New Wheels: A Big Heart in a Small Town
Robert uses his time and talents to make custom lowrider bicycles for his local community in Pocatello, Idaho. He created a program called Big Brother Lowriding, combining his passion and compassion in a way that helps connect those in need with transportation and mentorship. When Robert isn’t working on bikes, he’s serving meals at the only soup kitchen in town at the local Salvation Army. He has become a mentor to the local community, but his life wasn’t always this way. Watch this video to hear Robert’s story.
Read the transcript of the video here:
Robert Wallace: “Hello Ronny, come on out! I brought everything to fix it. I brought you a front and back wheel…Alright Ronny check that out. Tell me how that feels.”
Well when I was younger one of my uncles had a lowrider car then one time I heard a bike and on a lowrider bike it has a spring system that goes right below the handlebars so then when you ride and you push down it flexes with the frame. It maneuvers different, it stops different, it’s rode different. You can add smaller wheels, bigger wheels–everything’s an eye-catcher. I love bikes. It’s freedom. I love the way it looked and the way I customized it, but I left on the bike from whatever environment I was in, you know a lot of the times it wasn’t the best environment.
Lieutenant Tami Moore: One of the biggest issues of Pocatello is we kind of seem to be that thoroughfare for people bringing drugs through from Salt Lake City. Meth and opioids are the biggest problems that we have here, but I just think a lot of that has to do with the poverty
Robert Wallace: When I was younger certain circumstances happened to warn us but in foster care I kept getting in trouble. I kept fighting in school. I got another battery ticket at school. So, they took me to jail. I’ve been in detention so much that it’s a second home. Everytime I turn around I’m getting in a car wreck. I’m driving out doing crazy things that are risking my life. I’m getting arrested. At the end of the day there wasn’t nobody cared. I wasn’t with my siblings no more. My dad was in prison.
I was going to be 21 in like a month and I went to go party and heard the cops. I told myself, “Wow, I’m going to get busted for having this weed on me and I’m in control for drinking before 21. So, I decided I wasn’t going to go to jail. It was three stories up, snowing completely outside. I jumped and broke my feet, dragged myself into a ditch and I laid in the ditch for three hours. I thought I was going to die. I laid there shaking scared and asked God, like “just give me a second chance and I promise I’ll do right.” My girlfriend was constantly looking for jobs for me and she found The Salvation Army. I covered up my tattoos and everything and I went in there and the next day she called me.
Lieutenant Tami Moore: So, the first time I met Robert. I walked in and I saw this tall tattooed guy and it kind of took me back because, you know I heard Pocatello, this little country town. There’s times that he will just walk by and people will stare at him. They see him and they see this bad boy, you know, all tattooed up. But once you talk to him you see he really does have this sensitive side and this need to embrace people.
Robert Wallace: I always tell people the paycheck pays the bills but the satisfaction on somebody’s face when they like how excited they are for eating. They might go home to nothing, they might go home and sit by themselves all day. A lot of them come for the conversation but it started with the meal. So, I just feel like I see God in the food. It makes you really understand, like I don’t realize who it’s affecting. You do know people are homeless. You do know people are hungry. But then we used to get 40-50 people sometimes at lunch and I might know thirty of these people and then I find out like everyday someone is dealing with an addiction. I can’t tell somebody that I’ll be there for them and I want to help them if I’m at home drinking off the bottle. I couldn’t do that and I started over in my mind like, I don’t have to be partying. I don’t have to be doing all these things. I can be a better person, you know? But that was where life changed.
When I first met Charles, I was serving meals here and he needed a little bit of help, just got out of prison and he needed a bike and in general just needed a way around town, but I had the source to help him with the bike. I just jumped in at full blow and just wanted to help everybody and then we started getting parts and it was weird because it’s like I’ve never seen lowrider parts in Pocatello ever and all the sudden I got a gentleman in town named Leroy, he owns a whole bunch of bikes up the hill and then he offered me banana seats and stuff.
Charles: When I first met him I didn’t really register that he was the kind of person that would have my back. He’s been there ever since I got back out. I talk to Robert every day on the phone. We video chat. We play video games together and we hang out. Robert’s a huge huge factor in the fact that I’m still sober. I want to move forward in my life and help from people like Robert helps people all of the time. I think it’s helping me realize that I can be a good person after what I’ve done.
Robert Wallace: You see the effects when you walk into a room and you see them shake hands or somebody or they’ll smile when they normally wouldn’t and they’d be closed off and then you remind yourself of you when you were young and closed off. The deep feelings I have of nobody caring from being young. As an adult now, here I am almost 30 years old, and what I’m doing for them is actually affecting my life. It’s making me feel wanted. This makes me feel cared about.
Lieutenant Tami Moore: He does it for anybody who comes in here and it’s almost like they know, go to The Salvation Army, “something’s wrong with your bike, go to The Salvation Army and Robert will fix it.” And if they don’t have a bike, I’ve seen him just go and “Here. Here’s a bike!” I look at my life, how receiving Jesus Christ in my life has redeemed me. People who knew me before would never believe that I am this person and the people that know me now would never believe I was that person. And I see the redemption in his life that he’s going to be able to show that love of Jesus and that, you know, you don’t have to stay stuck in this life. You are not identified by your past. God has given you a new identity. I see Robert going far with his passion because people love what he does– this community loves what he does.
Robert Wallace: One bike at a time. One bike at a time.
- See more videos like this in our video feed.
- Read more of Robert’s story.
- Have you ever found yourself wanting to volunteer but unsure of what to do or how to go about it? Here’s the key: You can make an impact in the Fight for Good with whatever time and skills you have. Whatever your interest, there is a you-sized need for goodness in the world. Get the guide on How To Be An Impactful Volunteer with 9 habits to make a difference when giving back.
- Did you know The Salvation Army served more than 23 million Americans last year fighting hunger, homelessness, substance abuse and more—all in a fight for good? Where can you help? Take our quiz to find your cause and learn how you can join in today.