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In Print: On News Stands Now

WEST TEXAS CRUISERS BUILD BICYCLES AT CHRISTMAS

by Tumbleweed Smith

West Texas Cruisers is the name of a classic car club in Midland. When the club was formed in 1991, members felt some portion of any profits the club made should go to charity.

At the end of their first year, the club had one hundred dollars extra. Jeff Brookings, one of the founding members, went to a mall and asked the manager for suggestions as to what could be done with it. The manager suggested dressing a doll and giving it to a needy child.

As the years progressed, the club bought turkeys for veterans, gave $500to a cancer victim, donated funds for a family whose home had burned and paid expenses for a girl to compete in the tae kwon do world championships.

The club raises money by an annual car show, sponsors and donations. A few years ago the club had $2500 to donate at the end of the year. Members decided to spend it all on toys for underprivileged kids.

"No toy could cost more than ten dollars," says Jeff. "It's hard to spend twenty-five hundred dollars ten dollars at a time."

A few years ago the club started buying bicycles and giving them to the Salvation Army to distribute to children in low-income families.

The club has more than one hundred members now and has its own building in Midland's industrial district. Members are always shopping for bicycles. This year they bought 100 from a firm in Fort Worth.

They bought 150 more bikes from Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart bikes were already assembled. The others were not. Club members grabbed their tools and went to their building weekends in November to assemble the rest of the bikes. Members put on the handlebars, training wheels, pedals, and front forks.

"The good guys can do 5 in an hour and we have guys who can do one an hour. We've done a thousand bicycles in the last five years, so some of us have put together a hundred bicycles or more."

A Midland Television station, KWES, collects toys each Christmas time and displays them in front of the news set. Cruisers take about half the bikes to the station in a convoy of classic cars. Law enforcement officers stop traffic to let the West Texas Cruisers pass. Those bikes go to the Salvation Army in Odessa.

"The other half we carry in our Christmas Parade in Midland and deliver them to the Salvation Army distribution Center here in Midland. "

Last year the club put together 220 bikes in two weekends. It has 250this year, ranging in size from sidewalk bikes for little kids to 20inch bikes for the bigger ones.

The club bought wagons one year and will never do that again. It took an average of an hour and a half to put together a wagon.

"At the Salvation Army, kids can choose five toys. The bikes are the favorites. We could give away 1600 bikes a year if we could get them."

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