Starting today, Spoke Folk’s “Meals on Two Wheels” initiative will take to the streets of Dunkirk for the 16th year, assisting the Meals on Wheels program with food deliveries to those in need around Dunkirk.
The four members, Rich Goodman, Robert Ehrheart, Al Pacos and George Sinclair, have been the key faces for this endeavor, but as the four men get older, they’re looking to not only deliver the meals as they always do, but to expand the program, and show other people they can do it too.
“It’s still only four people, but we really encourage other riders,” Goodman said. “The youngest among us is 76 years old, so when people say they can’t do that, it’s not true.”
Meals on Two Wheels began when Goodman received a donation of a trailer that could be attached to a bicycle. Despite the fact the original trailer was primitive, it put the idea in Goodman’s head.
“It dawned on me that I could use these to help the community, which is how Spoke Folk started in the first place,” he said. “I thought we should look at approaching the Meals on Wheels project and talk to them about lessening the impact on their delivery schedule and accomplishing other things by trying out delivering meals on two wheels.”
After ironing out a few wrinkles out, Goodman and the other main pioneer, Ehrhart, decided they would pursue it.
Goodman said the first year was extremely successful, going all the way through October, and after finding a way to acquire state of the art trailers and bikes, they expanded the team to the four men still delivering today.
And not only that, but Goodman said they have proven that delivering the meals on bicycles has proven to be as efficient as with a standard vehicle, and the main reason for this is ease of access.
“We start our route and we’re back before some of our other motorized colleagues sometimes, because we don’t have to find parking spaces,” said Goodman. “We can go right up to a house, apartment, or housing project and deliver the meal.”
But the value of Meals on Wheels, whether there be four or two, goes beyond just delivering the product itself. Goodman said social interaction means a lot to people on the receiving end, and they’ve found a way to spread word for community events just by riding around.
“I set up a trailer that has a billboard on it,” said Goodman. “It’s very effective and it goes along with the trailer so when we are seen around Dunkirk making deliveries, it looks like a little parade. It adds a visual dimension so that people see us and a lot of the recipients look for us. ”
Goodman also uses that billboard to advertise various events, which have included Windsong Radiology Group in Buffalo, who were doing an event in Dunkirk, summer events for the City of Dunkirk, and the Chautauqua Center, among other things. The program also promotes the importance of cycling as an exercise, as well as environmentally friendly means of transportation.
As for expansion of the program, Goodman is interested in getting as many people involved as possible, including members of the community who aren’t able to ride a traditional bike.
“What I’m really interested in doing is finding a bicycle-type vehicle so members of the community who are not able to ride a traditional bike can join us,” said Goodman. “We’re working on that now and I’m working with a couple manufacturers and vendors to be able to make that happen.”
Goodman estimates that those who participate ride 25 miles per week, which is good for 525 miles annually. And after several thousand total miles, a countless amount of spared environmental discharge, and all the other benefits, Goodman doesn’t see any kind of downside in the program. Now, his goals will be getting younger people involved and finding a way to give the riders some kind of compensation for their efforts. But at the end of the day, Meals on Two Wheels is yet another project that gives Goodman a smile on his face when he gets home.
“I enjoy it,” said Goodman. “I enjoy people and enjoy working with Meals on Wheels. And most of all is the demonstration project that you can do it too. It doesn’t have to be in Meals on Two Wheels, but you can take your bike and get your quart of milk instead of getting your car, if gas is a problem. I couldn’t be happier with the project and where we’ve gone with it. We’re building a better community one bicycle at a time. ”
For more information about Spoke Folk and Meals on Two Wheels, visit www.spokefolk.net.