Tom Williamson

A Waxhaw man is helping residents at the Community Shelter of Union County get to work. In a county without public transportation, simply getting to work can be an expensive problem that slows a homeless person’s return to independent living.

Tom Williamson started his mission – Ride Again Bicycle Ministry – after serving a meal at the Shelter with his employer, ATI Special Materials, and learning that many residents had no way to get to work.

Many residents living temporarily at the Shelter in downtown Monroe spend $100 or more a week piecemealing transportation options together to get through a week of work. Sometimes they pay coworkers to pick them up and drop them off, sometimes they walk multiple miles each way. The less money Shelter residents spend on transportation, the sooner they can save enough funds to move back into independent living.

Williamson’s mission is simple, he says. “It’s getting people transportation. I know there are people with no means of transportation, and we have no public transportation system.”

The idea started at a men’s church retreat when a speaker talked about it being more important to spend time doing something rather than trying to be someone. “He challenged us to do something,” Williamson said.

“I didn’t get going quickly,” he said with a laugh. But when he did start, he quickly impacted the lives of many residents experiencing homelessness. “People need to get to work,” he stresses.

As an avid cyclist, his first plan was to repair bicycles at the Shelter but that quickly segued way into soliciting unused bicycles, cleaning and repairing them before donating them to Shelter residents and others. Donations have ranged from a single speed beach cruiser to a 10-speed from the 1970s, but mountain bikes are the primary type. “I’ve got an old Schwinn that has to be before the ‘80s, but it runs great.”

Williamson does all the repairs himself, but he solicits donated bikes that can either be repaired or sold for parts, which underwrites part of his replacement parts cost.

“I put it out on Facebook with a goal of donating 30 bikes in 2020,” But he was an overachiever.

By year’s end, he had donated 21 bikes to the Shelter, 19 to Hoskins Park Ministries, four to Roof Above and eight kids bikes to the Waxhaw Police Dept to support their youth bike program.

His Sunday School class at Matthews United Methodist Church has donated bike locks to ensure security at worksites. “I put one on every bike I donate,” he says. The Shelter provides helmets and reflective vests.

Why does he do it? “I get to help people. That’s all you need. I like to work on bikes and help people – I get to combine two passions. “

Williamson asks anyone with an unused adult-sized bike to contact him on Facebook at @RideAgainBicycle or email at RideAgainBicycle@gmail.com. Men’s bicycles are the most needed.

© Union County Community Shelter | 160 Meadow Street, Monroe, NC 28110 | (704) 289-5300