04 September 2017

To Find A Bike, Go Where The Donuts Are

Years ago, a fellow but very-senior faculty member was observing and evaluating one of my classes.  She wrote favorably of me, though she commented on my seeming lack of confidence.  "Remember, you are doing God's work," she told me.

I was taken aback because I hadn't taken her for a religious person.  For that matter, I was somewhat surprised--for reasons I can't recall--that she would even invoke a deity.  Perhaps I had assumed, wrongly, that she would share most other humanities faculty members'--and my--non-religiosity.

(I sometimes joke that the Carmelite nuns of my school tried to beat the devil out of me but exorcised me of my faith instead.)

Anyway, I think it's fair to ask this:  If there is indeed a god, what would that god's work be?

Of course, being a cyclist and bike blogger, I'd like to think that it somehow involves bicycles and bicycling.  Benjamin Franklin once quipped that beer is a sign that God loves us and wants us to be happy.  I would say the same about bicycles.

And, if God's work does involve bicycles, could a bakery be a theatre, staging area or workshop?

Larry Batten is the coordinator of Chain Reaction Ministries.  The program, based in The First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Oklahoma City, provides bikes for people who need basic transportation to get to their jobs.  Not surprisingly, most of the recipients have recently started their jobs or work for low wages.  Among their ranks, also not surprisingly, are some recovering addicts and new or recent parolees.

 Larry Batten, Chain Reaction Ministries coordinator, refurbishes bicycles at First Christian Church of Oklahoma City to give away to those who need them. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman]
Chain Reaction Ministries coordinator Larry Batten

The point of the program, according to Batten, is to help such people get back on track with their lives.  That is the reason why, he says, the bikes aren't given to just anybody. "We are providing a hand up, not a handout," he explains.  Thus, the program requires takes  would-be recipients who are referred by various agencies, and requires those would-be recipients to present some sort of proof of employment.

The program has grown much faster than he or anyone else imagined.  So, they are almost always in need of bikes and parts. Sometimes bikes are stripped for parts, while the more expensive ones are traded at nearby Al's Bicycles for tires, tubes, chains and other parts that are needed continuously.  "Al's been amazing to us," Batten says.

His search for bikes sometimes goes far and wide.  One thing he  learned, however, is to go where the bikes are--or, more precisely, where the bikes might be.  Hence program volunteer Tom Russell's trip to Brown's Bakery.  It seems that Brown's doughnuts have quite a reputation, which is the reason why the bakery is a magnet for cyclists.  Indeed, as far back as the 1970's it served as the destination for  the Oklahoma Bicycle Society's Donut ride, a meandering ride through historic neighborhoods in Oklahoma City.

Batten says that the church has a repair shop equipped with tools donated by the local rotary club.  Two mechanics work there.  They are not mere "wrenches", though:  They empathize with their clients because they were once homeless themselves.

There are other "happy endings," evidenced by the many "thank-you" letters Batten receives.  Some of the recipients continue to ride after they get their lives together.  Others, though, buy cars--and give their bikes back to Chain Reaction Ministries.

If you want to donate, or simply want more information, you can call Chain Reaction Ministries at  (405) 525-6551 or Batten himself at (405) 479-3809.


  1. Wonderful write up Justine. I encourage your readers to take one of their bikes and donate it to someone who is in need of daily transportation to get to a job. I came upon someone (a stranger) last spring who was walking long distances to their job. I built up a bike using a favorite mountain bike frame of mine, added good components, and even purchased a few bits on eBay to complete the project. It turned out to be a damn nice lightweight ride - one that I would be proud to ride and enjoy, a labor of love you might say. Well, the bike was given to this person who just couldn't believe someone would just give her something so nice and useful. I guess my point is to give a bike that is worth a lot in value both monetary and personal. I believe I have benefitted the most.

  2. A cleric i knew was given to passing judgement out-of-hand on folks who were a bit "different" in one way or another. i told him that he should do god's work, not god's job.

  3. Thanks for sharing this great story, Justine.

  4. Chris--What a wonderful thing to do! And, I am sure you have benefitted the most.

    Mike--"Do god's work, not god's job". I love it! I think I'll print it on a T-shirt.

    MT--It was a pleasure!

    1. Justine, If you do get that t-shirt, post a picture!