Last Wednesday morning, Christian Guinan parked along Kensington Avenue in a black Toyota Tundra with nine bicycles loaded into the bed. The bikes, which Guinan delivered on his lunch break, were for Rock Ministries, a Kensington-based chapel aimed at helping inner-city youth, particularly in the troubled neighborhood of Kensington.
The bikes delivered by Guinan are nine of nearly 1,300 bicycles fixed up by his family over the course of a nearly 10-year effort to restore (and sometimes purchase new) bikes to be given out to children who are ill or in need.
“It’s someone from outside of this neighborhood who’s taking into consideration the conditions in this neighborhood,” said Rock Ministries’ assistant pastor, Craig Cerrito. “And the kids here are more vulnerable than what other people who are not from here can imagine.”
It’s the second delivery of bikes Cerrito’s ministry has received from Guinan. Depending on the night, Rock can have anywhere from 30 to 70 kids within its walls for its various programs. It’ll typically give out all the bikes it received from Guinan in one fell swoop.
“We’re able to give out pretty much the whole batch in one shot,” he said.
Guinan and his sister Lauren, both of whom work for SEPTA, will solicit bicycle donations through their employer via fliers and word-of-mouth advertising. Then they and members of their family fix up the bikes to give out to organizations that work with children.
“Most of the time whatever we have in stock we just try to fix as quickly as possible and then get it to places that need it the most,” said Guinan. “We take donations from anyone. I put out feelers with the people I work with, from the community we post stuff. My dad worked for SEPTA for 30-plus years and I just started working there a couple years ago.”
Guinan’s father, Chris, started the project.
“I will tell you from the very beginning we never expected it to escalate to what it’s become,” said the elder Guinan in a phone interview. “It’s really taken on a life of its own, to be honest with you.”
The project started when Chris Guinan, who lives in Winchester Park, went to donate bicycles to Toys for Tots back in December 2011.
“A couple employees noticed I was going to donate them and they offered their bikes,” he explained. “And five and 10 bikes turned into 12 and before you know it, I had this conduit of people who were willing to give me their bikes as long as we were going to forward it to somebody who was ill or needy.”
As a result, the Guinans’ bicycle project was born. The family’s bike-fixing crew even includes 10-year-old Sophia, Chris Guinan’s granddaughter, who helps paint and wash the bikes.
Cerrito admired the Guinans’ dedication to helping their community.
“For someone from the outside to say, ‘Hey you know what, I’m going to do something for the kids that’s meaningful to them’ – it actually enhances their life, you know?” he said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing.”
There’s one question Chris Guinan always gets asked: Why do you do it?
“The reality is no conscious thought on my part,” is his answer. “It just seems like the thing to do.”