NEWTOWN >> People living in Tanzania and The Gambia in Africa and Guatemala in Central America will benefit from this year’s used bicycle and portable sewing machine drive in Newtown.

For the 17th year, the Newtown Rotary Club and the Council Rock High School North Interact Club will be accepting donations of used bicycles and portable sewing machines on Saturday, October 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. - rain or shine - at the parking lot located across the street from the Olde Church of Saint Andrew at 135 South Sycamore Street, Newtown.

“Please check your garages, your basements and your sheds for any bikes that you aren’t using and put them to good use,” said Dr. Jerry Agasar, who is organizing the drive. “We are very fortunate with what we have here in this country. What we take for granted here, other people cherish. With a donation as simple as a bicycle or a portable sewing machine, you can make a huge difference in someone else’s life a world away by improving their economic conditions.”

The donations are given to Pedals for Progress and Sewing for Peace, a New Jersey-based nonprofit which reconditions the bikes and sewing machines and then ships them to residents in third world countries “who need a leg up in the world.”

Agasar said anyone with an adult or child’s bicycle in repairable condition is urged to donate.

“It doesn’t have to be in perfect condition,” said Agasar. “We don’t care if it has a flat tire or a broken chain. We will take care of all of that.”

The collection drive, however, will not be able to accept rusted bikes, “bikes for parts” or disassembled bikes.

“We also accept working portable sewing machines and sewing notions (no fabric, please),” said Agasar.

Last year’s collection was amazing, said Agasar. In a driving downpour of rain, the volunteers collected 179 bikes and 50 sewing machines, the largest number in recent memory.

“We did great, but we’re hoping we don’t have to go through that again,” admitted Agasar. “Standing and working in the rain was painful. But we’re thrilled people came out and donated despite the weather. And we’re hoping for the community to respond again this year with even more.”

The Rotarians already have a head start this year with well over 50 donated bikes already in storage. Among them are donations from Drexel University, the Northampton Township Police Department and from Bike King, which Agasar said have been very generous.

Since 2003, Agasar said the local club has collected more than 2500 bikes, which no doubt are having a profound impact on the lives of their new owners.

“If you’re not using your bike or that portable sewing machine, we can get them to someone who will,” said Agasar.

Every year, Pedals for Progress and Sewing for Peace collect between 3,000 and 5,000 items and transfer them to those more needy. To date, more than 157,000 bicycles and 4,700 sewing machines have been shipped to developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The bikes are reconditioned by partner agencies and distributed at low cost to poor working adults. The bikes provide reliable transportation for commuting to work, transporting product to market, and greater mobility accessing health care and other services.

“Think about it. If you can’t get to your market or to your school - the things we take for granted here - it’s going to make an impact in your life,” said Agasar. “I love biking for recreation, but I couldn’t imagine if I didn’t have a car to get somewhere. This is a small way to help others who are less fortunate.”

Sewing machine shipments help initiate educational programs and generate income opportunities that may otherwise remain out of reach for many. Steady employment for adults is vital to the development and success of struggling communities.

It costs $45 to collect, process, ship, rebuild and distribute each bicycle. A donation toward shipping costs is necessary for the programs continued success with a suggested minimum donation of $10 per item. All cash and material donations are fully deductible and a receipt will be provided on site.

Pedals for Progress/Sewing Peace is a nonprofit corporation and a registered charity in the states of NJ, NY, PA, CT, VT. Brochures explaining the innovative program will be available at the collection site.

For detailed information about Pedals for Progress overseas projects and a current schedule of bicycle and sewing machine collections, visitwww.p4p.org.

If you can’t make it to the drive, Volunteers are available to pick up donations. Contact Agasar at drjerry@agasarfamilywellcare.com or call 215-605-3268.

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