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Bikes, the Chicago fire department and Augustana

Norm Moline and Kirk Flowers
Norm Moline and Kirk Flowers

By Dr. Norm Moline ’64, Professor Emeritus of Geography

During the course of this school year, Augustana faculty members donated another 33 bikes to a program run by Fire Engine Co. 16 in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. On June 6 at a special event, those bikes, along with several hundred more, will be given to students who have had perfect or near perfect attendance and good records in school. Thanks to all who gave bikes this year.

This program was started in the early 1990s by the firefighters at that fire station, led by Kirk Flowers. They collect damaged or unused bikes, repair them and give them to elementary and middle school students. It is a way to encourage students to go to school and maybe find paths toward good careers. This program has gained local and national attention, including on Oprah and as a feature story in a 1997 issue of TIME magazine.

I regularly had included Chicago field trips in my cultural geography and urban planning courses. Sensing an opportunity for another good learning experience for students, I contacted the fire station; the firefighters were happy to share the story, and it became a stop during my four or five Chicago field trips per year until I retired. This year Dr. Sharon Varallo (communication studies) and I took two of her cross-cultural communications classes to that station.

Mr. Flowers, who has received several awards for his service leadership, educates the students about the bike program, but, more importantly, about life in such a tough neighborhood. Out of those experiences, I started to collect bikes from people on our campus and bring them to Mr. Flowers, a practice which has continued to the present. I hope it can continue in the years ahead.

Even though Rock Island is three hours from Chicago’s south side, this connection is another small way in which our students and faculty can reach out to those in some tough situations and encourage them to pursue an educated approach to life.

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