovered Freewheels Houston, a nonprofit group that improves the lives of veterans, refugees and others by giving them a simple yet transformative gift. “I wish I’d found out about it sooner,” he says. Three days a week, Freewheels helpers find and refurbish bicycles for those who need transportation to work or school.

“I usually go Friday and Saturday if I’m able,” Juniper says. “We repair the brake system, check the gear system, make the fine adjustments. Sometimes it’s just a matter of tightening something here or there.” Not everyone at Freewheels is an expert. “You’ve got people coming in who don’t know a thing about bicycles, and people who are pretty knowledgeable who can show them how to work on them.”

Established in 2015 by members of Christ the King Lutheran Church and local bike buffs, Freewheels has distributed about 600 safe, reliable used bicycles in Houston, one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the country. “We’ve got the United Nations” in terms of immigrants, Juniper says. “Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, African, Filipino, Hispanic. You name it and they’re here. Many of them have no means of getting around other than the transit system, so this gives them a little freedom.”

The son of an automobile mechanic, Juniper has been tinkering with bikes since the 1940s and currently rides a 21-speed model he found at a Goodwill store. “Whenever I get one now I tear it down and clean it up so I know what I’ve got is working.” It’s not hard, he says, “once you understand what each piece does and how it’s connected.”

At 85, he’s busy as Provincial Spiritual Assistant for Secular Franciscans and does more driving than pedaling. “I don’t ride in the wintertime; the cold is too hard on my hands. But I ride a lot when I can.”

(Learn more about Freewheels Houston at:
https://freewheelshouston.org/)

 

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