Nobody has been keeping a tally.
There is no ready arithmetic to measure the charity.
But in the nine years since they have sponsored the Bikes for Boys and Girls program, the local chapter of the Knights of Pythias has likely provided at least 600 bikes or trikes to needy children in Gulf County.
Start with this math: the first year after they assumed the program from a partnership between North Florida Child Development and the Gulf Forestry Camp, the Knights gave away 15 bicycles.
Last year, keep in mind this was just over two months after Hurricane Michael, the Knights gave away 125 bikes.
The one-year high was just under 150.
So fold into the equation the other six years and 600 is a number pretty easily reached.
And if those numbers are conservative, the same can not be said of the foundation of this program.
Start with the Knights, who wear as well-tailored blazers concepts such as community and fraternity.
“It is part of our (calling),” said Clarence Monette, the Chancellor of the R.A. Driesbach chapter of the Knights of Pythias. “It’s our will to get the bikes and help others. And the need is there. You always enjoy helping people you know and who are in need.
“And it is fun. To see the smile on a child’s face when they get their bike. And the parents are so appreciative. Like everything else these days, bikes are getting expensive.”
Toss in this community, Monette said, and what remains is a pretty potent mix.
“People love to help,” Monette said. “This world is a mess sometimes but individuals are so generous.”
Bikes for Boys and Girls provides bicycles for children ages 5-12 (roughly) who would not normally receive a bike at Christmas.
The Knights work through the local schools in identifying children of need who would enjoy a bicycle for Christmas.
The major fundraiser supporting the effort is now underway, a raffle which features a 50-inch Class 4K Ultra HD LED television as well as gift certificates and cards from Ramsey’s Printing and Supplies, Ace Hardware, Duren’s Piggly Wiggly and Ronnie B’s among others.
The raffle will be held Friday, Dec. 20 at the Piggly Wiggly.
Raffle ticket holders do not have to be present to win.
The Knights are also seeking monetary donations for the Bikes program, which may be mailed to Bikes for Boys and Girls, P.O. Box 731, Port St. Joe, Florida, 32457.
All donations are tax deductible.
Letters went out in September to those who have supported the program in the past.
“People have sent in monetary donations but we can always use more,” Monette said. “More donations, more bikes. And we are still seeking sponsors for the raffle.”
The Knights received some slightly-used bikes last year after Hurricane Michael and have also worked with Salvage Santa Mike Jones in Bay County, but his facility was destroyed in the storm.
In addition, the Knights Lodge lost two key members who died over the past year, Billy Quinn, Jr., and Henry Hogue, who passed away in a house fire last year after spending the day assembling bikes for last year’s giveaway.
“Henry was really our best man for bikes,” Monette said. “He did such a great job and was so dedicated.”
Now, more than ever, Monette noted, monetary donations are needed, though the Knights recognize the altered landscape, the many homes that still have blue tarp roofs and many displaced continue to live with relatives or friends.
“We appreciate everybody’s support,” Monette said. “This community has always been so generous to us and those kids.”
As for a goal, Monette and the Pythians aren’t backing off despite the travails from Michael.
After all they gave away 125 last year, barely two months after the storm.
“We are shooting for about the same, 125 to 140,” Monette said. “We love it and this is something we enjoy doing and will continue doing as long as we are able.”
The bike giveaway will be held on each end of the county Saturday, Dec. 21.