Tucson bike shop owners pay it forward with The Salvation Army
For Jessie Menard, donating bikes and turkeys is about more than the goods—it’s about lending a helping hand like she knew growing up.
For Jessie and Gary Menard, their bike shop is more than a business; it’s a caring outpost for the community. Beyond selling and repairing bicycles, the couple gives new wheels to those who are less fortunate or experiencing homelessness.
When the pair bought Pima Street Bicycle in Tucson, Arizona, Jessie Menard called the local Salvation Army to donate bikes to their Christmas outreach, the Adopt a Family program. Now, the pair donate bikes and turkeys during the holidays and throughout the year as needed—to lend a helping hand like she knew growing up.
“It just puts a smile on my face to be able to be kind,” she said.
Menard grew up in a Salvation Army corps and wanted to give back. Her parents immigrated from the Caribbean and diligently cared for their children—Menard and her two younger brothers—but sometimes frugal living still left them short of necessities, like food. Her local Salvation Army Corps in New Jersey always helped when needed, and The Salvation Army community became the landscape of much of her childhood.
“There were times growing up we wouldn’t have holiday meals or presents without the help of The Salvation Army,” Menard said.
During the Christmas kettle season, her parents served as bell ringers.
“Rain, snow, wind, ice—it didn’t matter. Dad would ring the bell through it all,” Menard said.
And when she was six, she said her parents sent her to a month-long Salvation Army music camp in Pennsylvania. She fell in love with music and learned to play the trumpet. She later joined Sunbeams, The Salvation Army’s youth character-building program, then became a corps cadet and played her trumpet and timbrel (tambourine) during Sunday services.
“Now, when I see The Salvation Army band in parades, I watch those trumpets and ribbon tambourines and just smile. I have so many lovely memories.”
In high school, she joined her dad at the kettle, playing her trumpet to garner the attention of people passing by as he rang the bell. Soon after high school, her mom died.
“When you are that young and something tragic happens, there’s two roads you can take,” she said. “One road: ‘I hate the world, it’s their fault.’ Or you stand up, stand strong and take the good road.”
She chose to take the good road.
Years later, the winding path of life led her and her husband, Gary, to purchase the bike shop from a friend in Tucson after a season spent as bike tour managers.
Once they settled in, they wanted to give back to those who were less fortunate in their area, so they called The Salvation Army to help with the Christmas season. “And it just kind of went from there,” Menard said. “We now help local homeless, families, whoever we can.”
Tucson Advisory Board Member and Holiday Meal Lead Noel Desilets has seen how donors like Menard make a difference. “I’ve witnessed lives lifted up because of the community coming together to serve,” Desilets said.
One year Desilets watched a gentleman receive a needed meal the week before Christmas—and he was so overwhelmed by the kindness of The Salvation Army that he returned on Christmas to help serve food to others.
“The impact of the volunteer donations and service go way beyond one person, one family,” said Desilets. “Donors like Jessie help us move forward.”
Sometimes when Menard drops off a turkey or a bike, she thinks of her father, who experienced homelessness before immigrating to the United States.
“Who helped my dad? I want to be like that person,” she said. “It doesn’t cost much to be kind. And the world needs kindness—especially in this day and age.”
- You’ve probably seen the red kettles and thrift stores, and while we’re rightfully well known for both…The Salvation Army is so much more than red kettles and thrift stores. So who are we? What do we do? Where? Right this way for Salvation Army 101.
- How do we treat everyone with love and kindness, as if they were our neighbor? Get the Do Good Family Roadmap and take a 4-week journey for families in how to be a good neighbor. Follow the guide to see what the Bible says about the art of neighboring and take tangible steps together on your printable roadmap to be a caring, helpful, welcoming and supportive neighbor right where you are.
- Listen to Dr. Meghan Sullivan share about finding the good life through philosophy on the Do Gooders Podcast.