Hudson man spends retirement restoring bikes for those in need

by Rachel Hagenbaugh | Reporter Published:

Hudson -- When Jonathan Polhamus was a child, bicycles were a luxury that his family could not afford to give him. His brother had a bike to get to and from work, but it wasn't until Polhamus was 19-years-old and serving in Vietnam that he got his first bike.

He recalls how he had a love for bikes ever since and now has a shed full of several dozen bikes that he has repaired to give to children, teenagers and adults who are not fortunate enough to have one. 

"It is very satisfying in the sense that people who, through no fault of their own, can't afford a bike can have one," he said. "I've gotten phone calls and letters back and they're so excited, similar to the way I'd have felt when I was a child."

One of the organizations the Hudson man delivers bikes to is the Emergency Assistance Center in Northfield Center. 

"He just popped in and thought that might be a nice way to help children and even adults who were in need of transportation," said Joyce Hunt, executive director of the center. "It was amazing because he literally gave us what looked like a catalogue. Someone chose one they liked and called him."

Hunt said Polhamus provides bikes of all sizes and colors for women, men, boys and girls. She said everyone at the center is in disbelief that someone is doing something like this out of the kindness of their heart and is not charging people for the service.

Polhamus' operation is an outreach program through Polhamus's church, the Hudson Presbyterian Church.

The project began in 2010 when Polhamus was visiting his son and saw five bikes abandoned at a foreclosed house. As a bike person, he said he hated to see the bikes rot and go unused so he took them, repaired them and contacted the local church to donate them. 

Polhamus thought restoring the bikes was a one-time thing until he mentioned the idea his minister, who was interested in providing a service like that at the church. Since then, it has been a group effort, Polhamus said. Members of the church bring him bikes and help pay for equipment and tools to fix them. The church also makes sure that everyone who gets a bike also gets a bike helmet to help promote safety.

"It's not something I'm doing by myself," Polhamus said. "I have time to make the repairs and contact various organizations. There's a lot being done that makes my work successful."

In addition to the helmets, Polhamus also talks about the "ABC's" of bicycle maintenance to each individual who gets a bike. "A" stands for air in the tires, "B" stands for the brakes and "C" stands for the chains.

"In addition to just giving them the bike, we given them a little information about how to keep their bikes in working order," he said.

Polhamus has been performing basic repairs on his bikes since he was 19-years-old. He is an engineer by training, which he said helps him understand how bikes are put together and how they work. When he started repairing bikes, he acquired more tools and began watching a lot of videos on YouTube and talking to repairmen at the local bikes shops, who also sometimes provide Polhamus with bikes to restore. 

"This wasn't what I intended to do with my retirement," Polhamus said. "That what it's evolved into. I've been pretty busy picking up, fixing and delivering bikes." 

Last year Polhamus and his church gave away about 180 bikes. Polhamus has collected, restored and given away about 50 bikes so far this year. 

"The first year we started doing this we gave away 110 bikes and it blew my mind that there would be that much need, especially in the area in and around Hudson," he said, adding that he provides bikes to areas like Akron, Macedonia, Twinsburg, Boston Heights, Stow and occasionally Cleveland. 

"As Christians we are called to use our talents," Polhamus said. "My talent is working with my hands. This is something that I could do that would be valuable, so I'm sharing those things with the people around me."

Email: rhagenbaugh@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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