This is Jacqueline, a lovely 76 year-old French woman who lives down at the East River where I go walking every day. She lost her bike in the recent hurricane. She relied heavily on the bike to get around. She is disabled and walks with some difficulty assisted by her cane. She never ever asks for anything. I have tried to give her money in the past but she won't take it. She saves up her apples to give to my dog when I pass by. She told me she has been homeless since 2001 and has (unsuccessfully) applied for housing 4 separate times. (She has a strong and, unfortunately, rather stubborn mind.)
When I saw her after the hurricane I was relieved to see she had made it! She camps in a small tent right by one of those posts you see under the highway at Avenue C and 20th Street. She told me she was forcefully evacuated and I guess glad, as she had planned to stay here during the storm. It ended up flooding here. She would have died. Her bike and belongings were swept away.
I offered to get her a replacement and she was thrilled. Immediately I started looking ... but couldn't find what I was looking for. I hunted high and low to get a cheap or free one. My friend Jeff owns Continuum Cycles, and he offered to help me. He checked his stock and basement to see if he had something that would work. She needed a really small bike as she is only 5-2.
Jeff and I finally found one at Recycle-A-Bicycle who, upon hearing Jackie's plight, sold us a vintage Ross 17-inch bike for very cheap ($50). However, it needed lots of work. New cables, seat, tires, gear work, brake pads, basket and rear carrier, bell and bike locks. Jeff offered to do the work for cost while I set to find donations from all my friends and neighbors to help pay for it all. Most didn't even know Jackie but were really happy to be part of the project. Another neighbor offered to get us the bike seat. I probably could have paid for this all by myself but I wanted to share the blessing of giving to someone and to introduce more people to Jackie's existence.
On November 17 the bike was ready. It was dark already but I found Jackie along the river. She was so happy to get her new bike. I gave her a card with signatures and messages from all the people who helped pay for the bike. She reminded me of my grandmother, who whenever I gave her something, she would immediately want to do something for you.
On Sunday, I went back to see how she was liking the bike and to give her some winter clothes.
She confided that the day I gave her the bike was a special day for her. November 17 was her father's birthday and he had given Jackie her very first bike.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
On Nov. 10, we posted an item from East Village resident Michele McVicar, who was trying to help a homeless woman who lost her bicycle during Hurricane Sandy. Michele provides an update here.
Posted by Grieve at 6:40 AM