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Jim Bode, a volunteer who repairs bikes for the Wheels4Kids program, stands Wednesday in the empty space in the Lincoln School warming house where a dozen repaired bikes previously had sat. The Willmar Police Department is investigating. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

Bicycles taken from program that gives them away to needy kids

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WILLMAR -- A dozen bicycles ready to be given to needy children were removed this week from the warming shed in Lincoln Park.

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The bikes belonged to the Wheels4Kids program affiliated with the Willmar Child Guide Program and Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

With financial support from Willmar Kiwanis, the program accepts donated bikes, and volunteer Jim Bode repairs them to give away.

When Bode last left the shed Saturday, he had more than a dozen bikes lined up bearing tags that read "Fixed." When Christine Hilbert, who organizes the program, arrived at the shed on Wednesday, she found several bikes in a pile and the "Fixed" tags on the floor.

"This was full, completely," Bode said as he gestured around the large empty space in the shed. About 25 bikes he uses for parts were left untouched at the far end of the room. Bike stands and some tools were also left in the room.

Bode had lined up the finished bikes and taken a photo of them, so he was able to show the photo to Willmar Police Officer Gene Schneider when he arrived to talk about the missing bikes.

Two doors were tagged with spray paint in the past few days, too. A pitchfork was painted on one door, and three 6s and a pitchfork were painted on another.

Schneider said the tagging could be unrelated to the bike thefts. The Police Department will be investigating the situation and how someone was able to enter the building, he said.

Anyone with information about the bicycles should contact the Willmar Police Department at 230-235-2244 or through the department's Facebook page.

Ralph Nelson of the city's Public Works Department said the program may need to move its bikes to another location, and he would be working on that. "It's disheartening" that someone would steal bikes that were to be given away, he said.

Hilbert said the program has already given away about 40 bikes, and the ones that were gone would have made it more than 50.

"I'm deeply disappointed that kids who have been waiting for bikes will continue waiting, with the summer half gone," she said.

Bode, who works two jobs in addition to donating his time to fix bikes, said he was disappointed as well.

"Anybody who wants to donate more bikes, we could sure use them right now," he said.

To donate bicycles to the program, contact Hilbert through Community Education and Recreation at 320-231-8490 or drop them off at the Jefferson Learning Center, 1234 Kandiyohi Ave. Donations for the program m

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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